Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Better Living Through Evolution

I am thinking of titling my sermon for this Sunday, "Better Living Through Evolution." This is of course a rip-off of the infamous phrase "Better Living Through Chemistry."

Some of my colleagues think it a rather odd thing to have Evolution Sunday in the first place. Why not Gravity Sunday or Boyle's Law Sunday?

On one hand, we could say that if you rightly understand evolution as sound a scientific discovery as gravity or Boyle's Law, then part of the purpose of Evolution Sunday has been accomplished.

The point of The Clergy Letter Project is to educate the populace (mostly a religious populace) regarding the importance of evolution for understanding the world. It is not ethical, wise, nor prudent to create some crazy theory like creationism or intelligent design to love Jesus. Therefore, Christians should promote the teaching of evolution to our children in our schools and denounce all forms of pseudo-science such as creationism and/or intelligent design.

My colleagues might say,

"Yeah, we got that. You can be a Christian and affirm evolution. You are preaching to the choir. Everyone in my congregation gets evolution."

Great. But there is more to it.

Evolution isn't just about biology. It can help us understand human behavior. While theology encourages us to think in categories such as sin and redemption, evolution encourages us to think in terms of variation, consequences, and heredity.

David Sloan Wilson in his book,
Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, states the problem:

Most people are familiar with the reluctance of the general public to accept the theory of evolution, especially in the United States of America. According to the most recent Harris Poll, 54 percent of U.S. adults believe that humans did not develop from earlier species. That is up from 46 percent in 1994. Rejection of evolution extends to beliefs about the origin of other species, the fossil record as evidence for evolution, and the constant refrain that evolution is "just a theory." p. 2
OK, you already got that. He goes on...
To make matters worse, most people who do accept evolutionary theory don't use it to understand the world around them. For them it's about dinosaurs, fossils, and humans evolving from apes, not the current environment or human condition. The polls don't measure the fraction of people who relate evolution to their daily lives, but it would be minuscule. p. 2
This includes scientists:
With respect to evolution, most scientists and intellectuals would say that they accept Darwin's theory, but many would deny its relevance to human affairs or would blandly acknowledge its relevance without using it themselves in their professional or daily lives. p. 2.
This is why he teaches a course called "Evolution for Everyone" that is open to all students of all disciplines. A background in science or evolution is not required.
Freshman English majors got the message just as strongly as senior biology majors. p. 9
Perhaps preachers can learn something as well.
For many students who take a course such as the one that I offer, learning about evolution is like walking through a door and not wanting to return. Using it to think about their interests and concerns becomes second nature, like riding a bicycle. They are eager to develop their expertise in subsequent courses and disappointed by professors who do not share their newfound perspective. In response to this demand, I and my colleagues at Binghamton University created a program called EvoS than enables anyone to use evolutionary theory to explore the pageant of life on earth, including the pageant of human life. p. 9
Here is the website for Evolutionary Studies at Binghamton. I would love to take that course. Since Binghamton is a bit of a drive for me, I am going to settle for browsing the website and reading his book.

For the next several days leading up to Evolution Weekend, I will offer interesting tidbits from his book.

"Dancing With Ghosts" next time!