Nature 443, 26 (7 September 2006) | doi:10.1038/443026b; Published online 6 September 2006

Dogma, not faith, is the barrier to scientific enquiry

U Kutschera1

  1. Institute of Biology, University of Kassel, Heinrich-Plett-Strasse 40, D-34109 Kassel, Germany


Your News story "Genomics luminary weighs in on US faith debate" (Nature 442, 114–115; 2006) reports that the Christian molecular biologist Francis Collins embraces 'theistic evolution' to reconcile scientific facts and religious views.

In his book The Language of God (Free Press, 2006), Collins discusses the ideas of Theodosius Dobzhansky, a darwinist and the main architect of the modern synthetic theory of biological evolution. In a famous article, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" (Am. Biol. Teach. 35, 125–129; 1973), Dobzhansky described his religious beliefs: "It is wrong to hold creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives. I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's, method of Creation."

In contrast to modern creationists, Dobzhansky accepted macroevolution and the documented age of Earth. He argued that "the Creator has created the living world not by caprice (supernatural fiat) but by evolution propelled by natural selection".

He collaborated for many years with Ernst Mayr, who, when asked about his religious views, replied: "I am an atheist. There is nothing that supports the idea of a personal God. On the other hand, famous evolutionists such as Dobzhansky were firm believers in a personal God. He would work as a scientist all week and then on Sunday get down on his knees and pray to God" (Skeptic 8, 76–82; 2000).

In about 1950, Dobzhansky and Mayr founded our modern 'atheistic' evolutionary theory. Their work showed that Christians and atheists can cooperate to develop scientific theories, as long as religious dogma is not mixed up with facts and experimental data. Unfortunately, this is exactly what young-Earth creationists and intelligent-design theorists are doing. They should read the 1973 essay in which Dobzhansky — an open-minded, non-dogmatic theist — thoroughly refuted their irrational claims.

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