I've only been called by The Times UK once. It was late summer 2010, and they had Hawking: God Did Not Create Universe splashed across their front page. Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge physicist, had just written a book arguing that the cosmos had no designer, and the editors wanted a Christian response.
I had written a short book responding to Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, but that was it. So when their religion correspondent rang me up out of the blue, and asked for some apologetics for tomorrow's front page, I wasn't as prepared as I might have been. I don't even remember what I said.
In the end, the paper got a last-minute comment from the Archbishop of Canterbury. (I didn't take it personally.) But reading Hawking's comments, and trying to improvise a decent response to them, reminded me how common it is to think that science and belief are at war. For Hawking, the only reason to believe in a creator is to explain the existence of the universe; when you find an explanation, the need for a creator disappears. For Dawkins, Darwinian evolution makes it "almost certain" that there is no God. At the same time, I know lots of Christians who argue the opposite: Since the Bible is true, you shouldn't believe in evolution, or the Big Bang, or whatever. From what I can tell, the battle lines are just as clear in America as they are here in Britain.
Dining with the Greats
The key issues in the ongoing debate about Christianity, evolution, and human origins can be summed up by three academics who used to watch me have dinner.
I attended Christ's College Cambridge. There, we would eat in a dark, oak-paneled dining room with distinguished alumni peering down at us out ...