Saturday, February 10, 2007

 

Truce

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Michael Zimmerman, a professor of biology and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University, is the founder of The Clergy Letter Project, which has gathered the signatures of 10,550 Christian clergy members to a statement that includes the following:

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.

The Clergy Letter Project led to the creation of Darwin Sunday, where congregations "come together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science" on or about Darwin's birthday of February 12th. To be held this Sunday, February 11th, 592 congregations are slated to participate in this year's Darwin Sunday.

There is an interview with Professor Zimmerman in the Indianapolis Star that includes the following:

Q: How can the biblical story of creation be compatible with evolution?
A: They can be perfectly compatible as long as you don't take the Bible to be a science text (and) if you are (not) going to read the Bible literally and accept every word in the Bible as scientific fact -- which virtually nobody does anymore; even the literalists pick and choose what they want to be literal about. If you take the Bible as a great work of art, a great work of morality, a great work that will show people how to live and lead their lives, then there is no problem with the Bible . . . and it doesn't conflict with science at all.

Q: But there are many people who are literalists, and in a number of cases strict literalists. Does that mean evolution is incompatible with their beliefs?
A: Probably. . . . If somebody wants to believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old, it is just wrong. Modern science has disproven that idea. It is just wrong. If you want to believe that speciation cannot occur -- that is, the creation of a new species -- we've seen those things occur. We've seen that happen. If that is what your literal interpretation of the Bible says, then science conflicts with that. If what you want to do is say that God created humans in his own image and he used evolution as a mechanism, that's fine.

Q: You talk sometimes about limits of science. What are they?
A: There are whole areas of the human condition that are critically important to all of us that science simply cannot address. That doesn't mean they are unimportant. It just means that the methodology of science can't be used to discuss them. Science can't talk meaningfully about aesthetics. Do you like the color red or blue more? Do you like abstract art or impressionism? Science can't address those issues. Science can't address politics. Science can't address morality. Science can't address religion and the existence of God. . . . They just fall outside of the scientific realm. The people who want to redefine science -- and this is what the intelligent design people and the Discovery Institute people are all about -- to move it away from naturalistic explanations of the material world to include supernatural explanations of the material world. It seems to me these people have science envy.

"Science envy" is such a good description.
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