Saturday, March 19, 2005

Religious leaders: Science and faith not in conflict

The Journal World asked religious leaders: Why is there so much controversy about evolution?:
Powerful people threatened by changes of modern life

John Brewer, member of the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, 1263 N. 1100 Road:

As a Unitarian Universalist, I am not mystified by the reopening of the evolution debate.

The opposition to the revelation of evolution has taken its place alongside resistance to the Copernican solar system, the rise of the middle class, liberation theology, psychoanalysis, women in the job market, civil rights for minorities, rock music, post-modernist literary theory and environmentalism -- none of which were prophesied or sanctioned by Scripture.

These are only a few of the emerging aspects of modern life that have threatened the security of groups of powerful people through the ages.

Today, some of their descendants feel confident that in a conservative state like Kansas, they can win at least a symbolic victory against modernism by attaching stickers of skepticism to biology textbooks or by insisting that the notion of "intelligent design" is grounded in the scientific method.

That is their privilege in a democracy.

The rest of us meet the challenge of new discoveries as best we can, even though those discoveries may (like quantum physics for me) threaten our own assumptions about reality.

Religious doctrines wedded to yesterday's natural philosophy do not make good ambassadors for faith.

Aristotle wrote, "Man by nature desires to know."

Last week, I heard evangelist Billy Graham -- whose dedication and sincerity I have long admired -- quoted on the radio, saying, "Most people want to know the truth."

With friends like that in our camp, Unitarian Universalists are confident Kansas will survive the latest round of evolution bashing.

Send e-mail to John Brewer at jbrewer@sunflower.com.

Opponents dislike suggested link of animals, humans

The Rev. Angela Lowe, board certified chaplain, Lawrence Memorial Hospital:

For those who view nature as governed by God, evolution is no threat. The controversy and miscommunication take place when people are not willing to embrace science as a tool for understanding the divine plan of creation. We don't have to choose between theology and science. Theology has the primary responsibility of explaining the nature of God. Science has its primary responsibility in explaining the world of nature. Discussions regarding evolution will depend on how this creative concept is defined or understood.

A central biblical conviction is that God is the creator of all of creation. Genesis 1-2:4 is a liturgical text and shows the movement from less developed to more complex forms of life. This account does not mean a complete world emerged in six 24-hour days, yet a process began that fulfilled God's purpose and the emergence of various forms of life. By faith, we understand that the world was prepared by a triune God, so that what is seen was made from things not visible.

Some of the opposition to theories of evolution is the commonality suggested between animals and humans. When DNA is studied, humans have genetic links to the rest of creation. Human and chimpanzee gene sequences have about a 98 percent match-up.

Scientific evidence has discovered that around 160,000 years ago, a small population of modern-looking people lived along the shore of the Red Sea. Could this group have been used to make the first real humans? Could they have been the clay molded by the creator?

Our commonality with the anthropoids should not shame us. We are not accidents in the evolutionary process. Somebody bigger than you and I made us in the image of God, with a soul that can reason and a heart that can be a companion with our maker.
(My emphasis.)

One thing that gets tricky in the theological debates is whether God ever weights the dice? Are seemingly random events ever pushed one way to give the good guy an advantage, or to achieve a fore-ordained result?

To answer that requires a deeper understanding of the book of Job than any living person can ever claim to have had. If God rigged the game to ensure the evolution of humanity, why not intervene to help Job, rather than punishing him needlessly. This question is not far from Jesus's query from the cross, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" I won't pretend to have an answer to these questions.

Indeed, no scientist speaking as a scientist would ever make a firm assertion on such questions. As a person of faith, people resolve the challenges and seeming contradictions of Job in their own way.

For now, that's all I want to say. When I get a chance, I want to return to Job, because I think I would understand all the theology I care to if I could explain what happened to Job.