International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

Deeper than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in the Age of Evolution

by John F. Haught

Introductory Essay by David Bartholomew

John Haught has published widely on theology and evolution and this book may be seen as the culmination of that enterprise. Some of the material has already appeared in print but it is very convenient to have it here woven onto a coherent whole. Like most theologians, Haught accepts the theory of evolution by natural selection as a substantially correct account of how the living world came to be, but he does not think that it goes far (deep) enough to explain ultimate reality.

The metaphor of depth is central to the book and, as the title indicates, the author intends to take the reader deeper that Darwin. Haught points out that any written text can be read on a number of levels – words, sentences chapters but, and more profoundly, its true meaning can only be found at a greater depth than the text through which it is expressed. The perceived conflict between science and religion arises, in Haught’s view, because theologians and scientists often adopt a reading of their material which is too shallow. Biblical literalists read the Bible at too shallow a level and what Haught calls cosmic literalists are too shallow in their reading of science – hence the conflict. The answer is for both to dig deeper. For the scientists, this means going deeper than Darwin, Design, Dennett or Dawkins and for theologians, deeper than Despair or Death. In particular, a shallow reading by scientists does not do justice to the ultimate reality which grasps us and undergirds everything. Ultimate reality, according to Haught, cannot be less than personal; God cannot be less than personal. Haught sees Tillich’s linking of depth with God as particularly significant.

One of the principal sources of potential conflict between evolution and science is the need to explain how chance, which seems to direct evolution, can be reconciled with the purpose of God. Haught resolves this dilemma by arguing that these descriptions apply at different depths. For him, purpose is deeper than chance.

Haught makes the pertinent point that theology is still largely operating in a pre-Darwinian framework and the same is true of seminaries. Only when theology is adequately informed by the scientific picture can it operate at the depth required to plumb the true nature of Reality.

Unusually, in his last chapter, Haught raises the questions posed to theology by the possibility of extraterrestrial life. In particular, he asks about its implications for God, human importance, religious particularity and the question of cosmic purpose after Darwin. Nothing in present day knowledge, especially when viewed in the Darwinian framework, rules this out.

Depth is only a metaphor and its use implies an ordering of levels of reality which makes it meaningful to describe one level as deeper than another. This usage will probably not trouble theologians for whom God represents the ultimate in their search for truth. Some scientists, at least, may not be so ready to accept that their methods do not fully plumb the depths of Reality.