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Viewpoint from the Bishop of Thetford 27/3/09

David Atkinson, 
Bishop of Thetford
It cannot have escaped many peoples' notice that this year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Cviewpoints cross logo jpegharles Darwin.   He is buried next to Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey, and is rightly celebrated as one of this country's greatest scientists.   His most famous book  On the Origin of Species was published 150 years ago in 1859 and has become the basis for most of biology ever since.  was published 150 years ago in 1859 and has become the basis for most of biology ever since. 
 Interestingly, quite a few of Darwin's scientific colleagues disagreed with his ideas at the time, and quite a few Christian theologians thought it made a lot of sense.  Darwin himself started his academic career by studying theology, and at the end of his life he called himself a 'theist', thbishop david-atkinsonough he had by then lost most of his Christian beliefs. There is a popular view that there is a conflict between biological evolution, and Christian faith, and that science and Christianity are enemies.  This is far from the truth.  
Lots of scientists who are Christians   (and there are lots of them,  despite what Professor Richard Dawkins thinks)  believe that Darwin's ideas, coupled with more recent understanding of genetics,  makes most sense of God's world and how God has created it.    Some years ago the Society of Ordained Scientists was formed, bringing together over 100 people who have research degrees in science and are ordained clergy in the church.   Its founder was Dr Arthur Peacocke, and he once wrote:  "Why should science work at all?   
This points towards an understanding of the cosmos in terms of Dove rightmind as it most significant feature".   In other words, evolution seems to have a direction, leading to consciousness, to intelligence, to mind.      This is not far from the Bible understanding of God's creation through what it calls God's Wisdom.   
The lovely poem in Genesis chapter 1 illustrates an emergent creation leading to humanity made in God's own image.    And the next chapter says that humanity has a task to do in the world - to "guard and protect" God's creation.   The wonderful order of the world, which science assumes and explores, is - Christian's believe - derived from God's creative hand.   The bad and hard things in the world, the innocent suffering and the evil, do not remove the world from God's love, but will one day be put to rights as God brings his creation to its ultimate fulfilment - a world of peace in God's Kingdom.     We ought to be treating our world now in the light of God's purposes.