Did Goedel not believe evolution

Thank god - for evolution

The abysses between the evolutionary theory of science and the creation doctrine of religion have deepened in recent years. Recently, however, representatives from here and there have tried again to get into conversation with each other and to build bridges.


"The science versus religion debate is over!" At least that is what Craig Mello, Nobel Laureate in Medicine 2006 claims. The reason for his somewhat surprising finding: A book with the title Thank God for Evolution !, which was officially released in October USA will appear, but is already getting strong approval. Not just at Mello.

John Mather, NASA's chief scientist and Nobel laureate in physics in 2006 ("The universe took 13.7 billion years to produce this wonderful book") and Lee Hartwell, Nobel laureate in medicine in 2001, are also full of praise for the book by Reverend Michael Dowd.

The full list of praises can be found on the book's homepage (thankgodforevolution.com), where the manuscript is also available free of charge as a PDF. But are these advance praise really justified? Has a preacher actually succeeded in reconciling the allegedly irreconcilable - namely the belief in a creator God and the theory of evolution?

Thank God for Evolution! In any case, it comes at an opportune time, especially in the USA. Because in the past few years the fronts between the supporters of various types of creationist creation doctrine and natural science have deepened (see interview).


The most radical champion on the one hand is the evolutionary biologist and Oxford professor Richard Dawkins. The "Pope" of the atheists leads with his book Gotteswahn (Ullstein Verlag), which has just been published in German, but also the two-part Channel 4 television documentary "The Root of All Evil?" (also: "The root of all evil?", also available free of charge on the Internet) started the "crusade" against religions in general and against creationists in particular.

These representatives of differently radical religious creation doctrines are on the other side - and have not exactly been inactive in recent years. Especially in the USA the evangelical Christians started an offensive to position their idea of ​​"intelligent design" - that is, the idea of ​​an intelligent planner who is responsible for creation - as a "scientific" alternative to the theory of evolution - also and especially in biology classes in schools.

In Europe the disputes also increased somewhat in intensity: in Italy, Serbia, Poland and Turkey there were advances against the theory of evolution in school lessons. And the text by Cardinal Schönborn ("Finding Design in Nature") published in the New York Times in July 2005, who dismissed the theory of evolution as an ideology, did the rest.

End of the debate?

And now is an end to the discussions between science and religion in sight? And because of a book that is held in the form of a sermon and praises evolution as well as God?

Ulrich Körtner is skeptical on both points. The Protestant theologian has just published an interdisciplinary anthology with the title Creation and Evolution - Between Being and Design (Böhlau Verlag) together with Marianne Popp, his scientific colleague from the University of Vienna.

The contributions document the whole range of theological and scientific approaches to the topic and do not hide the differences.

The greatest common denominator of the otherwise controversial statements: The authors differentiate themselves from the theory of "intelligent design" and a "theology of creation" that falls behind the critical philosophy of Imanuel Kant, according to Körtner. With which the current doctrines of the Vatican and the Archbishop of Vienna on the question of "evolution and creation" are at least implicitly criticized.

In the conversation with the standard, however, Körtner generally advocates dialogues between the two sides, the basis of which must be hermeneutics - that is, appropriate methodological interpretations and interpretations of the respective positions. Accordingly, Körtner thinks little of Dowd's book: "It's an unreflective mishmash of pantheism and evolutionary theory." The price of this strange mélange is that important questions are ignored - such as the role of chance or the "direction" of evolution.

Peter Schuster is also a fan of the conversation. The theoretical chemist from the University of Vienna and President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences was the only scientist who took part in the Pope's conference in Castelgandolfo on creation and evolution last year, the lectures of which have now been published in book form.

Schuster, who will speak on the subject at the annual meeting of the Austrian Physical Society in Krems next week, thinks little of hasty reconciliations. At the same time, however, he finds that the role of chance in the debate is "emotionally completely overestimated", as he explains in response to a standard request: "Because the important 'rules of the game' according to which evolution takes place are often overlooked." And he would definitely have to contradict if the evolution theory is called "ideology" by the church.

For further discussion - even after the publication of Thank God for Evolution! - is well taken care of. (Klaus Taschwer / DER STANDARD, print edition, September 19, 2007)