Religion and Evolution: Part II

THE debate continues, with new posts at Panda’s Thumb and at PZ Myers’ site, as to whether the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), the premier organization in combating creationism in science education, has become too “accommodationist” in its approach to the controversy between evolution and religion. Part I of our humble commentary is here.

If we were asked to suggest a policy position for a science education group on the evolution-religion controversy, it would be something like this:

Virtually all scientists are in agreement on the validity of the theory of evolution [e.g., Statements from Scientific Organizations], as are many religious denominations [e.g., Statements from Religious Organizations], but some religious sects have rejected it. They are free to do so. Although their sincere statements of science-denial may be sprinkled with technical terms, they are inherently theological pronouncements, not scientific literature. The presence of such discordant positions among religious denominations does not constitute a scientific controversy; rather, it’s an example of sectarian disagreement.

Scientists must be free to pursue their work and to teach their subjects without political or ecclesiastical censorship. If our work requires input from theologians, we’ll ask for it; but we will not tolerate any sect’s forcing its doctrines into our classrooms — either directly, by legislating equal time for religious “theories” in science classes, or in the guise of what creationists misleadingly call “academic freedom” laws that require teaching evolution’s alleged “weaknesses.” All such laws impose state-mandated affirmative action for creationism.

As we insist upon our own freedom, we reciprocate by not imposing our opinions on religious institutions. Their practices and teachings are their own concern, with which we do not interfere. We are pleased if they agree with us about science (as are they if we agree with their theology), but we leave it to them to debate with their co-religionists who reject science on theological grounds. If they request information from us, we stand ready to provide it. Otherwise, scientists and science teachers should respect the freedom of theologians to resolve their religious controversies, including their disparate positions on evolution, without interference from us.

Commentary by individuals or organizations, whether favorable or unfavorable to science or religion, doesn’t constitute interference with anyone’s freedom. It’s a right, one which we vigorously support.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but we’re saying it anyway. It’s the Curmudgeonly way.

Update: See: Religion and Evolution: Part III.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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7 responses to “Religion and Evolution: Part II

  1. Bravo!

    Very well said, particularly for a curmudgeon!

  2. Great Claw says: “Very well said, particularly for a curmudgeon!”

    Harumph! Curmudgeons always speak the truth. We can afford to, because no one pays any attention anyway.

  3. retiredsciguy

    I second Megalonyx’s comments. Your statement is all that needs be said.

  4. retiredsciguy says: “Your statement is all that needs be said.”

    Tell that to the gang at the PT and PZ sites. The wordage never ends over there. I note that NCSE is wisely staying out of it.

  5. 🙂

  6. From St. Augustine — Don’t pit Genesis against science.

    Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430) in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim) provided excellent advice for all Christians who are faced with the task of interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge. This translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

    Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]

  7. David Walz says: “From St. Augustine — Don’t pit Genesis against science.”

    Yup. I once did a post on that: St. Augustine on Creationism.