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UCCtruths

Every denomination needs one of these...

Religion and Science are not mutually exclusive

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nearly a year ago, I posted about "Evolution Sunday":

UC News has an interesting article today promoting "Evolution Sunday". When I first read the article, I was encouraged that finally some rational discussion on the complimentary nature between evolution and religion was taking place. I firmly believe the two are compatible and are not mutually exclusive. For instance, I don't believe a day to God is necessarily the same as it is for us mortals living on a rock that fully rotates in 24 hours. Such thinking places man on earth, not God, as the center of the universe - much like those who believed the earth was flat. We can't define what the length of a day is to God and it's this fact that opens up the possibility that the evolutionary process is God's plan that is articulated in Genesis.
Interestingly enough, the UCC has a new web site and campaign titled... "Not Mutually Exclusive" (Note: I'd like to pat myself on the back for the name but I'm quite sure I'm not the first person to make the observation that religion and science are not mutually exclusive).

The site features a "pastoral letter" on "Faith Engaging Science and Technology" which I personally find extremely interesting. My father was a noted bio-chemist and environmentalist (who worked for one of those big evil oil companies) and was extremely active in the church. Growing up in my house was literally one science experiment after another and through all of it my father was able to connect the marvels of science with faith for which I will always be grateful. While I work in the field of computer science, I still draw parallels between technology and religion and often find them reinforcing the other.

That said, there's something that makes me feel uncomfortable about the pastoral letter authored primarily by UCC President John Thomas. It's quite possible that my biased attitude about Thomas' horrible tenure as President of the UCC is keeping me from reading his letter with open eyes... and if so I'll be rightly corrected by the folks on the message board. Truthfully, I think my unease is rooted in the perception that the letter seems to speak more TO science than it is a conversation about (or with) science... and that's an important distinction for me. Frankly, I don't really care what our denominational leaders think about science... or economics... or politics... or mass media. I don't consider them informed enough to really shed light on those subjects and their opinions on those subjects are of no more value to me than my own.

And it's not just those opinions that come from our own leaders, I could care less what any religious leader has to say about science. Any scientific opinion from religious leaders without scientific training is going to be loaded with their own bias - and that goes for liberal, moderate or conservative religious leaders. To the UCC's credit, there are credible scientists who are being brought into the broader discussion... but this does little to assure me that this too isn't being shaped by bias and politics.

The other side of this is that I'm not really sure what challenge this initiative is trying to address. As I stated earlier, science and faith have always been woven together in my life so the answer may not be obvious to me. Is this being driven by political causes (with roots in science) like the evolution debate, global warming and abortion? Is this just another front to fight the big war of words with the Religious Right? Is this a campaign to bring scientists skeptical of religion into the church? Have I somehow missed the throngs of unchurched scientists looking for a religious home to validate and value their opinions?

And how far do we take this? Is this the foundation for deconstructing the Bible? Are we finally going to prove or disprove that Jesus raised people from the dead? Is the scientific community going to help us make sense of Jonah and the Whale?

I'm just not getting it.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2 Comments:

I agree with your reading. As an engineer with a geologist in training daughter I'm very immersed in evolutionary details. I've come to realize that most people in the US really don't understand evolution. It's not a simple concept and rereading The Orgin of Species always reinforces my admiration for Darwin.

As a lapsed E&R member, I have noted that many mainstream Protestants make a big deal about Evolution to differentiate them from those snake handling hillbillies without really studying or understanding evolutionary theory. The people who are more in a biblican inerrancy tradition are at least really discussing this from an intellectually consistent standpoint.

From a water calming standpoint I have always thought that evolution should not be taught in schools until high school AFTER an initial biology course. This is advanced stuff.
commented by Anonymous Dave, 7:36 AM  
Is this being driven by political causes (with roots in science) like the evolution debate, global warming and abortion?

Yes.

Is this just another front to fight the big war of words with the Religious Right?

Yes.
commented by Blogger David Fischler, 9:20 PM  

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