Shuck and Jive

Monday, February 09, 2009

Evolution Will Have to Wait

Evolution Weekend is coming, February 13-15. Check the Clergy Letter Project for resources and details. Since I am going to be out of town, First Presbyterian of Elizabethton will be bit slower to evolve. We will celebrate Evolution Weekend, February 20-22. I hope Chuck Darwin won't be offended that we moved this high holy day, especially as it is his 200th birthday and all.

Mr. Evolution himself, Michael Zimmerman, is going to be a presenter at Westar's Spring Meeting, March 18-21. Here is the scoop:

The Evolution/Creation Controversy: Why it Matters

Creationist strategies have evolved over time but one factor has remained constant: a single, narrow religious perspective has been passed off as science and as the religious norm. Michael Zimmerman will discuss how these efforts diminish science literacy and promote a false conflict between religion and science. And he will suggest ways scientists and clergy can join together to promote a shared sense of respect.

Joining Dr. Zimmerman is Louise Mead, Teaching Evolution to Children.

Using the Polebridge title, Stones & Bones—selected by BioScience magazine for its Fall 2008 Focus on Books, Louise Mead will demonstrate strategies for introducing children to the marvelous nature of science as they take a walk through time to learn about the evolution of their favorite animals.

And, Mark Chancey will speak about
The Bible, the First Amendment, and Public Education

Recently states have enacted legislation promoting Bible courses. Is this a positive sign that Americans are recognizing the importance of religious literacy for cultural literacy—or a troubling indication that the line separating church and state is becoming increasingly blurred? Mark Chancey will examine the academic, political, and constitutional aspects of Bible courses in public schools.
Good stuff.

The Jesus Seminar is more than voting with beads to find a hippie Jesus. It is an educational enterprise to bring religious literacy to a hungry public.

That is why I heart them.

You will get your Jesus fix with Stephen Patterson who will deliver the keynote address.

The Gospel of Thomas tells few stories about Jesus, makes little of his death and resurrection, and perhaps most significantly, does not speak of Jesus or his followers as having “faith.” Why is this? The answer may lie in the difference “place” or “context” makes in the way the early Christian message was formulated. In an attempt to understand why Thomas is what it is, and is not what it is not, Patterson puts it in its place—Edessa, east of the Euphrates. As Thomas becomes more clearly a product of its place, he observes, the particular way the Christian message was formulated in the west will also become more clearly a product of its place. That leads to the question: Must Christian faith ever and always be about death and resurrection, about faith?
Now that is a good question. Must Christian faith ever and always be about death and resurrection?


  1. Well you could look in the Darwin Correspondence project for what Charles thought about his birthday.

    Writing to Fitzroy about the planned sailing of the Beagle:
    "What a glorious day the 4th of November will be to me— My second life will then commence, and it shall be as a birthday for the rest of my life."
    (the Beagle actually sailed on the 27th of December)

    (use the advanced search if you want to search)

  2. But born again as what?

    In his autobiography he writes of a time before this

    Accordingly I read with care Pearson on the Creed and a few other books on divinity; and as I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be fully accepted. It never struck me how illogical it was to say that I believed in what I could not understand and what is in fact unintelligible. I might have said with entire truth that I had no wish to dispute any dogma; but I never was such a fool as to feel and say 'credo quia incredibile'.

    And about the voyage he writes

    DURING THESE two years1 I was led to think much about religion. Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian. The question then continually rose before my mind and would not be banished,—is it credible that if God were now to make a revelation to the Hindoos, would he permit it to be connected with the belief in Vishnu, Siva, &c., as Christianity is connected with the Old Testament. This appeared to me utterly incredible.

    However in 1880 well after this he wrote

    Dear Sir

    I am sorry to have to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation, & therefore not in Jesus Christ as the son of God.

    Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin

    which should put him outside of mainstream Christianity. A year earlier he had written.

    It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.— You are right about Kingsley. Asa Gray, the eminent botanist, is another case in point— What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one except myself.— But as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. Moreover whether a man deserves to be called a theist depends on the definition of the term: which is much too large a subject for a note. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.

    Perhaps a born again agnostic.

  3. I was actually teasing about his being born again--taking a poke at those folks who say on his deathbed that he renounced his theories and embraced Jesus and what not.

    Thanks for the story, though.

    There is an interesting documentary and quite well done called Paradise Lost: The Religious Life of Charles Darwin.

  4. I was teasing back. Apologies for the associated data dump.

    I think that a lot of people tend to ignore that his wife's religious views also changed over time. She came to believe that God wouldn't damn people just for being non-believers. In 1895 she wrote to her daughter:

    I am reading the Psalms and I cannot conceive how
    they have satisfied the devotional feelings of the world for
    such centuries. I am at the 35th, and about three or four
    I have found beautiful and satisfactory, the rest are almost
    all calling for protection against enemies or for vengeance.
    one fine penitential Psalm.