Friday, September 19, 2008


Torah Torah Torah

The Clergy Letter Project, begun by Michael Zimmerman, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University, to demonstrate support for science, particularly evolutionary theory, among members of the clergy of all Christian denominations has garnered 11,672 signatures to date to a statement 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 believe that among God's good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator.

The Project has now begun a similar letter for Jewish clergy that reads:

As rabbis from various branches of Judaism, we the undersigned, urge public school boards to affirm their commitment to the teaching of the science of evolution. Fundamentalists of various traditions, who perceive the science of evolution to be in conflict with their personal religious beliefs, are seeking to influence public school boards to authorize the teaching of creationism. We see this as a breach in the separation of church and state. Those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Biblical account of creation are free to teach their perspective in their homes, religious institutions and private schools. To teach it in the public schools would be to assert a particular religious perspective in an environment which is supposed to be free of such indoctrination.

The Bible is the primary source of spiritual inspiration and of values for us and for many others, though not everyone, in our society. It is, however, open to interpretation, with some taking the creation account and other content literally and some preferring a figurative understanding. It is possible to be inspired by the religious teachings of the Bible while not taking a literalist approach and while accepting the validity of science including the foundational concept of evolution. It is not the role of public schools to indoctrinate students with specific religious beliefs but rather to educate them in the established principles of science and in other subjects of general knowledge.

Rabbi David Oler of Congregation Beth Or in Deerfield, Illinois, one of 237 signatories so far, put it particularly well:

I would say that as Jews, being a minority, we're particularly sensitive to not having the views of others imposed on us. Creationism and intelligent design are particularly religious matters that don't belong in public school system.

These are good developments for the advancement of reason in the religious sphere, and for respecting the integrity of scientific inquiry.
As the good rabbi might also have said: "It ain't chopped liver!"

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