Saturday, 17 July 2010

Profiles in (Evolutionary) Courage, Part 3: Respecting Science While Honoring Faith

In a polarized society, it's never easy taking a position that isn't at one end of the spectrum. And yet, often at significant personal risk, that's exactly what thousands of clergy members all across the United States, as members of The Clergy Letter Project, have opted to do. They've chosen to stand together, respecting their faith while making it clear that they also appreciate, understand and value science.
Theirs isn't an easy position to be in because they're being attacked from all sides. Studies have shown, for instance, that, on average, clergy members have a more sophisticated understanding of science than do their parishioners. And those same studies have indicated that parishioners are likely to reject science when they feel it comes into conflict with their religious beliefs. Nonetheless, clergy are coming forward to educate their parishioners about theology while demonstrating that modern evolutionary theory can be perfectly compatible with their deeply held faith.
Passions are inflamed when fundamentalist leaders demand a literal interpretation of religious texts -- and condemn anyone who is not a literalist. Those same fundamentalists seem to conveniently ignore the fact that some literalists often read passages differently than do other literalists. But those fundamentalists traffic in fear rather than reason, encouraging people to believe that their very way of life is at stake if they accept evolutionary concepts.
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