Project and promotes Evolution Weekend, which provides an opportunity for congregations to discuss the relation between science and religion on the Sunday in February closest to Darwin’s birthday.2
Many people have been exposed to very negative ideas about evolution, said Nancy Moran, William H. Fleming Professor of Biology at Yale University, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the organizing committee for the convocation. In talking with such people, “the worst thing to do is immediately draw a line in the sand and start talking about evolution versus religion,” said Moran. “Immediately they’ll clam up and feel that somehow they’re doing the wrong thing. Many of them have deep-seated feelings that they’re doing wrong by learning this.”
One productive way to engage in such a conversation is to get people interested in the science—in mutations, alleles, how genetic variants spread in populations, how they contribute to human disease. “You have to go around them rather than confront them directly,” Moran said. She added that it is useful to cover some of the scientific controversies in evolutionary biology where biologists currently disagree. That allows people to see that “it’s not a big conspiracy. … When they see that, they trust the science more.”
In contrast to some of the statements offered by other participants, Connie Bertka, former Director of the Dialogue on Science Ethics and Religion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science who now teaches a course at Wesley Theological Seminary on science and religion for students studying to be ministers, observed that people inevitably bring their worldviews to discussions of evolution, but religious worldviews are not necessarily a problem. “There are actually a lot of people in religious communities who are eager to incorporate what science has learned about the world into their theologies. The scientific community ought to be looking at the ways to do everything we can to help … because in the long run the message has to come from within those communities. We can’t come from the outside and tell people how to reconcile what they see as conflicts, but we can support people within those communities who are trying to do that.”
From a Christian perspective, said Bertka, people who grapple with these questions are “doing the same thing that Christians have done throughout time.” Christians continually have had to struggle with the
2Additional information is available at http://theclergyletterproject.org/rel_evolution_weekend_2012.htm.