Faith and Evolution: Redefining the Divide

Is the primary divide in the debate over teaching about evolution one between scientists and people of faith? No, writes the founder of the Clergy Letter Project, an organization that demonstrates that faith and science are not inherently at odds with each other. In his piece for Huffington Post, Michael Zimmerman writes that the real divide lies between people of faith themselves. Money quote:

“It’s time to look at the fight with fresh eyes. It no longer makes any sense to talk about the issue being a battle between religion and science since so many religious leaders and scientists are comfortable working together. What’s really going on is a fight between those who have a very narrow view of religion and religious leaders who think a good deal more broadly.

Those who are attacking evolution are attempting to define all religion in their own image and to marginalize all alternative religious voices in their single-minded attempt to promote their minority perspective.”

Zimmerman also notes how nearly 70 national academies of science around the world — in countries as diverse as Cuba, Israel, Iran and Tajikistan — have signed a statement promoting the teaching of evolution. Yet, he writes, “the Texas State Board of Education has made it clear that it has serious doubts about the subject.”

Read the whole thing here.

Not surprisingly, the anti-evolution propaganda outfit Discovery Institute in Seattle has a different take. The Disco folks, as you know, descended on Texas last year in a partly successful attempt to undermine instruction on evolution in the state’s science curriculum standards. In a counter essay on its own site, the Disco Institute claims that students should simply learn about “all sides” in the scientific “controversy” over evolution — despite the fact that mainstream science settled legitimate debate over evolution long, long ago.

17 thoughts on “Faith and Evolution: Redefining the Divide

  1. I keep hearing that science and religion are compatible. I have not found this to be true in anything that I have experienced. Science demands critical thinking and nothing is taken entirely on faith without submitting an hypothesis to critical experimental trial. Religion, on the contrary, dismisses the need of proof for any claims made because one “must accept these claims on faith”. I belive it is time that we stop trying to pacify both religion and science by making things to seem what they are not.

  2. You’re accepting a “narrow” definition of religion, Wen. If you said, “organized” religion, or “institutional” religion, I’d probably agree. It used to be heresy that the earth revolved around the sun.

  3. I fail to understand why the religious Right has such great difficulty with evolution, but doesn’t have a problem with most everything else science has provided us. Adam & Eve were a story. Same for the creation of the Earth and all upon it. Why is this such a difficult concept?

    And while we’re on the subject, why doesn’t the Texas Board of Education want to teach the creation of the Earth beliefs of ALL religions? The only one they seem to care about is the one provided in the various Christian bibles, but what about the Native Americans? Buddhists?

    It isn’t simply that their thinking is narrow-minded and flies in the face of reality, but it is that they wish to only teach their children one religious version of creation.

    But hey… I guess this is what one must put up with for living in Texas.

  4. I think Saint Augustinehit the nail on the head over fifteen centuries ago when he effectively said that people like the biblical literalist zealots, such as we have on the TSBOE, ignore what is obvious to the common man and stick to their nonsense interpretations of the Genesis story. I agree that they look really stupid and bring discredit to the faith. Their incredulus interference with the standards wrought over many months by many teachers and other real experts is the epitome of hubris and has brought derision from educated people throughout the country. I think we must find a way to reverse the inane changes made by these BLZ bubbas.

  5. Wen, a blanket statement that science and religion are compatible is unwise and inaccurate; however, one can certainly say that science and religion need not be in conflict, including the subject of evolution. This is really the point of the Clergy Letter Project, and I proudly serve as one of its scientific consultants.

  6. James F and I could have a very interesting and profitable discussion on these points. It is however difficult for me to reconcile the stance that many religions (those more to the right) take on evolution and what I feel has been proved my many different means to be scientifically valid. Your point, James, is well-taken that science and religion need not be in conflict. My interpretation of this is that it is true, if the two stay within their own realms and do not attempt use the Bible as a textbook in science and scientists do not attempt to use a science textbook as a source of how man should live a rightous life.

  7. Why do you people not see the truth here? Our Christian fundamentalism is the last surviving remnant of the one true church established by Jesus and the disciples circa 30 A.D. Our lineal ancestors hid out from the Romans in the caves and catacombs and practiced the one, true, and indivisible Christian faith. The Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and all the other false forms of the Christian faith originated totally apart from us and developed along their own separate paths. As they built their big cathedrals and had their reformations, we stayed quietly huddled in small peasant groups before dimly lit fireplaces tucked away in obscure forest cottages, all the while practicing our one, true, and only faith. Our children and our childrens’s children’s children met quietly around those fireplaces from generation to generation and century to century—until the arrival of the appointed time. What appointed time is that? It was the time appointed for us to leave our quiet fireplaces, burst forth onto the public scene, and begin spreading the one true Christian faith that had been corrupted and destroyed by all of the false churches. That appointed time began with the Niagara Bible Conference (1878-1897), proceeded to 1910 when Milton and Lyman Stewart published “The Fundamentals” and used their fortunes to mail free copies out to all kinds of American churches from sea to shining sea. Soon, because he was angry with us and our righteousness, Satan inhibited us with that awful 1925 Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. It forced us underground for decades. Our flame was depressed and burned low, almost to the point of extinction, until the college campus Jesus Awakening of the 1970s and the eventual founding of organizations like The Moral Majority. Then our flame arose again and burned powerfully, as it continues to do even to this day.

    So, you see, the lead article was right. It is not us against your false science nearly so much as it is a matter of us Christian fundamentalists fighting against those false religious forces in the past and present who have become the enemies of God.

    What you have to understand is this. The Jews, who killed Jesus, had their birthright taken from them. As Jesus said, their house was left unto them desolate. This means Jesus walked away from them, abandoned them to their sinful ways, and began searching the Earth for an opportunity to create a new Israel—a truly righteous Israel. God found that land, that new Israel, in 1492 and established his holy government in the new Israel on July 4, 1776. That new Israel is the United States of America, and the American fundamentalists of today are the new children of Israel. This great nation was created for us and us alone. It was God’s exclusive gift to us just as surely as God gifted the Land of Canaan to the ancient Israelites. This means several things. First of all, it means TFN and all of you people who visit here, whoever you are and wherever you live, are squatting on tracts of American land that do not belong to you in a country where you are actually illegal aliens.

    You have stolen our appointed birthright from us and our precious lifeways. This theft began in 1861, even before our appointed time, and it has continued relentlessly ever since that time. You took away our future slaves, the ones appointed unto us, even though the Bible and constitution makes allowance for slavery. You destroyed the righteous segregation of Noah’s children. You destroyed our rural culture. You made and sold beer, whiskey, and wine. You took away our Sunday blue laws. You limited our growth of tobacco and watched our children starve and go without clothing because of it. You published false versions of the Bible and spread them throughout the land. You raised hemlines, invented the bikini, and invented birth control pills. You told us we could no longer throw paper cups out our car windows, and then dared to fine us when we did. You started taking away our gun rights. You took away our right to teach our one, true, and only Christian fundamentalist faith in our public schools. You made Detroit put seatbelts in our cars when we did not want them. Then you passed laws to make us wear them. You raised the price of our cigarettes sky high. Then you told us we could no longer smoke them in our favorite restaurants. You filled our schools with moral relativism and evolution. You filled our towns with false protestant churches and allowed much of our land to be soiled with the heresy of Roman Catholicism. You stole nearly every basic American freedom we ever had or hoped for, and you backed us into a corner like a trapped animal. Then, to top it all off, you hopeless sinners elected one of “them” President of the United States.

    Well, I have news for you. Our great Christian fundamentalist leaders and the righteous minority members of the Texas SBOE are the vanguard of a great and holy army. We will take back this great Christian nation that is our sole birthright, re-establish our exclusive ownership of this great land, and reacquire our stolen freedoms once and for all. That time is coming soon.

  8. ‘Charlie” wrote: “The Jews, who killed Jesus,…”

    See? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Christians hate Jews because they think Jews killed Jesus. I’ve been taken to task for making that claim, yet here we have a Christian admitting what I’ve claimed.

    Duh, btw, I thought the “New Testament” says the Romans killed Jesus. And that it was a small group of ragtag Jews (probably uneducated, unscrupulous and desperately poor) under the pay and instruction of the wicked Sadducees who identified Jesus and turned him over to the Sadducees who then turned him over to the Romans. Remember Christians, YOUR OWN NEW TESTAMENT says the High Priest was Caiaphas, and Caiaphas was a Sadducee. The common Jews had no love or respect for the Sadducees; the Sadducees were collaborators of the Romans. It was the Sadducees who were the wealthy class and ran the Temple. It was only to the Sadducees’ benefit that they turned Jesus (and anyone who was perceived as a potential “troublemaker) over to the Romans to show the Romans how pro-Roman they were and therefore get more Brownie points.

    As a matter of fact, Christians, YOUR OWN NEW TESTAMENT makes it clear that Jesus was popular among the common Jews. He was like a rock star to them.

    And remember, “the Jews” were scattered all over the Mediterranean world. Remember (I have to remind so many Christians of this because so many are so ignorant) in the first century there was no radio, TV, newspapers, internet, nor telephones of any kind. So only a small fraction of Jews had ever heard of Jesus. But, of course, to hateful anti-Semitic Christians, all ‘THE JEWS” killed Jesus.

    Most Christians here – if they bother to read what I’ve written – will say I’m full of B.S. and that none of the above is true. That is because they have not read history nor their own “New Testament.”

  9. Ben, our Charles has a witty sense of humor but for him to re-register as “Charlie” and take the time to write such a screed (especially now that he’s working (Congratulations, Charles!)) doesn’t seem to ring true of Charles.

    I could be wrong though. What say you, Charles?

  10. It was just me. I did it for fun and the wink was supposed to be the dead giveaway. It just occurred to me that we write our opinions here about various things, but almost none of the fruitcakes out there ever stop in to state how they really feel—what their real concerns are—and let it all hang out, as it were. Rather than making a trickster post, which would be bad manners, I was attempting to create what an argument from one of those Tea Party types might look like if you could get him to “open up” in the safety of his own den at home.

    By the way, that crap in my first paragraph about Christian fundamentalists and cottage hearths. I actually got a big part of that story directly from a well-educated Christian fundamentalist in Alabama (a member of the Separate Baptist Church). She used to show up on a religion e-forum at Alabama Live. That was back in the 1999-2000 timeframe. I have a pentecostal fundamentalist cousin who still refuses to buckle the seatbelt in his car, even though it is state law. In my local newspaper, far right wing conservatives still write to my local newspaper and complain about not being able to blow cancer-stick smoke into my kids faces in their favorite restaurant. Very little of what is in that post is made up—sorry to say.

  11. The ideas were right on target as far as expressing their ideas as I know them. However, the clarity of your thought process and the eruditeness of your sentences gave you away.
    You’ll have to whiff carbon monoxide for a couple of hours and have someone slap you up the side of the head with a two-by-four in order to make an authentic recreation of that body of “thought”.

  12. Hey, OK Charles. You caught me. I did think it a little odd for a person to respond to him/herself.

    In fact, when I posted my rebuttal I hadn’t yet read all of your posting thoroughly. When I finally did, I realized something “irregular” was going on.