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I examine Michael Oakeshott's theory of modes of experience in light of today's evolution debates and argue that in much of our current debate science and religion irrelevantly attack each other or, less commonly but still irrelevantly, seek out support from the other. An analysis of Oakeshott's idea of religion finds links between his early holistic theory of the state, his individualistic account of religious sensibility, and his theory of political, moral, and religious authority. Such analysis shows that a modern individualistic theory of the state need not be barrenly secular and suggests that a religious sensibility need not be translated into an overmastering desire to use state power to pursue moral or spiritual ends in politics. Finally, Oakeshott's vision of a civil conversation, as both a metaphor for Western civilization and as a quasi-ethical ideal, shows us how we might balance the recognition of diverse modal truths, the pursuit of singular religious or philosophic truth, and a free political order.

Keywords: Augustine; Christianity; Francis Collins; Michael Oakeshott; Richard Dawkins; Stephen Jay Gould; apology; authority; civil association; conversation; evolution; history; mode; nonoverlapping magisteria; practical experience; religion; science; theism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Independent scholar who has taught at The University of Colorado, The Colorado College, and The United States Air Force Academy. His mailing address is 2530 Eudora Street, Denver, CO, 80207;, Email:

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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