Ken left me a nice comment on my previous post, for which I wrote a very long reply. I figured I might as well reproduce it as a post for anyone else to read. I’ll probably do a little editing of it over time, since it wasn’t written with the purpose of being a post.
You’re right, they don’t argue with heredity. But they do argue that evolution isn’t real. My point is simply that you can’t have heredity and not have evolution and, in fact, if you didn’t have evolution it would have to be because of something actively preventing it.
The theory of evolution itself makes no claim as to the origin of life. The logic of it points to a single ancestor of all living things, and in fact a single or set of molecules that led to every living thing. These ideas are not directly testable, but they do make observations more coherent.
There certainly is conflict when taking a literal read of Genesis, but this conflict exists in geology an archeology as well. The fact is that all animals could very well have been created simultaneously, in such a way that their genes were different in just the right parts to make it appear as if they evolved from common ancestors. There is no way to prove this right, and it is far more complicated and unlikely than the evolution alternative. But one can still believe it.
To answer your last question, I am an atheist. And have been long before I even heard of evolution. I was brought up without religion (though not as an atheist) and found that it made little sense when I started to learn about it.
I certainly do see the conflict (as indicated above), but it seems to me the same conflict that religion has always had with science: shrinking dominion. The more we understand about the world the less there is for religion to explain. Evolution is just one more of those things. I do think the reason this battle is particularly intense is that Creation is one of the most important of the unknowns for which religion has an answer (next to what happens at death).
We all want to know why we’re here. The logic of evolution provides a different answer, an answer that the religious tend to feel takes the meaning out of our existence. But that’s simply because (as I see it) they interpret meaning as being something stemming from consciousness (like that of a god). People also want to feel that they have a purpose, and if a god created everyone then s/he must have done it for some purpose. The logic of evolution (but not the theory!) removes this divine purpose and meaning.
How do I deal with this? Personally, I find that it makes my life more meaningful. I am the culmination of billions of years of chemical reactions. Billions of animals have died before leaving offspring. Most family trees end and never leave more descendants. But there is one tree that is still going, and on that tree we (and, of course, I) are hanging from the tips of the branches. We have come far enough that we can now control that tree. We can take control of our history, our family trees. Evolution brought me here, one of the extremely rare survivors on the massive tree of everything.
Because of this, I’ll be damned sure to make the most out of this life. I am unbelievably lucky to have it. It also makes me want to help humanity, and every creature related to us (which is all of them) because they are all my siblings. Everything has the same mother.
I find evolution beautiful, and very meaningful.