Shuck and Jive

Monday, November 27, 2006

Evolution Sunday

February 11, 2007 is Evolution Sunday. Dr. Michael Zimmerman, the Dean of Butler University, started this movement. He has collected over 10,000 signatures of clergy (including yours truly) who support teaching evolution in the classroom. In addition to the letter, a Sunday in February is designated to bring awareness of science and religion in the pulpit. This is Dr. Zimmerman from the Clergy Letter Project website:

For too long, the misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict has created unnecessary division and confusion, especially concerning the teaching of evolution. I wanted to let the public know that numerous clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith.

In the fall of 2004, I worked with clergy throughout Wisconsin to prepare a statement in support of teaching evolution. We were called to action by a series of anti-evolution policies passed by the school board in Grantsburg, WI. The response was overwhelming. In a few weeks, nearly 200 clergy signed the statement, which we sent to the Grantsburg school board on December 16, 2004. Additionally, groups of educators and scientists sent letters to the Grantsburg School Board and to the Superintendent of Schools protesting these policies. In response to all of this attention, as well as the efforts of others, the Grantsburg School Board retracted their policies.

The outpouring of support from clergy around the country encouraged me to make this a nationwide project. If you want to read more about it or join us in sharing this important perspective, click here. Encourage your clergy to consider signing the statement and please feel free to link to these webpages. And, while the current focus is on Christian clergy, please let me know if you are willing to write and/or host a statement from other religions.

Here is a list of participants so far for 2007, a list from last year, and a list of clergy who have signed the letter. If you are a clergyperson, consider signing it yourself and consider celebrating Evolution Sunday!

If you are not a member of the clergy, tell your favorite Rev. to get with Darwin! Here are some resources. And here is the text of the letter:

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.




  1. Do you find it the least bit ironic to celebrate a theory propounding selective "survival of the fittest" on a Sunday when the lectionary Gospel reading relates Jesus pronouncing blessedness on those who aren't surviving very well and woes on those who are leading biologically successful lives?

  2. Ironic? No. Unrelated? Yes. Evolution is simply the way our world works. Covering it over with superstition because some people aren't comfortable with it, doesn't change it. It simply denies reality. Evolution Sunday is a celebration of knowledge and scientific truth.

  3. So it's your belief that the words of Jesus in the Bible are superstition?

  4. Folks, Jesus has nothing to do with Evolution. He never would have thought such a thing. Nor would he have thought about rocket ships, brain surgery, television, dinosaur bones, and North Dakota. Superstition is turning the Bible and/or Jesus into something it or he is not. You do not turn to the Bible or to Jesus to figure out how to fix your car, drill for oil, study calculus, or the learn about the development of species on Earth.

  5. That was unfair. You charge me with superstition (and all of the ignorance and bigotry connoted therewith) when I made no attending charges of God-hating Darwinianism. Moreover, you accuse me of holding convictions of truth based on whether or not I am "comfortable" with something. That is a baseless charge.

    Worst of all, you lost an opportunity to put forth a positive, Gospel-tinged spin on the issue. You could have talked about how societies that take care of their poor and hurting are better adapted for survival in this world, no matter what the plutocrats and health-and-wealth preachers say. You could have said that within the church, we need to evolve - to become better adapted for life in the reign of God - by selecting the hungry and the weeping for special honor, and not the rich or the full or the laughing.

    But instead, you retreated into the safe assumptions that in a post Scopes-trial world, only anti-intellectuals and truth-hating simpletons would have any criticism of evolution. (BTW, notice that I didn't denounce evolution in the post, but simply pointed to an incongruity between the spiritual mechanism in the text and the survival mechanism in evolutionary theory. It may not be "ironic" in its truest sense, however.)

    I'm not interested in debating the scientific validity of evolutionary theory with you because you've already stated that you aren't open to re-evaluating your position. But I do find it striking that your epistemology somehow - mystically - allows for you to know when something is true knowledge and scientific truth (such as evolution), and when it is just bunkum (such as any evidence against evolution or for the resurrection of Jesus' crucified corpse).

    It's also interesting how discrete spheres of knowledge work within your worldview. For instance, the Bible has nothing to say to data we find through science. Nevertheless, science can - indeed should - have a controlling influence in our interpretation of the data found in the Bible.

    I've said it again and again. What divides us (meaning not just you and me, but our respective camps) is not intellectual ability, scientific savvy, social awareness, moral power, or devotion. What divides us is our starting points, presuppositions, and axioms - in a word, our epistemology.

  6. Chris,

    I am sure I could have done all of the things you suggested. So could you. A lot of "you" statements in your post. Regardless, I agree with your last paragraph, which I quote here:

    "I've said it again and again. What divides us (meaning not just you and me, but our respective camps) is not intellectual ability, scientific savvy, social awareness, moral power, or devotion. What divides us is our starting points, presuppositions, and axioms - in a word, our epistemology."

    I needed to look it up. From the American Heritage Dictionary:

    Epistemology: "The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity."

    Many more big words. How do we know what we know? Isn't that it?

    You have said on this blog that Earth is relatively young, 6,000 to 10,000 years, is that right?

    So how do you know? Is it from science or the Bible? In regards to evolution, my epistemology is from science not the Bible.

    I will write more about the Bible in future posts, but for now I will say that the Bible was written by human beings. It has great value. It is not a science book. For the origins and development of the Universe, Earth, and of Earth's species, I will go with the scientists.