Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Should People of Faith observe Evolution Weekend?



It’s been said that science and religion are at war, and the partisans on both sides seem to agree on one thing: If evolution is true, then God doesn’t exist.
Because biblical literalists and proponents of “Intelligent Design” have captured the attention of the media and provided fodder for atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, it might appear that there are only two choices: atheism and science or belief and biblical literalism.  There is, however, a middle ground, and many of us in the faith community believe that it’s unnecessary to make a choice between God and Darwin.        
Although I’m concerned about what some call scientific materialism, I’m equally concerned about what I perceive to be an anti-science perspective that goes under the guise of “scientific creationism,” or its more respectable version -- “Intelligent Design.” These efforts have sought to undermine the scientific consensus that holds evolution to be the explanation for the origins and development of life on earth. 
These challenges have more to do with religion than science, but unfortunately in their attempt to wrap religious doctrine in scientific language, they have influenced public perception of science and in the course of time have done harm to both to science and to faith. It has undermined the intellectual credibility of our faith traditions, especially the Christian faith, and it could have catastrophic implications for the environment, for medicine, and for our economy.
Consider for a moment this fact – most of our medical advancements, the ones that save lives every day, are predicated on the theory of evolution. In addition, the growing skepticism about science has led to a rejection of the scientific consensus that we are experiencing global warming, and I believe this skepticism that has religious roots, has discouraged young people from pursuing the study of science.   
Some of us who are concerned about the current state of affairs have been observing Evolution Weekend (Feb. 10-12 this year). Since 2006, hundreds of congregations from across the country have stepped forward and declared that the planet and its inhabitants require our support. Clergy like me are recognizing that we have a voice that needs to be heard, if for no other reason than that important scientific discoveries could be delayed or dispensed with by religiously motivated opponents to science. 
Participants in Evolution Weekend have been accused of participating – perhaps unwittingly – in a grand ruse or conspiracy to introduce bad science and atheistic ideology into our schools.  We have been told that the vast majority of Americans reject Darwinism – and thus the reigning theory of evolution – because they see through the science and ideology. 
Speaking for myself, I must say, I’ve not been duped by a Darwinist conspiracy. I have nothing to gain from such participation, except that it arises from a concern for important scientific challenges – such as global warming – and from a concern for the reasonableness of my faith profession. Not being a scientist, I cannot speak to the intricacies of the evolution or Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Yet a common sense look at the issues suggests that Darwin might be right. 
As a person of faith who seeks truth, wherever it leads, I’m convinced that while there may be disagreements on the details of the theory of evolution, they are in agreement as to the basic premise that we all life has a common origin. In making this affirmation I don’t a secularist agenda, for I do believe in God the Creator, but I believe that science must inform my understanding of God’s creative ways.   From Darwin’s time to the present, good Christian theologians have been able to reconcile the two. It’s not just liberals, but even conservatives such as Benjamin B. Warfield have sought to find common ground. Why? It is a commitment to follow facts as they’re made known where they lead.  
Each participating congregation has in its own way of observing Evolution Weekend.  But, we hold in common this desire -- to address the fears of those who believe that Darwin and evolutionary theory is a threat to faith. In response to these fears, we suggest that people of faith find a way to build a bridge of understanding. Although this project is relatively new, the need for religious people to address this issue isn’t new. In each new generation theologians and religious leaders have stepped forward to deal with the issue.     
“Evolution Weekend” grew out of an open letter written by a science professor calling on clergy to voice concern about efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution in our schools. I was one of the early signatories, and in time the “Clergy Letter Project" has garnered more than 10,000 signatures. Among the signatories are well-known theologians and bible scholars, but the majority are local clergy from a wide range of denominations and faith traditions, from evangelical to Muslim. Those of us who have signed the letter or have participated in this project haven’t celebrated either atheism or scientific materialism, but we have sought to hold up the importance of a reasonable faith. Therefore, as a person of faith, I have staked a claim in the debate and have refused to capitulate to those who want us to make either/or choices – God or Darwin.             
As a Christian, I affirm God’s intimate involvement in the creation of the universe, but I also recognize that such beautiful examples of God’s handiwork as Crater Lake and Mount Shasta (I grew up in close proximity to both), the Grand Canyon, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, as well as our human bodies have natural explanations. Both the scientist and the theologian describe the same phenomenon but they use different vocabulary and tools to do so. If we are willing to recognize and affirm the contributions of both the scientist and the theologian there can be a meaningful and profitable conversation – a conversation that has important consequences for human society and the planet we inhabit. 

Reposted from Troy Patch

31 comments:

Gary said...

If evolution is true, then the Bible is not true. But if the Bible is true, evolution is not true. The Bible is very clear that God made the universe, and life on earth, in six days. Evolution says that God had nothing to do with it, and it took at least many millions of years to happen. The Bible says that God created everything for his pleasure. Evolution says that everything is random and purposeless. Those who say God used evolution make God out to be a liar, and also deny the foundation for the theory of evolution.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

Couple of quick notes:

A. since we were formed from dust and the breath of God, there is no logical reason for doctors to engage in research on animals, because there is zero anatomical correspondence, the Bible says so.

B. there is no anatomical basis for performing human drug trials on animals.

C. The sun revolves around the earth.

D. God purposely misleads humans. We know this because of all of the false evidence of primordial existence which God planted in creation. This false evidence was not placed there by Satan because Satan did not participate in creation, and in fact Satan is not a creative entity, but only destructive.

E. God wounds people even when they don't deserve it - he gambles with people's lives and souls, and likes to show off to his creatures, so that they will be impressed, e.g., the book of Job.

F. God hardens people's hearts so that they will be sinful and unloving.

G. God is not all that faithful. And God's covenants only last as long as they serve God's purposes - look at the flimsy excuses he used to reject King Saul, and to deny Moses entry into the promised land, and look how he turned his back on the Nation of Israel.

It seems that Gary is saying that it doesn't matter how righteous one is, or how much one loves God and neighbor, God is faithful only to God's undisclosed purposes.

God's promises of salvation and deliverance made in the OT were false and meaningless to the people to whom they were made, because only the baptised who righteously believe in Jesus and hold true to the doctrines held up by Gary will ultimately be saved.

H. God loves and rewards even those who violate his commands, e.g., Eunuchs who cannot be fruitful and multiply, and David, Noah, Abraham, Solomon, Jacob, who as a group lied, cheated, adultered, murdered, fornicated, stole, coveted, etc, more than most people who are reading these words, and yet each was loved and rewarded by God. More progressive readers will not be so lucky.

I. Gary would condemn evolutionists to be eternally punished in fire and misery, not because they "lied, cheated, adultered, murdered, fornicated, stole, coveted, etc,," but merely because they were duped by the false evidence of evolution which God planted in creation.

J. Is it such a crime to be fooled by God? If so then we are all in some measure fools for the Lord and the only question is which trick did we fall for. Fall for the wrong one and you will pay the price.

David said...

You win Gary. The Bible is not true. Now go enlighten others, our time here is very short.

Only a person of little faith would discourage the faith of another.

This has been your MO nearly 100% of the time Gary. You're freaking anti-evangelist AND anti-science.

Let your rational mind operate for a couple hours, just to see if it still works.

Jeff said...

As a Christian who left a Church because it was pushing "Creation Science/Intelligent Design", I would like to chime in on this one. I agree with John that the omphalos hypothesis makes God out as a Deciever (The fossil record, geology, astronomy, biology etc. all must be presenting us with false information) but with Creationist I find it better to argue from the other end. Such as: How then do heavens declare God's glory if the light coming from distant stars really didn't come from there it just looks that way? What does that say about God?

Further more, I would argue that a fundamentalist reading of the Genesis creation account is an abuse of scripture, in the same way that one could purposely construe another's saying that "the fable of the fox and the grapes is so true" to mean that the speaker thinks foxes can speak. The creation in Gen.1 is a POEM with a one-to-one correspondence between days 1 to 3 and days 4 to 6. (If you really insist on trying to take it literally I might ask on which day was light actually separated from darkness? And why didn't it take the first time -there's no original sin to blame here) And this doesn't even touch on the second creation account that immediately follows it and that the order of Creation is different -I am aware of the back-bending that is done trying to read these and again I say it is an abuse of the text.

My last gripe is the dishonesty used in trying to make scientific hay out of minor arguments among scientists who agree with the broad arraignment of the theory but disagree on the weight to give particulars. Just because there are epigenomic factors that can be rather Lamarkian, and that natural selection isn't the only force at work (artificial selection, sex selection etc.)or one person makes a fraudulent fossil doesn't mean that Darwin got it wrong when it comes to the broad outlines evolution and the preponderance of the evidence backs that up.

Finally, the theory of evolution is science in a way that the backers of intelligent design cannot match -it is testable. The theory allows scientist to make predictions that have latter been proven true (genetic relationships between species, fossils of s particular kind found in particular layers -which is one of the ways we find oil) and it explains features in nature that are not compatible with design -as evolution 'designs' by modifying previous structures not out of whole cloth [explaining why do are eyes have blind spots, and male bees don't have stingers]

Gary said...

Exodus 20:1 "And God spake all these words, saying,"

Verse 11 "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day:"

Not just Genesis, but Exodus too. If you are going to deny the historicity of Genesis, then you must also deny what God said in Exodus(in giving the Ten Commandments). And if you deny what God said in Exodus, then you will have difficulty explaining how you can believe anything that Jesus is recorded as saying in the New Testament.

The bottom line is this: either you believe the Bible, or you don't. And if you believe evolution, then you don't believe the Bible, and your claimed Christianity is a sham.

John said...

There you go. "God Spake."

Moses wrote those words, right?

John said...

By the way, I believe the Bible. But I worship God.

Jesus was the Word and the Word was God. The Bible is not the Word, and in fact did not exist (except partially, and only in scattered fragments) when Jesus was here to do the important work.

The Bible is a book, inspired by the faith of men, composed with the help of the Holy Spirit, and preserved by the will of God. But it is still a human work. I am called as a believer to seek to discern the work and will of God in the Bible as well as in the world. I am not called as a believer to worship the Bible.

My senses and my reason were gifts from God, every bit as great or greater than the Bible. I do God no glory if I do not use them in tandem with one another. Kind of like the body analogy from Paul, each is a tool useful for discerning the will of God, and each is a door into the glories of God's creative enterprise. Close one off and the others likely will not make much sense.

Biblical discernment requires work, it requires imagination, it requires reason, and it requires prayer. And it cannot happen when we Idol-ize the Bible.

Gary, I know you have read all this before, but it feels good just to re-articulate it. And also, maybe someone else needs to read it here.

Jeff said...

Gary, The Bible needn't/and often shouldn't be taken literally, to get the intended meaning of the passages. If I walk away from Genesis with the idea that we are one human family, that we are responsible for one another and the world around us, that we are flawed and in need of redemption yet intrinsically valuable, that we have an awesome God who cares for us and has made a plan to save us and dare I go so far as to say that we would find it beneficial to not work all the time but to take time out for spiritual matters on a regular basis (as befits our human nature) I would say I have a pretty good handle on the passage. The bottom line is to love God and your neighbor. I would not excommunicate someone because they don't read everything the way I do.

I cannot accept your approach not because I don't understand it, but because I think it offends the honor of God, and my responsibility to use the sense he gave me, and is an abuse of the scriptures I hope we both love. I however, don't think our different understanding divides us in Christ Jesus as you apparently do. And, that I find to be profoundly sad.

Robert Cornwall said...

Jeff -- well said. I think you have hit this on the head!! Thanks for sharing.

David said...

"light coming from distant stars really didn't come from there it just looks that way?"

This is not true Jeff. The photons that came from those stars did hit you in the eye. They were on a long, long journey though. Even the photons from our own star take 8 minutes to travel from the surface of the sun to your your eye.

John said...

David,

Are photons divisible?

Just asking.

Rev. Steven F. Kindle said...

Wow! This is one the most fun blogs on the net.

David said...

"Are photons divisible?"

You ask very good questions.

This is what we THINK.

Google photon to see how much thought and evidence there is for our current understanding.

I would say they appear to be divisible in a sense, in that they can act as a wave, or a particle, depending on the observer.

It's an elementary particle though (a boson). It is responsible for light and also carries electromagnetic force. It has no mass and carries no electric charge and does not decay spontaneously in empty space.

I want to be a photon when I grow up. I want to play the double-slit game.

David said...

The most wonderful thing about light. You don't need to understand it to appreciate its presence.

We see the stars. We hear the radio.

Reality is like that.

Gary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary said...

Question for you "theistic evolutonists": Was Adam the first man? Why, or why not?

John said...

Who was Adam? The first human to receive the holy spirit? Then ok, yes, he was by definition the first.

John said...

David,

And even though we don't understand it we still receive its blessings, without price.

David said...

Speaking of light, listen-

12. Put the Lights Out, Maggie 03:46

http://www.andrubemis.com/index.php/singer

David said...

Why Should People of Faith observe Evolution Weekend?

I didn't answer. Do non-religious celebrate evolution weekend? Nope.

I still didn't answer. Okay, you lead.

Gary said...

John,

How do you know that Adam was the first human to receive the "holy spirit"?

John said...

Because somebody was first. More compelling to me, the Biblical suggestion that we know that person as "Adam," of the earth, has a wonderful theology and artistry to it: joining the earth with the breath of God gives rise to a new creation, filled with divine energy, divine love, and God-infused possibility.

Do I know that was his name? No but the Biblical "Adam" is hard to argue against.

Gary said...

John,

The Biblical Adam is hard to argue against? By denying the historical accuracy of Genesis, and Exodus, and Luke, that is exactly what you are doing.

Or, do you think "Adam" is a symbol?

Jeff said...

David,

I agree with you about the length of time light has travelled from distant stars. The comment was a sarcastic (& preemptive) jab at the "maturity" argument young earth creationist often atempt in defending the omphalos hypothesis. What they fail to understand is that the light conveys information (for an expanding universe for example) and that their argument therefore makes God the author of deceit.

John said...

Yes, I believe that Adam is symbol.

And I am not arguing against the Bible, only your interpretation of it.

As for your critique of my regard for the application of senses and reason to the discernment of God's will in the world, Jesus, and the Bible in general, constantly invite us to taste and see, and to hear what's to be heard, and to pray and think deeply about the things of God. And Jesus himself warns against those who would use doctrine and Scripture as a burden and a barrier. "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them."

Gary said...

John,

You don't believe what Jesus said. Matthew 19:4 Jesus references Adam and Eve, and Genesis. And he agrees that Adam and Eve were made in the beginning, meaning during the week of creation. It is evident that you think Jesus was wrong about that. So don't claim you believe what Jesus said.

Adam is included in the geneology in Luke Chapter 3. The Jews trace their ancestry back to him and claim that he was the first man. Which would not be possible if evolution were true since evolution denies the historicity of Adam and says that humans are at least hundreds of thousands of years old. Adam lived about 6,000 years ago.

In addition, Adam is mentioned several times by Paul, and in the Book of Jude. According to the Bible, Adam was both real and the first man. As an evolutionist, you deny the Bible. It is not a matter of interpretation, it is a matter of unbelief.

John said...

Yes, both the Jews and Jesus trace their ancestry back to the first human being. And Scripture posits that various human circumstances came into being from the very beginning, that such are part of what it has always meant to be human, and what is very likely always going to be the case.

And I know that when others do not agree with me it seems as if they just don't believe a all. But in truth, we just see things differently. And God speaks to us differently. - different language, different issues, different concerns.

Gary said...

John,

And different religions.

David said...

Jeff,

I wondered if you were being facetious.

I don't follow the young earth stuff, it's just too bizarre.

So light from the stars = dinosaur bones = tricky God and/ or Devil.

Many religions have these "explanation stories". How many cultures still cling to them? Why? Is it good to sacrifice truth for mis-understanding? Is that our Christian duty?