Programme 2: Life and Evolution

If one man appears to pose a greater threat to God than any other it is Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. Darwin aimed a hammer blow at the traditional religious belief that creation was the outcome of six days of divine miracle-making. For atheism, Darwinism has been a “godsend”. It seems to explain how nature can appear to be designed without requiring a designer. But a substantial number of high profile scientists reject this stark choice: God or evolution. For them, evolution is evidence of God at work.

Half a century after the publication of Darwin’s ideas, the science of genetics revealed DNA, the engine room of evolution. DNA is a mechanism of change more sophisticated than Darwin could ever have imagined. At its heart lies detailed instructions for how every living creature is made. Its very complexity and success raises the question: Could God be the greatest scientist of all or merely a distraction from the truth? Did Darwin bury God or reveal the creator’s secrets? This programme unravels the arguments on both sides.

Programme Contributors

Team Member

Prof Andrew Parker

Author of The Genesis Enigma which argues a curious harmony...read more

Prof Andrew Parker

More about the Science

Play video clip:

Author of The Genesis Enigma which argues a curious harmony between the sequence of events in Genesis and the evolutionary paradigm. His specialist knowledge includes the Cambrian period, often described as “the big bang” of evolution.

Team Member

Prof Arkhat Abzhanov

Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology,...read more

Prof Arkhat Abzhanov

More about the Science

Arkhat Abzanov on how molecular biology supports Darwin’s hypothesis about the diversification of life over time.

Play video clip:

Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University. Provides and demonstrates insight into how modern science understands the molecular changes that take place in the birds that so fascinated Darwin.

Team Member

Prof Carol Cleland

Philosopher of Science and insightful commentator on...read more

Prof Carol Cleland

More about the Science

Play video clip:

Philosopher of Science and insightful commentator on evolutionary biology. Argues the compatibility between evolution and belief in God.

Team Member

Prof Celia Deane-Drummond

Has lectured both nationally and internationally on all...read more

Prof Celia Deane-Drummond

The Theistic Perspective

Play video clip:

Has lectured both nationally and internationally on all areas relating theology and theological ethics with different aspects of the biosciences, especially ecology and genetics.

Team Member

Prof Daniel Dennett

American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist. His...read more

Prof Daniel Dennett

The Atheist Perspective

Play video clip:

American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist. His research centres on the philosophy of mind, science and biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. A firm atheist and secularist. A prominent member of the New Atheists.

Team Member

Prof David Sloan Wilson

Argues that the evolutionary paradigm can adequately...read more

Prof David Sloan Wilson

The Atheist Perspective

Play video clip:

Argues that the evolutionary paradigm can adequately explain not only phenomena in the biological world but in the social world of religion and morality as well. There is, therefore, no need for a creator.

Team Member

Dr Dean Hamer

American geneticist and author. Profoundly skilled in...read more

Dr Dean Hamer

The Atheist Perspective

Play video clip:

American geneticist and author. Profoundly skilled in communicating the complexities of molecular biology to a lay audience and in linking this information to the big issues of the programme. Author of "The God Gene" which argues that spiritual experience is merely a function of the brain.

Team Member

Dr Denis Alexander

Editor of the academic journal Science and Christian...read more

Dr Denis Alexander

The Theistic Perspective

Denis Alexander on why chance is not a credible explanation for the success of life in our ordered universe.

Play video clip:

Editor of the academic journal Science and Christian Belief. A committed Darwinian and a Christian, he argues there is no contradiction between science and belief in a creator. Author of several books on evolution and faith including "Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?"

Team Member

Dr Francis Collins

American physician-geneticist noted for his landmark...read more

Dr Francis Collins

The Theistic Perspective

Play video clip:

American physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discovery of disease genes and head of the ‘Human Genome Project’ responsible for the discovery of the 3.5 billion letters of DNA, the basic instruction book of life. Author of "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief".

Team Member

James Moore

Historian of Science at the Open University and the...read more

James Moore

More about the Science

Play video clip:

Historian of Science at the Open University and the University of Cambridge, and visiting scholar at Harvard University. Author of several biographies of Charles Darwin. He sheds fascinating insight into Darwin’s somewhat perplexed views on the existence/role of a creator.

Team Member

Prof Jennifer Clack

Professor and Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology,...read more

Prof Jennifer Clack

More about the Science

Jennifer Clack on the factors that might have led to water creatures developing features that allowed them to move on to land.

Play video clip:

Professor and Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, she is an expert in the early development of tetrapods, four legged animals said to have evolved from Devonian lobe-finned fishes and colonised the freshwater swamps of the Carboniferous period.

Team Member

Prof John Lennox

Oxford Professor of Mathematics and Philosopher of Science,...read more

Prof John Lennox

The Theistic Perspective

Play video clip:

Oxford Professor of Mathematics and Philosopher of Science, he is a prominent defender of Christian faith and author of several books on science and religion including "God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?" and "Gunning For God: Why The New Atheists Are Missing The Target."

Team Member

Rev Dr John Polkinghorne

Writer, Anglican Priest, former Professor of Mathematical...read more

Rev Dr John Polkinghorne

The Theistic Perspective

Play video clip:

Writer, Anglican Priest, former Professor of Mathematical Physics at University of Cambridge, he is author of 26 books on the relationship between science and religion.

Team Member

Prof Ken Miller

World renowned cell biologist and molecular biologist....read more

Prof Ken Miller

The Theistic Perspective

Play video clip:

World renowned cell biologist and molecular biologist. Author of Finding Darwin’s God which argues that the very success of evolution is evidence of a constructive mind behind the natural world.

Team Member

Rev Prof Michael Reiss

Professor of Science Education at the Institute of...read more

Rev Prof Michael Reiss

The Theistic Perspective

Play video clip:

Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education, University of London; also an Anglican priest. Former Director of Education at the Royal Society.

Team Member

Prof Michael Ruse

Author of "Can a Darwinian be a Christian?" and "The...read more

Prof Michael Ruse

More about the Science

Play video clip:

Author of "Can a Darwinian be a Christian?" and "The Evolution - Creation Struggle". Specialises in the philosophy of biology and is well known for his work on the relationship between science and religion and the creation/evolution controversy.

Team Member

Prof Peter Atkins

Former Professor of Chemistry, University of Oxford. An...read more

Prof Peter Atkins

The Atheist Perspective

Play video clip:

Former Professor of Chemistry, University of Oxford. An outspoken critic of any attempt to argue that science and religion are compatible. Professes total incredulity that respected scientists can believe in a God.

Team Member

Prof Richard Dawkins

The world’s most famous contemporary atheist, he is the...read more

Prof Richard Dawkins

The world’s most famous contemporary atheist, he is the author of the best-selling book "The God Delusion" and a regular presenter of television programmes which scorn religious beliefs.

Team Member

Prof Robert White

Professor of Geophysics in the department of Earth Sciences...read more

Prof Robert White

The Theistic Perspective

Play video clip:

Professor of Geophysics in the department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University and a director of The Faraday Institute of Science and Religion. He is a fellow of the Geological Society and a member of The American Geophysical Union.

Team Member

Prof Steve Jones

Professor of Genetics, University College London. A prize...read more

Prof Steve Jones

The Atheist Perspective

Play video clip:

Professor of Genetics, University College London. A prize winning author, he is generally contemptuous of any attempt to harmonise science with belief in God. He claims that “evolution is a series of successful mistakes.”

Team Member

Dr Usama Hasan

A controversial scientist within the Muslim community, he...read more

Dr Usama Hasan

The Theistic Perspective

Play video clip:

A controversial scientist within the Muslim community, he is Founding Advisor at the Quilliam Foundation. The Foundation raises awareness and support for theological reform issues within the British Muslim community and in Pakistan.

Team Member

Wayne Ranney

Expert in the evolution of life forms preserved in the...read more

Wayne Ranney

More about the Science

Play video clip:

Expert in the evolution of life forms preserved in the Grand Canyon. Has travelled the world as a geologic interpreter and on various natural history expeditions. Author of "Ancient Landscapes, Carving Grand Canyon and Sedona Through Time."

To help viewers determine a contributor's stance on the topics discussed, we have introduced a series-wide colour coding scheme; Theists, Atheists and Neutral Contributors.