I wonder if some of the fervor of the New Atheist movement is a response to the human need to categorize and define. I'll gladly link to this National Geographic special and information, because I think that learning about and looking into the life and studies of Charles Darwin is a worthwhile endeavor. I'm fairly certain that Richard Dawkins will go beyond the basic points of memorial for the bi-centenary of Darwin's birth and points regarding evolution to re-fighting the "faith" vs. "Darwinism" argument that is so old-hat by now that it makes me want to take a cattle prod to the "faithful faithless."
I believe the rhetorical construct used by Dawkins to make those of faith sound like cretins is called a "straw man." Yes, there are people who believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and many of them do so based on pseudo-scientifical analyses of Biblical texts. Dawkins indicates that while "ignorance is no crime," it is a negative activity to ignore "evidence" in favor of faith, for which there is no "evidence." Dawkins calls upon viewers to "think upon four billion years of slow, gradual evolution," which is in itself, a difficult concept considering that the average person probably doesn't know much about his or her own great-grandparents - where they lived, how they lived, and who their friends and other relatives were. Multiply that by 500 million generations (check my math), and the scales of time being considered are truly vast and inconceivable except by abstraction. I have myself, as a teacher, received papers fervently defending "creationism" using pseudo-scientific methods.
Point being, these two approaches are of equal rigidity and approximately equal invalidity. Today, there exists no firm scientific proof of how life arose to begin with. Much is known, and there are a number of theories, each with its own good points. It occurred to me while in graduate school and reading the works of brilliant naturalist, writer - and sincere, thoughtful and non-militant Atheist - John Fowles, that what he was attempting to communicate in the natural history portions of The French Lieutenant's Woman is also communicated in its own way to those of faith through the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, verse 13. I actually wrote a critical text comparing the concept of "as through a glass, darkly" to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
I just wrote about the Tarsiers, bush babies and last week, the Aye-Aye. Each of these species, with the possible exception of the "bush baby," is under some taxonomical dispute, with morphology, biology and DNA all indicating different interpretations of how these animals should be classified or viewed in relation to other animals, and from an evolutionary perspective. In the real world, the existence of these animals is a wonder, as is the entirety of creation. Some of us have a natural or innate sense that the wonder of life that is our world, is a precious thing, a miracle, and by its very nature of combined simplicity and complexity (as the fractal arises from a single mathematical formula).
All that faith really is, is a natural comprehension that there are things that people cannot know right now, and that they may never know, and that there is, in fact, something greater than all of us - something more. It is sometimes said that women find faith "easier" than do men, and this possibly arises, as in the case of nuns willingly becoming the "brides of Christ," because women receive consistent cues from girlhood onward that they are not the "top of the heap" as far as social relations are concerned. Men, on the other hand, may find the thought that there is something "more" and "greater" more difficult, because their biological and social history tells them that they must be in control, be the providers, and be the ones in charge. With each new generation in our rapidly-evolving and ever-changing world - this too may change, and may even be changing this minute as I type this.
It is unscientific to believe that we have immortal souls. It is in Dawkins' opinion, irrational and unscientific to believe in God - yet he cannot "prove" God's non-existence, and I rather think that there is sufficient evidence, for those to see, in addition to the Word of God and the example of Christ, given to us to reveal more than was known before, that there is most certainly a higher power. God would not have given us minds to comprehend, or hands to work, or the capacity to reason, if He did not desire us to reason - to learn more, to understand, to investigate and search. I still believe that He has his mysteries, and I believe that based upon the words of Paul. Everyone who knows the Gospels should know that the letters of Paul are exactly that - letters of Paul written to the different churches to help them all through different questions of faith. Indeed, there was someone, long ago, who set down the words of Genesis, and set them in a form that fit human comprehension at that time. One can see the evolution of understanding of behavior, of roles with each other in society, and basic ideas of "right" and "wrong" moving throughout all of the books of the Bible. The Bible itself was, and is, an evolving document - just as life.
In other words, Dawkins does not disprove my faith nor make me into a cretin by suggesting that the only choices for faith are to believe that the earth is 10,000 years old and to disbelieve the work of Darwin, which so illuminated our world - and to those of faith (as Darwin was himself) - illuminated another corner of the "dark glass," which we are told is to mean a "brass mirror." Our lives are short. Some of us believe in reincarnation, while others of us believe that we have one, single life, and one immortal soul. To investigate, to learn, and to illuminate is not forbidden by God, it is blessed by Him, and as we should all recognize, there is so much that we do not currently "know" due to scientific proof, that the evolution of our knowledge and capacity as human beings is part of a journey that we are all, as a species, taking. Is there a day beyond which those who follow will not be able to comprehend those who came before - the so-called "singularity"? As one who by definition, was born "before," I cannot answer that, and by definition, cannot have full comprehension of it.
That wikipedia link actually has the illustration of "the rise of man" at the top - i.e. from hunched australopithecine to "modern homo". The very nature of that picture shows its rigidity and commitment to an archaic view of "progress" that implies that what came before, is somehow inferior to what is to come. Are animals of today "superior" to their antecedents? This is not at all a certainty - either from a faith perspective or a science perspective. The only certainty - is change. And that is what is wrong with "creationists," because their worldview encompasses a static world, created "magically" in a comprehensible, simple manner, as a child sets up a diorama. And that is what is wrong with Dawkins as well, because Darwin recognized clearly the limitations of his investigations - he recognized that he had uncovered a portion of the mirror, and a path for others to further investigate and discover. There is no end. There is no final stopping point or goal of earthly perfection, where all truths will be known, and there will never be "something more." Paul was given the ability to reveal portions of the mirror to Christians through his writings. To the Ephesians: "World without end."