I recently attended a day long seminar at Wits University, titled The Story of Life - A new perspective on South Africa's 3.5 billion year fossil record. It was a large event - there must have been about a thousand people who attended. There were 18 lectures from prominent South African palaeontologists, geologists, geneticists, and archaeologists, who sketched out what science currently knows about the origins and evolution of life. It was absolutely fascinating, and confirms - for me at least - the wealth of evidence and data that currently supports evolutionary theory.
The seminars fuelled some of my own thinking on the perceived tension between religion and evolutionary theory. The more I learn about evolution, the more I fail to understand why there is tension at all. I, for one, strongly believe - and have for sometime - that evolutionary theory does not prove or disprove the existence of God. Any atheist or agnostic who claims that God does not exist because of evolutionary theory is using a faulty argument - evolutionary theory only tries to explain the changes that we observe in living organisms, including humans, over time. It makes no claims at all about the supernatural.
Moreover, there are many Christians - referred to as theistic evolutionists - who have no problem at all with evolution. From what I understand, theistic evolutionists believe that God created life, and he guided evolution to bring about man. In fact, when I was still a Christian at university, studying Botany, I had come to accept evolution in animals and plants, although I still had reservations about human evolution at the time.
I should also note that evolution had nothing to do with my struggle and eventual journey away from Christianity - this was a result of other philosophical problems that I had with my faith. I think that, if I were still a Christian, I would have finally accepted evolution in its entirety. I believe that evolution is compatible with a belief in God - it only presents a problem for those who hold a literal interpretation of the bible.
So this means that I will never use the argument that proof of evolution disproves the existence of God. Likewise, if creationists ever convince me that evolution is false, I will not automatically accept this as proof of God's existence. I believe that God's existence does not depend on the proof or disproof of evolutionary theory at all.