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Reassessing Darwin's Impact on Science and Society Charles Darwin, and the legacy of his work describing evolution and natural selection, is often distorted for political ends. But as Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Susan Thistlethwaite explained yesterday, the spheres of science and religion are not in conflict, and a look at Darwin’s own life can help untangle the thorny cultural history of evolution. “Few people seem to remember that Darwin graduated from seminary,” she said. Thistlethwaite spoke as a panelist at the Center yesterday, “Evolution, Transcendence, and the Nature of Faith,” which considered Darwin’s legacy for both science and religion, and the impact of evolution on public policy. She and was joined by Arthur Caplan, the Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, David Sloan Wilson, the co-founder of the Evolution Institute and a professor of evolutionary biology at Binghamton University, with CAP Senior Fellow Rick Weiss moderating the discussion. Sally Steenland, a senior policy adviser to CAP’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, noted in her opening remarks that over half of the U.S. and British populations reject Darwin’s theory of evolution, which has serious consequences for education global competitiveness. Addressing the place of evolution in education, Caplan explained that religion and “Intelligent Design” do not belong in science classes. But he also said that progressives often carry the prohibition too far, implying that discussions of religion belong nowhere at all in public schools, a proposition he disagreed with. Building on the fact that Darwin was a religious man early in life, Thistlethwaite explained that the naturalist arrived at agnosticism after watching one of his young children suffer and die. She stressed that it was this personal experience and not merely his scientific discoveries that changed his beliefs. To this, Caplan noted that the field of bioethics, which is closely ...
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