This Society upholds the right of freedom of belief for all. The freedom scientists enjoy to investigate the nature and history of the Earth is the same freedom that allows individuals to believe — or not — in a deity.
Science's business is to investigate the constitution of the universe, and cannot pronounce on any concept that lies "beyond" nature. This is the meaning of “agnostic”, the word coined by former GSL President Thomas Henry Huxley, to describe a scientist’s position of being “unable to know”. This Society has therefore long operated according to the view that religion and science only become incompatible with each other when one attempts to trespass upon the domain of the other.
The idea that the Earth was divinely created in the geologically recent past ("Young Earth Creationism"); attempts by Young Earth Creationists to gain acceptance for what they misrepresent in public as corroborative empirical evidence for this view ("Creation science"); and the allied belief that features of the universe and of living things are better explained as the direct result of action by an intelligent cause than by natural processes ("Intelligent Design"), represent such a trespass upon the domain of science.
The Geological Society of London is the oldest national learned society for the Earth sciences in the world, and embodies the collective knowledge of nearly 10,000 Earth scientists worldwide. On their behalf it wishes, during the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth, to place on record the following facts as being long established beyond doubt.
- Planet Earth, along with the other planets in the Solar System, was formed approximately 4560 million years ago.
- Life has existed on Earth for thousands of millions of years. It has evolved into its current form by a combination of genetic variation and natural selection — and is likely to go on doing so for as long as it continues to exist.
- Close study of the structure and organisation of living animals and plants clearly indicates their common ancestry, and the succession of forms through the fossil record, as well as the genetic record contained in every living organism, provides powerful evidence of the reality of evolution.
- For a statement on this subject by the Royal Society, the UK national academy of science, go to http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/news.asp?year=&id=4298
- For a recently updated (2008) version of the US National Academy of Sciences booklet Science, Evolution and Creationism, go to: www.nap.edu/sec. This document will tell you what is and is not science, summarises the scientific evidence for evolution by natural selection, and highlights repeatedly how leading religious figures have spoken out in favour of evolution as being consistent with their world-view.
- For a statement on Intelligent Design issued by the International Society for Science and Religion, the main academic international society dedicated to the relationship between science and religion, see www.issr.org.uk/id-statement.asp.
- For an account of evolutionary knowledge, see vertebrate palaeontologist Prof. Kevin Padian's evidence, given in trial (Kitzmiller v Dover): http://tinyurl.com/2nlgar. This destroys the bases of young-Earth creationists' assertions regarding critical gaps in the fossil record.
- For a clear account of evolution given by one of the world’s leading geneticists, showing how it is compatible with religious belief, see The Language of God by Francis Collins (Free Press, 2006). Francis Collins is Head of the Human Genome Project.
- Alexander, D. & White, R. S. (2004). Beyond Belief: Science, Faith and Ethical Challenges, Lion, Oxford, 219pp. Gives an accessible account of science and its interaction with religious views, including sections on evolution (with a critique of intelligent design), the age of the Earth and global environmental issues.
- Gould, Stephen J. 1999. Non-overlapping magisteria. A succinct and entertaining exposition of the lack of conflict between science and non-literalist religious thought. Published in: Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms. Jonathan Cape, pp269-283.
- Pope Pius XII 1950, Papal Encyclical Humani Generis