Saturday, February 7, 2009

Breaking news: evolution, theism compatible

Via the Columbus Dispatch

The debate between creationism and Darwin's evolution theories often pits religious leaders against scientists. But many pastors find the two ideas compatible -- and are speaking out about it.

More than 11,800 Christian clergy members in every state have joined the Clergy Letter Project, a campaign started with a letter in 2004 to explain that harmony can exist between religion and science.

It is commendable that Christians are standing up for science. Indeed, they may have one more motivation for defending against creationism than atheists do - creationists preach a theme-park version of natural history as biblical fact that is so silly, so embarrassing, so monumentally untrue that it hurts the public image of Christianity by mere association. Non-creationist Christians are obliged to counter such nonsense as much for God's sake as science's sake.

There's an excellent quote by Augustine of Hippo on this matter:

"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn."

"Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion."
Faith leaders supporting evolution is not new, said Michael Zimmerman, a dean and biology professor at Butler University and founder of the Clergy Letter Project. Some of Darwin's most vocal supporters were faith leaders, he said.
In fact, shortly after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, the Anglican clergymen of Essays and Reviews gave it a glowing review, praising "Mr Darwin's masterly volume" that "must soon bring about an entire revolution in opinion in favour of the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of nature." Completely coincidentally, those seven were called "The Seven Against Christ" and two of them were slapped with heresy charges and lost their jobs, culminating in Samuel "my grandfather wasn't a monkey" Wilberforce getting a synodical condemnation of Essays and Reviews from the Convocation of Canterbury.

Of course, we're far removed from such blatant intolerance today. That's why in Dover, non-creationist Intelligent Design Christians were merely harassed and condemned as atheists and threatened with hell and not burned at the stake as heretics.

It's little surprise that non-creationist Christians are wary of the repercussions of such zealots achieving political domination of our country's educational institutions.
The Rev. Paul Hamilton of Westerville Bible Church said that creation and evolution are completely incompatible. Hamilton adheres to the narrative of creation described in the book of Genesis.

Darwin had a bias against God, Hamilton said. He feels a mix of pity and disgust for clergy members who say the two theories can coexist.
See? Nothing but Christian love.

Additionally, he supplies the incredibly convincing argument that Darwin was wrong about evolution because he didn't believe in God. (Nobody tell him about atoms!)

Actually, Darwin didn't stop believing in God until well after his voyage on the Beagle. Prior to the voyage, Darwin had been well educated in theology, greatly admired Paley's Natural Theology, and was most definitely a self-professed Christian. Heh, bias indeed.
For him, creation and evolution are mysteries, and humans can't presume to know for sure.
And unlike creation, evolution isn't quite so mysterious as it once was, as new discoveries inevitably lead to a greater and more detailed understanding of evolution.

Despite their efforts, all the zealous dismissal of evolution in the world can't turn back the clock and make creationism viable. Nor will vile slander of fellow Christians intimidate them from making a stand for science.

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