Darwin Goes to Church in Texas

If you find yourself in a church, synagogue or mosque in Texas this weekend, you might just hear Charles Darwin’s name come up in the sermon (and not to label him a devil!). It’s Evolution Weekend again, and TFN is proud to join The Clergy Letter Project in sponsoring events in Texas congregations.

What is Evolution Weekend, you say?

Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic – to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.

More than 1,000 congregations around the world are participating, including more than 50 in Texas. To celebrate, TFN Insider is pleased to welcome guest blogger Rev. Jeremy Rutledge to offer his insights on religion and science. Jeremy is minister at Covenant Church, a congregation affiliated with the American Baptist Church and the Alliance of Baptists. Read Jeremy’s comments after the jump.

This Sunday our church, along with over 1000 religious communities nationally, and more than 50 congregations in the state of Texas, will gather to celebrate what we call Evolution Sunday.  This will be the third year that we have marked the observance, and it will be a special one, as this week marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.  Many of us in the religious community have found within Darwin’s life and work an extraordinarily beautiful and intricate account of the process by which life on Earth evolved in its innumerably varied forms.  I am struck, reading Darwin, with senses of wonder, reverence, and awe at the vast interconnected web of life.  My hope is that the children of our church, along with future generations of Texans, will be able to learn sound science in public school classrooms.  It is for this reason that I write.

The current battle over science curriculum standards at our State Board of Education is a cause for grave alarm.  Since Texas is such a large state, our education policy affects many neighboring states, and the standards we adopt will invariably play a role in the education of literally millions of school children for a generation to come.  It is incumbent upon us, then, to lobby those who represent us for the highest scientific standards in the classroom.  I have signed on with the Clergy Letter Project, an interfaith group of clergy who believe that science and religion are partners in the search for truth and meaning, not adversaries.  Over 12,000 clergy nationwide have now signed a letter that reads, in part, “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 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.”

I write to encourage Texans of every religious practice and tradition, as well as those who do not identify with religion, to join me in raising our voices for the teaching of sound science in the public schools.  The science standards currently up for review will be voted on in March.  I can’t imagine marking the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth in a timelier way than ensuring that his theory of evolution by means of natural selection, as well as the most recent biological disciplines that confirm it – including biochemistry, genetics, and developmental biology – are taught to the next generation of our children.  What’s more, as a person of religious faith, I find my own search for truth and meaning informed by the great evolutionary story of life on Earth that Darwin has helped us to understand.  When I consider the beauty of the lilies or the intricate variations of Darwin’s finches, I find myself held in a narrative much greater than my own.  I urge my fellow Texans to contact their representatives and the members of the State Board of Education and ask that the teaching of evolution be protected in public school classrooms and textbooks.  A generation of children stand to gain a deeper understanding of their place in the family of life if they are taught proper science.  Let us act with their interest in mind.

Rev. Jeremy Rutledge
Covenant Church
jeremy@covenanthouston.org

25 thoughts on “Darwin Goes to Church in Texas

  1. Jeremy,

    I cannot thank you enough. Your support, and the support of your peers across many faiths, is essential for the peaceful coexistence of science and religion.

    I am newly inspired to continue recruiting scientists to the Clergy Letter Project. Remember that we are there to support you if you need us. Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Rev. Jeremy Rutledge said,

    –Many of us in the religious community have found within Darwin’s life and work an extraordinarily beautiful and intricate account of the process by which life on Earth evolved in its innumerably varied forms. I am struck, reading Darwin, with senses of wonder, reverence, and awe at the vast interconnected web of life. —

    This isn’t just a matter of what is “beautiful and intricate.” Intelligent design is “beautiful and intricate.” Some interspecies relationships that cannot easily be explained by co-evolution are “beautiful and intricate” — my blog’s articles about co-evolution are in the post-label group titled “Non-ID criticisms of evolution” —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/search/label/Non-ID%20criticisms%20of%20evolution

    –Since Texas is such a large state, our education policy affects many neighboring states —

    That may be true where Texas education policy is non-controversial, but evolution education policy is a very controversial subject. Local school districts in Texas and school systems outside Texas are not required to use Texas-approved textbooks. Local school districts in Texas may use state-unapproved textbooks if the districts pay the full cost, which isn’t much. A popular textbook, “Biology” by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, already comes in regular, Texas, and California editions.

    BTW, the Texas Education Agency has announced the final public comment period for the proposed Texas science standards — details are on my blog at —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/02/another-public-comment-period-for.html

  3. I see larry f is still obsessed with co-evolution. It is not a criticism. Evolution is not a controversial topic since it is more of a fact. Natural selection is the theory. Remember, pseudo weaknesses won’t be taught.

  4. –I see larry f is still obsessed with co-evolution. —

    Of course I am “obsessed” with co-evolution — my arguments about it have been very effective. No one has presented any effective counterarguments.

  5. “No one has presented any effective counterarguments.”

    Good to hear you’ve had it get through peer review. It’s a rough but necessary process. When & where will it be running – Nature? Science? Or has it been accepted by one of the more obscure-but-respectable journals?

  6. Great comments and wonderful to have an enlightened minister like Jeremy Rutledge and a place like Covenant Church in the Houston Area.

  7. I have noted that my old friend Larry Fafarman has arrived for discussion at this web site. Larry and I were regular haunts at the now defunct Red State Rabble website, which was developed to counter the introduction of Creationism/ID into the curriculum of the Kansas public schools and to bring about the election defeat of the Christian fundamentalists who had taken over the Kansas State Board of Education. I arrived at Red State Rabble after a strong blogging and e-mail writing campaign in support of the Kitzmiller plaintiffs in Dover, Pennsylvania, which was a substantial victory. The victory was equally resounding in Kansas where all but one of the creationism/ID members of the Kansas State Board of Education went down to defeat. It sounds as if it is now time to disarm and chase out a very similar group of tin horn hombres in the Lone Star State.

    This is my first blog message here, so I will begin by introducing myself. My job title is Environmental Scientist, and my educational background includes geology, American archaeology, anthropology, and 2o years of practical work on environmental protection projects of various kinds. I have a wonderful wife and two kids whose are ages 14 and 7. We live in a state east of the Mississippi River. We are members of the United Methodist Church. We love Jesus. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

    Our kids attend public schools in our small town. Several years ago, Expansion Magazine, a national business publication ranked our local public school system in the Top 100 out of approximately 17,500 school systems in the United States. We have a very strong science and math curriculum in our locals schools. Many of the students in our schools are the sons and daughters of some of the best scientists in the world—cutting edge—pushing the envelope daily—Princeton, Cal Tech, Cornell, MIT types. You will also be interested to know that ours is a very religious small town with a large number of churches and even a synagogue. A great many of our scientific folks believe strongly in Jesus too, dispelling that old Christian fundamentalist propaganda that modern scientists leap out of bed with joy and drive fervently to their labs each day feeling certain that this will be the day their experiments prove that there is no God. For the most part, this is utter nonsense propagated by people who are either idiots or liars—or perhaps both.

    To the best of my knowledge, our town has no movement to bring creationism/ID into our local school system. For one thing, the chances of any such proponents even daring to run for school board election here is next to zero because of the powerful opposition that they would face immediately from the local scientific community, which in many ways runs the town and heads up its civic life. We have some Christian fundamentalists who live here, and there are a few small churches such as the local Assembly of God and some “Brand X” fundamentalist baptist churches. However, it has been my observation that they and their members “lay low” in the background and avoid causing any civic trouble that might result in what the FBI, CIA, or National Security Agency would call “unfortunate personal repercussions.”

  8. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams Says (February 16, 2009 at 7:40 am) —
    “No one has presented any effective counterarguments.”

    Good to hear you’ve had it get through peer review. —

    I am peerless — I am not a biologist.

    You Darwinists have made a fetish out of “peer review” — you just use this peer-review gimmick as a pretext for ducking debate. Here is what the Supreme Court said in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), a case concerning standards of judicial review of scientific questions:

    Another pertinent consideration is whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication. Publication (which is but one element of peer review) is not a sine qua non of admissibility; it does not necessarily correlate with reliability, see S. Jasanoff, The Fifth Branch: Science Advisors as Policymakers 61-76 (1990), and in some instances well grounded but innovative theories will not have been published, see Horrobin, The Philosophical Basis of Peer Review and the Suppression of Innovation, 263 J. Am. Med. Assn. 1438 (1990). Some propositions, moreover, are too particular, too new, or of too limited interest to be published. But submission to the scrutiny of the scientific community is a component of “good science,” in part because it increases the likelihood that substantive flaws in methodology will be detected. See J. Ziman, Reliable Knowledge: An Exploration of the Grounds for Belief in Science 130-133 (1978); Relman and Angell, How Good Is Peer Review?, 321 New Eng. J. Med. 827 (1989). The fact of publication (or lack thereof) in a peer reviewed journal thus will be a relevant, though not dispositive, consideration in assessing the scientific validity of a particular technique or methodology on which an opinion is premised.
    — from
    http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/92-102.ZO.html

    BTW, Judge Jones failed to cite Daubert in his Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion — a serious oversight. And as I mentioned, Judge Jones was very hypocritical about peer review because law journals are typically not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are typically just student-reviewed!

    My thoughts about co-evolution have been posted on the Internet, the best place to get comments of all kinds from peers, experts in general, and non-experts.

    Also, one of the main purposes of peer review prior to publication is to help assure accuracy, comprehensiveness, and fairness of articles where comments cannot be directly attached — i.e., articles in printed journals. However, peer review prior to publication is much less important on the Internet, where comments can be directly attached to an article. Also, the number and length of comments on the Internet are potentially unlimited. You Darwinists often fail to appreciate the importance of comments on the Internet — that’s why you so often arbitrarily censor them. Also, Daubert was written before the Internet became popular and therefore could not assess the role of the Internet in scientific debate.

    For all I know I could be the world’s foremost general expert on co-evolution — my blog goes into far more detail about the general subject of co-evolution than anything else I have seen on the Internet.

    1. Golly. We bet all those biologists are wondering why they bothered getting their doctorates. They must be slapping their foreheads now thinking about how much time and work they wasted.

  9. You Darwinists have made a fetish out of “peer review” — you just use this peer-review gimmick as a pretext for ducking debate. Here is what the Supreme Court said in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), a case concerning standards of judicial review of scientific questions:

    So we should listen to what courts say about scientific peer review.

    Judge Jones was very hypocritical about peer review because law journals are typically not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are typically just student-reviewed!

    So we shouldn’t listen to what courts say about scientific peer review.

    Wait, what?

  10. Larry said, “For all I know I could be the world’s foremost general expert on co-evolution…”

    Unfortunately, he doesn’t even know how to spell the word correctly.

  11. I actually think you are being asked to listen to a California civil engineer’s opinions about evolution. If you have ever worked with engineers in any real world job setting, you will quickly find out from them that a college degree in engineering subsumes the complete spectrum of human knowledge, making them experts on every subject under the sun—or so they think. Most of us scientists just roll our eyes and ignore them— which is the proper response.

  12. TFN Says (February 17, 2009 at 12:43 pm) —
    –Golly. We bet all those biologists are wondering why they bothered getting their doctorates. They must be slapping their foreheads now thinking about how much time and work they wasted.–

    So someone needs a Ph.D in biology in order to discuss evolution? Sheeesh. You just gave a good reason why high school students should not study evolution — why should they bother if their opinions about evolution are not going to be respected.

    James F Says (February 17, 2009 at 1:31 pm) —

    You Darwinists have made a fetish out of “peer review” — you just use this peer-review gimmick as a pretext for ducking debate. Here is what the Supreme Court said in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), a case concerning standards of judicial review of scientific questions:

    So we should listen to what courts say about scientific peer review.

    Judge Jones was very hypocritical about peer review because law journals are typically not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are typically just student-reviewed!

    So we shouldn’t listen to what courts say about scientific peer review.–

    So it is wrong to cite both (1) court opinions that we agree with and (2) court opinions that we disagree with? Duh.

    The Supreme Court is less hypocritical than Judge Jones — Judge Jones’ reliance on peer review is much greater than the Supreme Court’s.

  13. Shorter Larry:
    “So what if baseball says you’re out after three strikes? You Baseballists just use that as an excuse to weed out anyone who disagrees with you. The rules should be changed so that I get 15 strikes before I’m called out. And it’s only a strike if I say it’s a strike. And I get to use as much pine tar on my bat as I want. And I get to use all the steroids I want.”

    Put up or shut up, Larry. Submit your data and analysis to the appropriate journals, then you can ridicule us all you want in your Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

    Otherwise, it’s all just more moon-landing-hoax/holocaust-denying/the-world-will-end-in-2012 noise.

  14. Larry. It did not work in Dover. It did not work in Topeka. It is not going to work in Texas. It is not going to work in Louisiana or anywhere else. The Discovery Institute has been beaten in its horribly and stupidly conducted public relations game. Their crafty schemes and the true nature of them are all over the newspapers, magazines, television, the Internet—everywhere. Even in a dentist’s waiting room, John Q public can get the low-down on “The Wedge Strategy,” the teach the controversy ploy, and the academic freedom plot. Barbara Forrest is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged national celebrity for kicking your butts silly from sea to shining sea. Everyone here has read your posts, and they are embarrasing at best. The attempts to sport a purely scientific argument while denying an underlying ideological agenda is hopelessly transparent. The night is far spent on this neocon failure. Howard Ahmanson’s money has been poorly spent. The nation is weary of the Religious Right—as reflected in the recent election. A pack of young Obama nominees is waiting in the wings to take their place on the U.S. Supreme Court, a Democrat Congress is ready to approve them, and Jerry Falwell’s predeath nightmare of another 50 years of progressive good sense is rising like the sun on the eastern horizon.

  15. Charles Says:
    –Larry and I were regular haunts at the now defunct Red State Rabble website —

    I don’t miss Red State Rabble — the crackpot blogger on that blog once deleted a comment of mine that contained an on-topic link to my blog. He said I was “advertising” my blog! Sheeeesh!

    BTW, I just discovered another advantage of having a blog — a link to your blog can be used to add words to comment threads where there is a limit on the length of comments. I recently used this advantage in a comment thread where comments are limited to 1000 words.

    –We are members of the United Methodist Church. We love Jesus. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. —

    You are what is called a “Cafeteria Christian.” Jerry Coyne wrote,

    Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births. Without good cause, Giberson and Miller pick and choose what they believe. At least the young-earth creationists are consistent, for they embrace supernatural causation across the board.
    — see
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/01/hypocrisy-of-theistic-evolutionism.html

    Charles Says:
    –I actually think you are being asked to listen to a California civil engineer’s opinions about evolution. —

    Are you talking about me? I am a mechanical engineer, not a civil engineer. And engineers happen to be a pretty sharp group — and I don’t think I am being immodest by saying so.

    Ben Says:
    — Larry said, “For all I know I could be the world’s foremost general expert on co-evolution…”

    Unfortunately, he doesn’t even know how to spell the word correctly. —

    Ben, the prefix “co” is sometimes followed by a hyphen. This is most commonly done where the following word begins with “o” — e.g., co-operate, co-ordinate. However, it is sometimes done with other letters, e.g., co-payment, co-adaptation, and co-evolution.

    –Larry likes to review books on Amazon. One of his reviews said:
    “No amount of writing advice can compensate for lack of peer review” —

    Another quote mine from troll Ben. I was talking about printed law journals there.

    Ben, are you going to make any intelligent comments here, or are you just going to waste space here with your breathtakingly inane scoffing?

    Cheryl Shepherd-Adams Says:
    –So what if baseball says you’re out after three strikes? —

    Where’s the first strike?

    –Put up or shut up, Larry. Submit your data and analysis to the appropriate journals —

    As I said, you Darwinists are just exploiting this peer-review thing as an excuse to avoid answering my arguments. And in general, I have less faith in peer-reviewed printed journal articles than I have in Internet articles that are widely read and have open commenting.

    Charles Says,
    –Larry. It did not work in Dover. It did not work in Topeka. It is not going to work in Texas. It is not going to work in Louisiana or anywhere else. —

    Actually, it is working pretty good in Texas — too good. The fundies on the Texas board of education succeeded in passing science-standards amendments that did not get a chance for public comment. It is working in Louisiana too — Louisiana passed an “academic freedom” law. So I don’t see how you can say it isn’t working anywhere.

    –A pack of young Obama nominees is waiting in the wings to take their place on the U.S. Supreme Court, a Democrat Congress is ready to approve them —

    It’s not going to do you Darwinists any good, because the fundies have learned how to “lawsuit-proof” criticisms of evolution.

  16. Larry, you just don’t get it.

    “I have less faith in peer-reviewed printed journal articles than I have in Internet articles . . . “

    Faith isn’t required. Evidence is, and until your data (you do have data, right?) has been reviewed by experts in that particular field your ideas are just as reputable as those from the Flat-Earth Society.

    Your lack of “faith” in peer-review has as much relevance to science as an illiterate’s view on Shakespeare. All sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    You do have data, right?

  17. Larry, I don’t debate you because you are willfully ignorant. Do you deny that? If so, you are also delusional and should up your meds.

    I also have a hunch that you really enjoy the attention you get on the Internet, and you’ve become addicted to it. Another reason to seek therapy, or at least talk about it with your priest, pastor, shaman, or whatever.

  18. Larry, I’ve come up with a very interesting theory, and I want you to attempt to disprove it.

    Ready?

    Here goes:

    My theory is that there is no God, but there is a Satan, and he wrote the Bible. Why did he write it? Simply to torment mankind. He wants us all to think there is a wonderful afterlife in Heaven, only to yank the rug out from underneath us later. Pretty diabolical, huh? Well, after all, he IS Satan.

    I’m pretty sure that I have as much evidence for my theory as you have for any of your theories. Now that I’ve posted my theory on the Internet, I’m sure you’ll agree that it carries as much weight as if it had been published in a legitimate peer-reviewed scientific journal.

    Anyway, feel free to attempt to disprove my theory. Of course, like many theories, my body of knowledge about this theory is sure to grow and undergo revision. Maybe you can help me with it. We can be colleagues!

  19. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams Says,
    –Larry, you just don’t get it. —

    No, you are the one who just doesn’t get it.

    “I have less faith in peer-reviewed printed journal articles than I have in Internet articles . . . “
    Faith isn’t required. Evidence is–

    Faith may be required in the evidence and/or interpretations of the evidence.

    –and until your data (you do have data, right?) has been reviewed —

    I have lots of data — my blog’s articles about coevolution have lots of information about buzz pollination, orchids’ mimicry of female wasps’ sex pheromones, extremely complex parasitic relationships, etc..

    — has been reviewed by experts in that particular field —

    Anyone — including experts — can respond to my Internet posts about coevolution. You are behind the times — the Internet has become a major means of communication. Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is an obsolete standard of authority — and it never was an absolute standard of authority (see my quotation from Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals in my above comment of February 17, 2009 at 9:32 am). Law blogs, for example, have been cited hundreds of times in law journals and have even been cited by court opinions — see

    http://3lepiphany.typepad.com/3l_epiphany/2006/08/law_review_arti.html

    http://3lepiphany.typepad.com/3l_epiphany/2006/08/cases_citing_le.html

    These statistics are from 2006 and the numbers must be much greater now.

    BTW, the terms “peer review” and “peer-reviewed” appear a total of 23 times in the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion, even though law journals are typically not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are typically just student-reviewed! See —

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/05/judge-jones-hypocritical-about-peer.html

    — All sound and fury, signifying nothing. —

    If you knew anything about Shakespeare, you would know that is a misquote.

    –You do have data, right? —

    I already said YES.

    Ben says,
    –Larry, I don’t debate you because you are willfully ignorant. —

    So DON’T debate me! Do you think that I care?

    –Larry, I’ve come up with a very interesting theory, and I want you to attempt to disprove it. —

    I thought that you weren’t going to debate me.

  20. Larry, I changed my mind when I came up with my brilliant theory. I’m waiting for you to disprove it.

    I noticed that you started spelling “coevolution” correctly—so you are capable of learning something.