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Evolution: good news

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  • Lloyd Miller
    February 13, 2006 At Churches Nationwide, Good Words for Evolution By NEELA BANERJEE and ANNE BERRYMAN On the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin, ministers at
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 13, 2006
      February 13, 2006

      At Churches Nationwide, Good Words for Evolution


      On the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin, ministers at several hundred
      churches around the country preached yesterday against recent efforts
      to undermine the theory of evolution, asserting that the opposition
      many Christians say exists between science and faith is false.

      At St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, a small contemporary structure
      among the pricey homes of north Atlanta, the Rev. Patricia Templeton
      told the 85 worshipers gathered yesterday, "A faith that requires you
      to close your mind in order to believe is not much of a faith at all."

      In the basement of an apartment building in Evanston, Ill., the Rev.
      Mitchell Brown said to the 21 people who came to services at the
      Evanston Mennonite Church that Darwin's theories in fact had
      compelled people to have faith rather than look for "special effects"
      to confirm the existence of God.

      "He forced religion to grow up, to become, really, faith for the
      first time," Mr. Brown said. "The life of community, that is where we
      know God today."

      The event, called Evolution Sunday, is an outgrowth of the Clergy
      Letter Project, started by academics and ministers in Wisconsin in
      early 2005 as a response to efforts, most notably in Dover, Pa., to
      discredit the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools.

      "There was a growing need to demonstrate that the loud, shrill voices
      of fundamentalists claiming that Christians had to choose between
      modern science and religion were presenting a false dichotomy," said
      Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the
      University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the major organizer of the letter

      Mr. Zimmerman said more than 10,000 ministers had signed the letter,
      which states, in part, that the theory of evolution is "a
      foundational scientific truth." To reject it, the letter continues,
      "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 letter says.

      Most of the signatories to the project and those preaching on Sunday
      were from the mainline Protestant denominations. Their congregations
      have shrunk sharply over the last 30 years. At the same time, the
      number of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians has risen
      considerably, and many of them, because of their literalist view of
      the Bible, doubt evolutionary theory.

      The Clergy Letter Project said that 441 congregations in 48 states
      and the District of Columbia were taking part in Evolution Sunday,
      but that was impossible to verify independently. Around Chicago, two
      churches that were listed on the project's Web site as participants
      in the event said they were in fact not planning to deliver sermons
      on the subject.

      Still, those who did attend sermons welcomed what they heard. After
      the service at St. Dunstan's, Brett Lowe, a 41-year-old computer
      engineer, sat in a pew as his son Ian, 2, and daughter, Paige, 6,
      played at his side. "Sermons like this are exactly the reason we came
      to this church," Mr. Lowe said.

      "Observation, hypothesis and testing � that's what science is," he
      said. "It's not religion. Evolution is a fact. It's not a theory. An
      example is antibiotics. If we don't use antibiotics appropriately,
      bacteria become resistant. That's evolution, and evolution is a fact.
      To not acknowledge that is to not acknowledge the world around you."

      Jeanne Taylor, 65, a recently retired registered nurse attending
      services at St. Dunstan's, said the Bible was based on oral tradition
      and today "science is a part of our lives."

      At the Evanston Mennonite Church, Susan Fisher Miller, 48, an editor
      and English professor, said, "I completely accept and affirm the view
      of God as creator, but I accommodate evolution within that."

      To Ms. Fisher Miller, alternatives to evolutionary theory proposed by
      its critics, such as intelligent design, seem an artificial way to
      use science to explain the holy. "It's arrogant to say that either
      religion or science can answer all our questions," she said. "I don't
      see the need either to banish one or the other or to artificially
      unite them."

      Gretchen Ruethling contributed reporting for this article.

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