February 11, 2007

Evolution Sunday

Today is Evolution Sunday. What's the matter - don't you remember that holiday from back when you used to be a Christian? Yeah, me neither. What exactly is Evolution Sunday? Evidently, this is the one day a year on which believers pay lip service to the value of science.

According to this article in the Mercury News, Evolution Sunday is observed by approximately 500 American churches. It is a day when some clergy express their belief that science and faith can be reconciled. Of course, the date is linked to Darwin's birthday tomorrow.

The article notes that Evolution Sunday is "part of a movement to provide a moderate voice in the divisive debate between creation and evolution that has often pitted the faithful against the scientists." In most cases, I think there is some value in such moderate positions, but I'm not so sure about this one.

When religion makes claims about the natural world, which it inevitably does, it tends to place itself at odds with science. These religious claims are shattered by science, forcing believers to modify their interpretations of their ancient text or actively oppose science.

A letter signed by an 10,500 members of the clergy (which does not appear to include any of our beloved fundies) states that they "believe the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably co-exist." Timeless truths? Really? Like what? I don't buy the claim that science and religion provide answers to separate realms of existence or that religion offers us anything science does not.

Believers often claim that religion answers the question of why we are here. Unfortunately, the "answers" to this question provided by religion are no more valid than those we could derive from pure fantasy. Christians will join us in laughing at Scientology's answer to this question but will protest when we point out that their answer is no less absurd.

The battle over evolution, and particularly the prominent role it deserves in science education, is fundamentally a quest for believers to figure out how to reconcile archaic beliefs with the modern world. If Evolution Sunday is to be anything more than another empty ritual, believers are going to need to confront the many cases in which their beliefs are inconsistent with reality.

Also see:
  • Pharyngula's reaction to Evolution Sunday.
  • Stardust Musings and Thoughts for the Freethinker

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