The Peacocke Legacy is a short podcast documentary which follows my journey into the attitudes of Christian’s towards the theory of evolution. This article is a behind the scenes discussion of my journey while making the documentary. It has also been featured on Birmingham Eastside (view here).
Listen to the documentary
The Man Himself
The stimulus for this investigation comes from 2018 marking the 40th anniversary of a famous Bampton Lecture by Dr Arthur Peacocke on “Creation and the World of Science”. Peacocke was both a Biochemist and practicing Anglican who argued that it is possible to believe in both schools of thought. I wanted to ask those of his religion whether they agree with him on the matter.
For a while I've found the subject of religion interesting. I can't quite understand why people are so invested in rejecting scientific evidence when it seems possible to believe in both. Even though I myself am not religious, I can understand why other people are. I find Peacocke agreeable even though I don't quite follow the same beliefs. Why not believe that God is responsible for evolution? It seems rather logical to do so in my opinion if one is of faith. I did a little bit of research and discovered that just over half of Christians in the USA accept evolution's existence which is a pretty low number. For comparison, you can see a list below of how many followers of other religions accept evolution as fact.
It was a breezy afternoon and I sat down with a cup of coffee to search online for people who could represent The Church in my documentary. I wanted to create a piece that felt balanced as well as echoing my own thoughts. A lot of media online about this topic seems to focus on the preference of one belief over another, or the lumping of all religious people into one category and atheists into another rather than discussing the nuances in opinion. A quick Google search of contactable people working in The Church in Birmingham returned David Veale and Rev Catherine Shelley.
I did not expect David Veale to in fact be a Chaplain, located in The Curzon Building part-time. A building where many of my MA lectures take place. He responded to my e-mail and I went to meet him in his office. I was secretly hoping that he would follow a more traditional theological stance to provide some disbelief in evolution for the sake of balance in the documentary. I did not expect to get there and have him show me his personal copies of Darwin's Origin of Species and Richard Dawkins' "The Greatest Show on Earth". He would also tell me how remarkably alike him and Peacocke are, both having similar undergraduate degrees and family situations. I had struck gold in terms of material and it was all a fluke.
Day two rolled around and Catherine Shelley had agreed to speaking to me over the phone. She was now located in London, meaning I couldn't visit her in person. I asked Rev Shelley if there would be an issue for the Church accepting evolution in that it might contradict absolute morality, an argument that implies that if humans were conceived my biological chaos there can be no God-given sense of what is right and wrong. Shelley did not follow this school of thought which was reassuring given that she remained open minded towards evolutionary science. This was all very good and it helped me to gain a positive representative of religious attitudes for the documentary. I think this kind of opinion is lacking in many other stories but what I needed was a voice from the other side. It was time to make some contacts.