Nearly 450 hundred Christian churches across the nation marked Evolution Sunday yesterday to commemorate the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin, with pastors and ministers emphasizing their view that one does not have to forsake being a Christian to accept science.
The event began as part of an effort called the Clergy Letter Project, organized by academics and ministers in Wisconsin, including Michael Zimmerman, Dean of the College of letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It involves mostly mainline Protestant Churches.
"It's to demonstrate, by Christian leaders and members of the clergy, that you don't have to make that choice," Zimmerman said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The debate over evolution is taking place not only in churches but in court rooms and school boards. The struggles have resulted in high profile academic changes in Kansas, where public schools now teach that there are deficiencies in evolution theory. At a recent trial in Pennsylvania, a judge ruled that including a mention of Intelligent Design Theory before the start of a biology class was unconstitutional because the theory was not science, and was a way of promoting Christianity.
Evolution theory holds that all biological organisms, including humans share a common ancestry, developing over millions of years through the processes of natural selection and random mutation. Some conservative Christians oppose the view because literal interpretations of the Bible see the earth as only being several thousand years old.
Zimmerman points out that there are two parts to Evolution Sunday. The first is to demonstrate that shrill fundamentalist voices demanding a choice between religion and science are wrong. The second is to demonstrate his view that such Christians are not in the majority, according to the Tribune.
The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group which advocates for Intelligent Design Theory, rejects materialist views of science, including neo-Darwinian evolution. Intelligent Design holds that some aspects of the universe and living beings are so complex that they cannot be explained by natural selection and random mutation alone, which are two key tenets of evolution theory.
ID proponents say that the complexity of some aspects of the world is due to an intelligent cause or designer. They say the theory does not rely on the Bible but instead focuses an inferring design from observable evidence.
In a statement with the title "On Evolution Sunday It's Give Me That Old-Time Darwinist Religion," Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman said, "Evolution Sunday is the height of hypocrisy."
"Why do Darwinists think it is not okay for people to criticize Darwin on religious grounds, but it is just fine to defend him on religious grounds?" he asks
"Our view is not that pastors should speak out against evolution 'but that the Darwinists are hypocrites for claiming falsely that opposition to Darwinism is merely faith-based, and then turning around and trying to make the case that Darwinism itself is faith-based."
However supporters of Evolution Sunday say that Darwins theories have helped religion to grow up.
He forced religion to grow up, to become really, faith for the first time, said the Rev. Mitchell Brown to attendants at Evanston Mennonite Church in Evanston, Ill, according to the New York Times.
Evolution Sunday, evolved out of out of The Clergy Letter Project as a response to those who would try to discredit the teaching of evolution theory in public schools. He says that so far, 10,000 ministers have signed on who ascribe to the statement that evolution is a foundational scientific truth and that to reject it is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance, adding that human minds capable of critical thought are among Gods gifts and should be used.
the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator, the letter reads.
Charles Darwin was born in England on Feb. 12 1809, and was 50 when he published The Origin of Species, which advanced his views on evolution.