Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Can We Talk About Science?

An old piece of wisdom goes like this:
"If you don't want to do something, one excuse is as good as another."
Many reasons have been offered as to why the Theological Issues committee soundly defeated my commissioner's resolution regarding The Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Sunday.    As I have been thinking about it, all of those reasons are red herrings.

It was a fine resolution: clear, focused and concise.  It was drafted by three members of my congregation who are all science educators.   The committee could have approved it.  They could have amended it and approved an amended version.  They just didn't want to do it.

The response is to keep trying.  Folks are talking about it.

Michael Zimmerman, founder of The Clergy Letter Project that now has over 15,000 signatures and is in my view the most effective organization in regards to helping religious groups acknowledge evolution nailed it in his Huffington Post piece, Evolution and the Presbyterian Church (USA):  Not Quite the Relationship It Could Be.  He wrote:
In late June, members of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) looked into the future of the religion and science debate and blinked. Instead of positively reshaping a manufactured debate that hasn't accomplished anything positive for anyone, they opted to ignore the reality of the situation and responded with platitudes demonstrating just how far we still have to go before even mainstream religions are able to fully embrace science.
Linda LaScola of Rational Doubt wrote about me in her post, Presbyterian Minister and TCP Member Speaks Up for Evolution
I hope he and other progressive clergy are eventually successful in changing antiquated church policies.
And from Panda's Thumb, Presbyterian Church Refuses to Endorse Evolution Weekend, Matt Young writes about his own experience of trying to speak to a Presbyterian Church about modern science.  He was invited to speak, then was uninvited:
They estimated (if I remember correctly) that roughly half the congregation had threatened to quit if the invitation was not rescinded. My colleague was mortified: How could it possibly be that his church could not even discuss modern science? When would they enter the modern era? How could half his church be completely unwilling to listen, to turn a blind eye to a discussion of what should have been an important issue in the church? So my talk, which had been carefully vetted, was canceled in the blink of that blind eye.
To be clear:  the Presbyterian Church (USA) is not anti-evolution.  We included in the rationale of the resolution the 2002 statement:
The 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has stated that it 
  • Reaffirms that God is Creator, in accordance with the witness of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions.
  • Reaffirms that there is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.
  • Encourages State Boards of Education across the nation to establish standards for science education in public schools based on the most reliable content of scientific knowledge as determined by the scientific community.
  • Calls upon Presbyterian scientists and scientific educators to assist congregations, presbyteries, and the public to understand what constitutes reliable knowledge.
The resolution was clearly in line with these four bullet points.   The Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Sunday would help carry those affirmations forward.   We need to continue to push for science.

As far as Evolution Sunday not being holy or religious or whatever, adding Evolution Sunday would be consistent with other days on the calendar including:
  • Celebrate the Gifts of Women
  • Homelessness/Affordable Housing
  • Higher Education
  • Native American Day
  • Domestic Violence Awareness
  • Children's Sabbath
  • Caregiver
  • Race Relations
  • Criminal Justice
  • Souper Bowl of Caring
and so forth.

If the committee had wanted to do so, it could have endorsed the Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Sunday and the sky would not have fallen.   Maybe next time?   Perhaps a couple of presbyteries will send their own pro-science (and in particular, pro-evolution) overtures to the next General Assembly.  I am hoping that conversation will continue and that others will push the PC(USA) to take bolder stands to resist the cultural battle against science.


  1. Yep. We can't just pass a resolution in 2002 and say "There, we're done." We have to keep the message moving.

  2. We should endorse evolution at every GA.