I post this now, although I wrote it originally as a comment.
On 20.07.11, about 150 of us were privileged to get free food and drinks at Interface, and to hear a talk by Prof. Gerhard Haszprunar, a nice „practising Catholic“ Austrian biologist, entitled „An attempt to reconcile Evolution and Creation“. His name is Hungarianised German, and he has a very good job, (C4), in Munich. His motivation seemed to be a wish to share his love of science and of his religion. I think he would understand this subject better if he studied Dawkins‘ books more. But perhaps he gave this impression because he did not want to demand too much of his audience. He did not claim to be a believing catholic, and he later quoted somebody who said that one cannot be Catholic and clever and honest)! He looks a little older than the picture in IF-blog, and speaks with energy, wit and charm.
He started with an introduction to evolution and modern physics, stating that things come about through a mixture of some determinacy and some (quantum) randomness. This is the orthodox view, but there is still considerable debate whether randomness can be eliminated from the theory by giving up some normal scientific belief, (see http://arxiv.org/abs/1104.1963, or http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640, or http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-epr).
He explained how complexity can arise in this way, and stated that what arises need not be meaningless. He did not say what he means by „meaning“. In https://ifblog.medienstuermer.de/en/cw/a-sequel-to-ethics-beyond-humanism/#more-3423, I wrote „any writing has meaning if somebody can read it and partly understand“. Some people get into difficulties through confused thinking about the „meaning of life“, and confusing „meaning“ with „purpose“.
Evolution is more or less common knowledge among Europeans, but a majority of Americans and Turks reject it!
He then described three (?) levels of anti-evolution creationism, rife in USA, and (rightly) quickly dismissed them.
Prof. Haszprunar went on to describe three (!) creation theories in the Bible. (I remember all three from my childhood, but had never wondered at their apparent incompatibility).
• Genesis 1 „In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth………:“ written in Babylon about 400 BC. It took 7 days, including the weekend, (but originally 9 days).
• Genesis 2 „These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth…. „, written 500 years earlier, more local and down-to-earth.
• John „In the beginning was the Word….“ written in Greek some 500 years later, very philosophical.
Then he described his own (heretical) theory, that God set things up for the big bang, and then left things to run their course, without His interference. After this, things got difficult for him.
• He considered religions other than Christianity to be wrong, particularly if not monotheistic. But he conceded that people have the right to decide for themselves. He partly justified monotheism by reference to the three forces that hold atoms together and that seem to have developed from one original force. The fourth force, gravity, presents problems, but he hopes that physicists will eventually fit this into the scheme. (I commented that perhaps instead he should have two Gods).
Incidentally, he did not mention quarks. Perhaps they need a force to hold a proton or neutron together, so that makes three original forces and we get confirmation of the Holy Trinity! Did he not understand the sarcasm in my comment, or did he just ignore it? Could he really have been serious about this nonsense?
• He considered free-will to arise from the random element in quantum theory. But as I have written, few people would want to base their view of their free-will on random aspects of their behaviour!
This is also a problem for his view of good and evil. How can one abstractly condemn or approve actions which arise from random free-will? Does God watch and think „yes, I like that“ or „no, that is bad“? This creation theory makes it impossible for us to know what He is thinking. Perhaps He prefers the bacteria to the humans, and is hoping the humans will quickly disappear!
• Prof. Haszprunar said that animals are cleverer than we used to think, but that transcendental thought is „reserved for humans“. Some people doubted this. I tried to make the point that „reserved“ was a Freudian slip showing that he still thinks in terms of an active God. But nobody seemed to understand me! Later Roland told me that „reserved“ (vorbehalten) in German has nothing to do with „reserve“; it only means „only occurs in“. No Roland, I understood the German, but when I have difficulty explaining my thoughts (in German) people sometimes assume I have not understood.
Of course there is a great difficulty here for an orthodox Catholic. Any „soul“ that separates humans from other animals either came gradually with the development of the brain; including slipping backwards sometimes, or was arbitrarily donated by God.
• The status of Christ is also a problem for Prof. Haszprunar. Did Christ also come into being due to a mixture of random and determined? Or did God suddenly get active? Prof. Haszprunar with his acceptance of evolution denies that mankind is as special as his religion demands. Mankind has only existed for a very small fraction of the time that there has been life. And surely his remaining time on Earth will be even much shorter.
• Of course true Catholics must believe in constant interference by God. Every Saint has performed some miracle with help from God.
Edwin Ederle summed up the matter by pointing out that if God has done nothing since the big bang, His existence makes no difference to us. Maybe He has forgotten us completely.
Other comments and questions also showed great scepticism.
Even the Templeton Foundation seems to have given up trying to reconcile evolution with creation. Initially it looked as if the Foundation would be taken over by Creationists. They set up two schools in England that taught that evolution was wrong. Now the money is better used. They research the psychology and sociology of spirituality.
I would say that the attempt of Prof. Haszprunar was doomed to failure. But he may be happy if he gets religious people to accept evolution, without losing their religion. I think he will not convert atheists. There are statistics showing that within a community, religious people are often slightly happier and more successful than the rest. But probably people in religious countries (e.g. Iran) are less happy than those in secular countries (e.g. UK). For 40 years, I thought religion might be good for people even if wrong. Then Richard Dawkins tipped the balance for me, and I decided that religion these days is bad for the world. Of course neither of us can be sure about this, even if we can decide what we mean by „bad“! In this state of doubt, I have decided to search for truth, while trying to be cheerful.
People who read as far as this, if any, should also look at
But Dawkins‘ books are easier to read.