Evolution v. religion: the problem of evil and the problem of design
Abiola Lapite argues that evolution cannot be compatible with an omnipotent, benevolent, activist God, due to the problem of evil:
Simply put, there is no room in the universe of Darwinian struggle and pitiless death for a benevolent, omnipotent, activist deity of the kind put forward by Judaism and its more popular offspring.This is manifestly true, but it's not the point of conflict between evolution and religion that I would focus on. After all, the problem of evil isn't just true for evolution - it's true for, well, all of reality. Even if God did create the world 6,000 years ago, it would still be true that all sorts of horrible suffering goes on in the animal world, not to mention famines, natural disasters, and man's inhumanity to man in the human world. Some solutions are at least plausible for Deist gods, but not for the kind of interventionist God postulated by the great monotheistic religions. In any case, it doesn't take Darwin to raise the problem of evil.
The real Darwinian threat to religion is "Darwin's dangerous idea," the one that this blog is named after. It's the idea that all the fantastic complexity of life, humanity and consciousness was never designed, but happened on its own through a mindless, stupid, blind algorithmic process: natural selection. Cranes, not skyhooks. Complexity from the bottom up, not the top down. The watchmaker is not only blind - he's not even a real person.
This is the point on which evolution cannot be reconciled with most forms of religion. Insofar as religion is about ascribing meaning and intent to the natural world, a meaningless and intentless natural selection fundamentally contradicts the whole religious outlook. I wasn't surprised when the Catholic Church clarified its position on evolution as being that evolution-as-common-descent might be true, but evolution-as-unplanned-mindless-algorithm is definitely false - because the latter leaves no room for the Catholic God.
This common descent v. mindless natural selection distinction means that whether or not evolution and religion are compatible depends on what you mean by evolution. If you mean Darwinian evolution in its full glory, then they are not compatible (excepting Deist non-interventionist gods). If you mean evolution as common descent and gradual modification, then - they might be compatible. I think it's possible (and not logically inconsistent) to be a practicing biologist, understanding how random mutations spread through a population through natural selection and how protein domains are conserved across species and so on, while retaining some belief in the back of one's head that the mutations just appear random, and God is working in mysterious ways in the background. It's still a failure to take Darwinian evolution to its final philosophical conclusion, but doesn't conflict with the scientific theory of evolution itself, in that science just ignores "mysterious ways" that can't be observed, inferred, or falsified.