By KARIN HAMILTON
More than 1,000 congregations are participating in the fourth annual Evolution Weekend, which is celebrating the integration of faith and science as the world marks the 200th birthday of the father of evolution, Charles Darwin.
Many churches will have sermons or forums this weekend (Feb. 13-15), although events are slated for the entire month.
Participation in Evolution Weekend has grown about 30 percent every year, according to Michael Zimmerman, the founder of the national observances, who hopes it can help Christians reconcile conflicts between evolution and faith.
“You can be at ease with your faith and the best that modern science has to offer,” said Zimmerman, a biology professor and dean at Butler University in Indianapolis.
A broad spectrum of Christian churches will participate in events, as well as Jewish and Muslim congregations, Zimmerman said.
Mark Schlessman, a biology professor at Vassar College, will be giving a sermon at the First Congregational Church in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., titled “The Galapagos, Darwin and God.” He will be drawing from his personal experiences on the Galapagos Islands last summer.
“Being a scientist, seeing the life forms on the Galapagos was a spiritual experience for me,” Schlessman said, who believes that God intends for people to use their minds to learn more about the natural world.
Similarly, the Rev. Ledyard Baxter will be giving a sermon at Old Steeple Community Church in Aquebogue, N.Y., called “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Evolve.” He believes that faith and science can coexist.
“It’s really about seeing God in the entire process,” Baxter said.
However, not all Christian organizations are supportive of evolution, much less a weekend to celebrate it.
Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis ministry and director of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., said evolution is incompatible with Scripture, and minimizes the importance of being a divinely created being.
“There is a connection between what you believe about your origins and your worldview,” Ham said.
Casey Luskin, spokesman for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which challenges various aspects of Darwinian theory, said the old stereotype of fundamentalists versus scientists is outdated. However, Luskin said there is significant science that challenges Darwin, and finds it ironic that Darwinists have brought science into religion while creationists are often accused of bringing religion into science.
Zimmerman said some pro-evolution clergy have taken heat from other ministers.
“It’s frustrating that people who are opposed to evolution and are religious are just trashing the clergymen participating in Evolution Weekend,” Zimmerman said.
In addition, he worries that critics of evolution who get the most attention are assumed to be speaking for all believers.
“Those loud voices, just because they’re loud, are not necessarily speaking for the larger religious community,” Zimmerman said. “There are still people living in the past, trying to recreate battles that are long fought and long over.”
Evolution Weekend emerged out of a 2005 initiative called the Clergy Letter Project, which aimed to gather 10,000 signatures of Christian clergy in support of teaching evolution in public schools, and acknowledging science and religion as complementary, but separate, truths. Today there are nearly 12,000 signatures.
Rabbi David Oler of Congregation Beth Or in Deerfield, Ill., who spearheaded a similar “Rabbi Letter” on evolution, believes school systems should not allow religious views — particularly fundamentalist views — in science classrooms.
“I hope that people will evolve to a level of spirituality that will enable them to respect the views of all people,” Oler said.
By Karin Hamilton
Religion News Service
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