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Friday, February 04, 2011

Why Evolution Sunday?

First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton will be celebrating Evolution Sunday (actually Evolution Weekend) again this year. Here are the details of events for the weekend.

Why do we do this? There are a number of reasons, but Michael Zimmerman, founder of the Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Weekend, describes the presenting problem in his article, Send in the Creationist Clowns and Watch Science Education Suffer:

The circus is coming back to town! I hope everyone is ready for the spectacle that is certain to ensue. And I hope everyone is ready for the expenses that this particular circus is guaranteed to incur.

The host will (again) be the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) as it continues its assault on science education across the state of Texas. Two years ago, despite outrage expressed by the country's scientific community and over the express wishes of educational experts, the SBOE rewrote the state's science guidelines to make them particularly friendly to creationism. In March the SBOE will begin the process of approving the textbooks to be used in implementing the new guidelines. Because Texas is such a large market for textbooks, publishers across the country ensure that their offerings will be acceptable to the SBOE. Thus the SBOE's actions directly impact science education everywhere.
Not only does science suffer when people are taught false and misleading information, so does religion. The meaning of our existence becomes narrowly defined as needing to believe that ancient narratives describe actual events.

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis will be in Johnson City this coming week as part of the Origins Conference.

According to Mr. Ham, questions regarding the origins of the Universe, Earth, life on Earth, and homo sapiens have their "answers" in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. He is, of course, wrong.

There are no answers in Genesis. There are stories in Genesis. They are stories about what it means to be human. They have absolutely nothing to tell us about how the universe was formed (including our solar system), the formation of Earth, and the evolution of life on Earth including human beings. We go to science for those answers.


The Bible, including the Book of Genesis, contains fascinating stories. They are even more fascinating when we learn how and why the stories came to be. The first chapter of Genesis likely was written during the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BCE. The six days of creation and the seventh day of rest is a poem and one of the key points of the poem is to encourage and explain why the Sabbath should be kept. Our resting on the seventh day is in keeping with the way God rested when God created the world. None of that is literal. It was a way in which these storytellers found meaning. It is a creative fiction, a myth.

The story of Adam and Eve is not historical reportage. It is another myth of coming of age and testing limits. If Eve had decided not to eat the fruit, the whole story ends. But she doesn't. She wants to know. She wants to see. That is what human beings do. Our quest, our curiosity, make us both unique and dangerous. We cannot be satisfied living in a gated garden. We live with the thorns. The story of Adam and Eve invites us to reflect on what it means to be human.

That is the point of religion and spirituality.

Creationism is neither science nor spirituality.

Finally, our cosmic and evolutionary story that we are uncovering through science is fantastic. It is an amazing story. We are related to all living things. Humanity has a special role in that we are the eyes, ears, and consciousness of the universe. We have the joy and the responsibility to tell the universe's story. We need our children to learn this fantastic story that is unfolding. They will have a part in uncovering more.

Evolutionary theory is not a threat to faith, except of course if one's faith is a rigid belief in things that aren't true. Evolutionary theory is foundational to human knowledge. As we learn it and reflect upon it, we can experience that highest expression of spirituality, the awe and wonder of the sacredness of life.

Here is the letter that I along with over 12,000 other clergy have signed.

Consider joining us for Evolution Sunday!

  1. Friends of Roan Mountain Winter Naturalist Rally on Saturday at 9:15 a.m. featuring presentations by Peter Weigl and Lisa Huff. Participants can choose from four different hikes in the afternoon.
  2. The Adult Forum at the church features Dr. Julie Wade, retired Biology Professor who taught at Milligan College for 24 years. She will present on the evolution of the human brain Sunday morning at 9:45.
  3. I will lead worship Sunday at 11 a.m. We will celebrate the 14 billion year creation story that science is showing us.
  4. The congregation will take a field trip to the Gray Fossil Site and Museum. We will have a brown bag lunch at church and carpool or meet at the Fossil Site at 2 p.m. Their special exhibit is “Building Triceratops.”
We have Sunday School for children at 9:45 and children's worship during church. They, too, will learn our awe-inspiring evolutionary story.

For resources for children, I recommend Connie Barlow's excellent web page. Also see The Great Story and Michael Dowd's webpage and book, Thank God for Evolution!
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