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Evolution is the popular name for a set of scientific theories which aim to explain the apparent similarity of different species and the appearance of complex species later in the fossil record. In short, evolution means that all life on earth shares a common ancestry which can traced back to a single species. Orthodox Christians have divergent views on how to react to this development in science.

In general Orthodox responses can be grouped into two large categories, which we might label Compatibilism and Incompatibilism.

Compatibilists hold that science and theology are compatible and view them as complementary revelations of God. As God is the source of both his specific revelation of himself in the Christian faith and the source of the general revelation of himself in nature, the findings of science and theology cannot really contradict; the contradictions must be merely apparent and a resolution possible which is faithful to the truth of God's revelation.

Incompatibilists hold that science can be incompatible with faith. They usually argue either that science is philosophically based on a kind of naturalism or that God's specific revelation is infallible and therefore trumps the findings of human reason in the case of any conflict between them. This is often based on a suspicion of human reason to arrive at reliable conclusions in the first place.

The development of modern science as we know it is a product of the Enlightenment, therefore no ecumenical council has ever addressed how to integrate it with divine revelation in a coherent and consistent worldview. As a result, there is not a dogmatic treatment examining how to resolve conflicts, whether apparent or real, when scientific findings appear to contradict divine revelation. Many early Fathers were happy to use the primitive science of their day to divine purposes, perhaps suggesting to modern Christians a compatibilist resolution to the question. Other Fathers, however, clearly see conflicts and contradictions which they resolve in favor of their understanding of Christian revelation.

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  • Priest-monk Seraphim (Rose), Genesis, Creation, and Early Man — Contains a detailed examination of Patristic teaching related to the discussion of evolution and argues along the lines of modern creation science. Incompatibilist
  • Woloschak, Gayle, Beauty and Unity in Creation: The evolution of life. (Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1996) — Primer on the relationship between evolutionary biology and Orthodoxy by a scientist. ISBN 1880971275 Compatibilist