Dawkins’s argument—widely embraced by biologists—has been hailed as a decisive refutation of the argument from design, one of the oldest arguments for the existence of God. Numerous leading biologists now understand and teach evolution in precisely these terms. They see evolution as undermining the argument for God and discrediting the Christian idea of man created in God’s likeness.

These views are now part of our culture. In his book Revolution in Science, a historical account of the impact of science, Bernard Cohennotes that “the Darwinian revolution sounded the death knell of any argument about design in the universe or in nature.” In a recent article in Harper’s, David Quammen attributed to Darwin a “big scary idea which contradicted … the whole framework of pious beliefs about mankind made in God’s image.” And Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine, is typical of many people who were once Christian but who say they lost their religious faith upon embracing Darwin’s account of evolution.

The American public is dubious about evolution. A Gallup survey in February 2001 had 45 percent of responding adults agreeing that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time:’ Similar surveys over the past two decades show no real shift in people’s opinions.6 These figures are a source of consternation and distress to many scientists.