Religious Groups’ Views on Evolution
Updated February 3, 2014
Many Buddhists see no inherent conflict between their religious teachings and evolutionary theory. Indeed, according to some Buddhist thinkers, certain aspects of Darwin’s theory are consistent with some of the religion’s core teachings, such as the notion that all life is impermanent.
- Religion East and West, “Buddhism and Science: Probing the Boundaries of Faith and Reason”
- Buddhanet.net, Buddhism and the God-idea: Good Question, Good Answer with Ven S. Dhammika, “Do Buddhists Believe in God?”
- The Washington Post, “For the Dalai Lama, A Meeting of Brain and Mind”
- The Dalai Lama, “Science at the Crossroads,” 2005
- The Huffington Post, “Buddhism, Cosmology and Evolution”
- Chicago Tribune “Evolution Doesn’t Bother Buddhists”
The Catholic Church generally accepts evolutionary theory as the scientific explanation for the development of all life. However, this acceptance comes with the understanding that natural selection is a God-directed mechanism of biological development and that man’s soul is the divine creation of God.
- Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the Occasion of Their Plenary Assembly
- Humani Generis, an Encyclical of Pope Pius XII
- National Catholic Reporter, “Catholic Experts Urge Caution in Evolution Debate”
- Reuters, “Pope Says Science Too Narrow To Explain Creation”
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ first public statement on human origins was issued in 1909 and echoed in 1925, when the church’s highest governing body stated, “Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes.” However, several high-ranking officials have suggested that Darwin’s theory does not directly contradict church teachings.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Topics, “Creation”
- Evenson, William E., “Evolution,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Ed. Daniel H. Ludlow. New York: MacMillan, 1992. Harold B. Lee Library Digital Collections, Brigham Young University
- The Salt Lake Tribune, “LDS Book: Evolution Is Not Incompatible With Religion”
In 1982, the Episcopal Church passed a resolution to “affirm its belief in the glorious ability of God to create in any manner, and in this affirmation reject the rigid dogmatism of the ‘Creationist’ movement.” The church has also expressed skepticism toward the intelligent design movement.
- The Episcopal Church Network for Science, Technology and Faith, Catechism of Creation, “Part II: Creation and Science”
- The Archives of the Episcopal Church, The Acts of the Convention 1976-2006, “Reject the Dogma of Creationism”
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
While the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has not issued a definitive statement on evolution, it does contend that “God created the universe and all that is therein, only not necessarily in six 24-hour days, and that God actually may have used evolution in the process of creation.”
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Ask a Scientist, “Questions and Answers about Faith and Science.”
While there is no single Hindu teaching on the origins of life, many Hindus believe that the universe is a manifestation of Brahman, Hinduism’s highest god and the force behind all creation. However, many Hindus today do not find their beliefs to be incompatible with the theory of evolution.
- Hinduism Today, “The Secret Diary of Charles Darwin”
- Beliefnet.com, Ask the Swami: Dharma vs. Darwin?
While the Koran teaches that Allah created human beings as they appear today, Islamic scholars and followers are divided on the theory of evolution. Theologically conservative Muslims who ascribe to literal interpretations of the Koran generally denounce the evolutionary argument for natural selection, whereas many theologically liberal Muslims believe that while man is divinely created, evolution is not necessarily incompatible with Islamic principles.
- Masud.co.uk, “Islam and Evolution: A Letter to Suleman Ali”
- The Sunday Telegraph, “Science: Islam’s Forgotten Geniuses”
- Albalagh.net, “Did God Use Evolution To Create the Universe?”
- Public Radio International, The World, “Evolution and Islam”
While all of the major movements of American Judaism – including the Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox branches – teach that God is the creator of the universe and all life, Jewish teachings generally do not find an inherent conflict between evolutionary theory and faith.
- Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, “Jewish Values and the Origins of Life”
- Central Conference of American Rabbis, “Religion and the Public Schools”
- Rabbinical Council of America, “Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design”
- Conservative Rabbinical Assembly Convention, Passed Resolutions 2006, “Resolution on Intelligent Design and the Freedom of Scientific Inquiry”
- Orthodox Union, “Genesis, Cosmology and Evolution”
- The Reconstructionist, “Embracing Science: A Reconstructionist Vision for the Twenty-First Century”
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod teaches that “the Genesis account of Creation is true and factual, not merely a ‘myth’ or ‘story’ made up to explain the origin of all things.” The church rejects evolution or any theory that “denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture.”
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
In 1969, the Presbyterian Church’s governing body amended its previous position on evolution, which was originally drafted in the 19th century, to affirm that evolution and the Bible do not contradict each other. Still, the church has stated that it “should carefully refrain from either affirming or denying the theory of evolution,” and church doctrine continues to hold that man is a unique creation of God, “made in His own image.”
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “Evolution Statement”
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “The Dialogue Between Science and Faith”
Southern Baptist Convention
In 1982, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution rejecting the theory of evolution and stating that creation science “can be presented solely in terms of scientific evidence without any religious doctrines or concepts.” Some Southern Baptist leaders have spoken out in favor of the intelligent design movement.
- SBC Life, “Unraveling the Myth of Evolution”
- Southern Baptist Convention, SBC Resolutions, “Resolution On Scientific Creationism”
United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ finds evolutionary theory and Christian faith to be compatible, embracing evolution as a means “to see our faith in a new way.”
- United Church of Christ, “A New Voice Arising: A Pastoral Letter on Faith Engaging Science and Technology”
United Methodist Church
In 2008, the church’s highest legislative body passed a resolution saying that “science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with [the church's] theology.” Moreover, the church states that “many apparent scientific references in [the] Bible … are intended to be metaphorical [and] were included to help understand the religious principles, but not to teach science.”
- United Methodist Church, General Conference 2008, Legislation Tracking, “Science and Technology, Petition 80050″
- United Methodist Church, General Conference 2008, Legislation Tracking, “Evolution and Intelligent Design, Petition 80839″
- United Methodist Church, General Conference 2008, Legislation Tracking, “God’s Creation and the Church, Petition 80990″
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