Emeritus College 


Darwin, Religion, and Ethics
The Question of Evolution and Liberal Values in Western Thought


Bill Garrett, PhD





Charles Darwin held deep fears that his scientific views were incompatible with religion, and with traditional morality. Were his doubts prescient? Are religion and ethics, in the last analysis, incompatible with evolutionary theory? Many thoughtful people have thought so. But evolutionary science has provided some surprising suggestions to the contrary.


An emerging consensus takes the rough origins of humanity— that we evolved from apex predators— as given. But our violent origins, in this view, served as the matrix out of which both religion and ethics emerged. The story of human evolution tells of a succession of mitigating the violence that attended our emergence some 65,000 year ago. And the very engine of Darwin's understanding of evolution, natural selection, is what drove this trajectory throughout the past, and also offers promise for the future of humanity.


Our course will explore these theories; no previous work in philosophy or evolutionary theory will be presupposed.






#1: David Sloan Wilson & Nicholas Wade

#2: The Importance of Groups in Human Evolution

 #3: The History of Violence

#4: Natural Selection and the Brain



Websites and Videos

Richard Dawkins: "The Purpose of Purpose"

The Family Album