Programme 2: Life and Evolution

The Big Question Is: Did Darwin Bury God?

For centuries there had seemed no way of understanding how life had emerged and developed on earth other than it being God’s handiwork. All things in the natural world - including animals and human beings - all signed, sealed and delivered in just six days of hectic divine activity. BUT with Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution there was a seismic shift – one that, ever since, seems to have diminished God. “Darwin has left God nothing to do,” says Tufts university philosopher and New Atheist Daniel Dennett. Examining this proposition is at the heart of Life, Evolution and The God Question.

Do atheists need Darwin? “Yes, Yes and Yes,” responds the renowned evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson. The case for atheism is built on the premise that evolution, by itself, explains the whole story. BUT:

  • What did Darwin really say?
  • Was he substantially correct and if so what are the real and honest implications for God?
  • What does the modern science of genetics tell us about Darwin’s ideas?
  • Can the fossil record help?

These are just some of the questions explored in Life, Evolution and The God Question.

Most scientists are persuaded that evolution provides important true insights into how life developed on earth. BUT a significant number of them believe in God. “This is science teaching us what was really happening with God’s creative plan,” says the former head of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins and author of “The Language of God.” BUT:

  • If evolution is God’s process why is it so wasteful of life?
  • Where in the process was the birth of the human soul?

Other scientists are much more sceptical about how much evolution really explains.

  • Can it produce new body parts?
  • Where does the coded information come from that instructs every cell in how it should be built?
  • How can a system that is random produce such sophistication as the human brain?
  • Can genetics professor Steve Jones be correct when he says we result from “a series of successful mistakes”?

Once again in a programme that features atheists and theists who are world renowned authorities on the subject, the gloves are off in the most high profile battle ground of science and religion in the last 150 years.

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

Andrew Parker on his view that energy is the key to everything and that science is unlikely ever to be able to explain it.

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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

Andy McIntosh

Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory. He is...read more

Andy McIntosh

The Theistic Perspective

Andy McIntosh on why the God hypothesis should not be dismissed from a study of origins science.

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Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory. He is a director of Truth in Science – an organisation that argues for clear evidence in science for the role of a creator.

Team Member

Prof Arkhat Abzhanov

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

Prof Arkhat Abzhanov

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

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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

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Carol Cleland on where the main clash between science and religion is found.

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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

Celia Deane-Drummond on the value of understanding the development of life on earth to be like an drama in which there are episodes of clear intention complemented by improvisation.

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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

Christopher Hitchens

The late journalist, public speaker and Author of God Is...read more

Christopher Hitchens

The Atheist Perspective

Christopher Hitchens on why the God question is so prominent in public debate.

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The late journalist, public speaker and Author of God Is Not Great. A key spokesperson for ‘New Atheism’, Hitchens’ confrontational style of debate made him both a lauded and controversial figure.

Team Member

Prof Daniel Dennett

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

Prof Daniel Dennett

The Atheist Perspective

Daniel Dennett on his view that believers engage in ‘fuzzy’ thinking when proposing God as an explanation.

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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

David Sloan Wilson on his opposition to creationism.

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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

On the fact that not all mutations in DNA are equally significant but those that take place during the process of procreation are specially important.

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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.

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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

Francis Collins on his belief that faith and reason are not contradictory.

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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

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James Moore on the significance of Darwin’s frequent reference to ‘the creator’ in “On Origin of Species”.

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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

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

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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

In a plea for open and frank discussion of issues in science and scripture that traditionally divide believers in God.

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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

John Polkinghorne on the importance of life’s ‘amazing properties’ being built into the universe from the start.

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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

Ken Miller on contrasting concepts of God.

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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

Prof Martin Brasier

Professor of Paleobiology at the University of Oxford and...read more

Prof Martin Brasier

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Martin Brasier on the awe he feels, faced with the underlying story of life.

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Professor of Paleobiology at the University of Oxford and Emeritus fellow of St Edmund Hall. He is known for his study of microfossils and evolution in the Precambrian and Cambrian periods. His research critically examines the context and character of the early fossil record.

Team Member

Rev Prof Michael Reiss

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

Rev Prof Michael Reiss

The Theistic Perspective

Michael Reisse on the fact that six day creationism based on Genesis is a relatively recent interpretation of the scripture text

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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

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Michael Ruse on why the success of science to provide explanations is as a direct result of questions being restricted to those that science can answer

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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

Peter Atkins on how the complexity of the cell could have a completely naturalistic explanation.

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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

Robert White on the unique properties of water in itself a uniquely important element for the maintenance of life.

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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

Dr Stephen Meyer

Philosopher of science and advocate of Intelligent Design....read more

Dr Stephen Meyer

The Theistic Perspective

Steven Meyer on how he became intrigued by the arguments for Intelligent Design.

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Philosopher of science and advocate of Intelligent Design. He is director at The Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and also Senior Fellow at The Discovery Institute. He is the author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.

Team Member

Prof Steve Fuller

Professor of sociology at the University of Warwick....read more

Prof Steve Fuller

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Steve Fuller on his view of Darwin’s place in scientific history.

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Professor of sociology at the University of Warwick. Philosopher and sociologist in the field of science and technology. A member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. He is the Author of 18 books including Dissent Over Descent, a critique of the work of Darwin.

Team Member

Prof Steve Jones

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

Prof Steve Jones

The Atheist Perspective

Steve Jones on why he is committed to science but dismissive of religion.

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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

Usama Hasan on the extent to which evolution is highly controversial within Islam.

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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

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Wayne Ranney on how the development of life can be traced in the world’s rocks, including those in the Grand Canyon.

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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."

Team Member

Dr William Dembski

American philosopher, theologian and a supporter of the...read more

Dr William Dembski

The Theistic Perspective

William Dembski on summarising the generally understood meaning of ‘evolution by natural selection’ and why Intelligent Design theorists retain their scepticism.

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American philosopher, theologian and a supporter of the Intelligent Design movement. Senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He has written several books including The Design Revolution (2004) and Intelligent Design Uncensored (2010).

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