Washington Post reporter Shankar Vedantam asks the right questions in his Post Magazine article "Eden and Evolution." To wit: "Religious critics of evolution are wrong about its flaws. But are they right that it threatens belief in a loving God?"
Vedantam is right when he writes:
While the controversy over intelligent design is superficially about scientific facts, the real debate is more emotional. Evolution cuts to the heart of the belief that humans have a special place in creation. If all things in the living world exist solely because of evolutionary competition and natural selection, what room is left for the idea that humans are made in God's image or for any morality beyond the naked requirements of survival? Beneath all the complex arguments of intelligent design advocates, Georgetown theologian John Haught agreed, "there lies a deeply human and passionately religious concern about whether the universe resides in the bosom of a loving, caring God or is instead perched over an abyss of ultimate meaninglessness."
Anti-evolutionists are afraid that if their children accept the findings of evolutionary biology that they will lose their faith and go to hell. I appreciate the distinction between methodological naturalism (within scientific enquiry, one can only use natural explanations) versus philosophical naturalism (no supernatural forces or entitities exist). However, as scientific explanations of phenomena advance, the space in which a loving God can exist and act does seem to shrink.
On personal testimony, I know that the creationists (young earth, gap theorists, or ID types) have a point–at least about losing their children losing their faith. My own faith cracked when I learned about biology and evolutionary theory as a 13-year old. Scientific explanations were and are vastly more exciting and satisfactory than the "poof" then a miracle occurs accounts in the Bible.
Darwin was certainly right when he wrote: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
However, many Americans are untouched by the grandeur of the scientific project. Vedantam notes that the fight is particularly fierce in the United States because the Constitution guarantees the separation of Church and State. This means for believers that assertions made by public school biology teachers about how livings things arose are not countered by the "competing" claims of Christianity or other religions. Vedantam quotes University of Lancaster historian Thomas Dixon as proposing, "a solution to this may be to have schools teach religion. Let them teach Christianity and everything else. It may be a complete and utter revolution in American history, but I'm saying it's a good idea."
Perhaps an even better idea would be school choice–in which parents could send their children to schools that reflect their values and beliefs. As a supporter of a free society, I make this proposal even though it saddens me to realize that millions of faithful parents believe that they must stunt their children's educations in order to save their souls.