Is Evolution a Threat to Religion?

Philosophy Slam Tackles Controversial Question


Christina Kelso

UNF Associate Professor of Religious Studies Julie Ingersoll discusses the question “Is evolution a threat to religion?” at the JU Philosophy Slam Tuesday Feb. 17 in Downtown Jacksonville at North Star “The Pizza Bar.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 8,  philosophy fans of Jacksonville gathered to answer the controversial question, “Is evolution a threat to religion?”

The speaker, Julie Ingersoll, associate professor of religious studies at University of North Florida, started by addressing the fact that she was not actually a philosopher, but a student of religion.

She went of to specify the question by noting that the question is relevant to creationism and some additional aspects of Christianity. As well as offering that the title was not entirely accurate, as she discussed social evolution as opposed to biological evolution as the title suggested.

Ingersoll pointed out that religion could serve purposes that are “evolutionarily adaptive.” She claimed that social evolution could even help in explaining religion. The biggest threat to religion evolution poses, according to Ingersoll, is the “free rider effect”, a phenomenon where people identify as part of a social group, but don’t actively participate. Overall, she concluded that evolution is not a threat to religion.

After her presentation, Ingersoll took all manner of questions from the audience. Questions ranged from inquiries about “new atheists” and other secular groups, to the impacts and validity of the free rider effect. One of the first questions posed concerned why secular groups don’t have strong followings. Ingersoll suggested the lack of necessary active participation as the culprit.

“These groups are gathering around not believing something.” Ingersoll said, citing a study on growth of religious groups. “Religions that demand things of their followers grow the fastest.”

Another question flipped the question on its head, asking if religion was a threat to evolution, both sociological and biological. Ingersoll said that “religion wasn’t necessarily a threat to evolution, but that religious groups in opposition to evolution are an obstacle to science education and have the potential to undermine scientific progress”.

Response to Ingersoll’s presentation and Q&A was generally positive.

“It was better than others,” said Mae Davis, junior philosophy and math major, “the conversation was interesting, but not argumentative. Not much conflict, more investigative.”

One of the Jacksonville University philosophy professors attending the event enjoyed the high attendance and interest of students.

“The turnout was better than other events,” said Matthew Groe, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy. “There seemed to be more interest in the topic.”

Groe also had a positive opinion of the speaker.

“It was a very interesting take on the question of evolution and religion.”