Monday, February 13, 2006

Darwin in Church

A NY Times piece today describes how Darwin's birthday was marked in some church services yesterday.

I think it's important that the media run pieces like this that show how religious people engage with the theory of evolution and recognize the (mostly) separate realms of religion and science, in contrast to the bulk of media coverage of church-science controversy that paints a purely confrontational picture. If the issue is always portrayed as a face-off between starkly opposite positions, that becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.

Evolutionists are right that denying Darwin's theory based on religion has consequences: natural processes become less understandable and a valuable tool to improve the lot of humanity is lost. But anti-evolutionists also have a point: evolution itself is value-less, and attempts to derive values from evolution have historically had scary consequences, from social Darwinism and ethnic cleansing to the potential for human cloning. But denying each others positions wholesale just entrenches the opposition more.

Calling attention to the evil uses of evolution is a better strategy to avoid their repetition than denying the validity of the theory. Folks on both sides can see eye to eye on preventing values like respect for human life from being eroded by the theory, or religious intolerance arising from a perversion of it. Fostering personal trust between evolutionist scientists working on medical applications and anti-cloning activists will do more good than winning any intellectual argument.

I think that open discussion on precisely this point, the historical and potential perversions of the theory of evolution, is where the money is on putting this devisive issue behind us.

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