Evolution and creation, two belief systems often pitted against one another, were celebrated side by side in hundreds of churches on Evolution Sunday.
The annual observance took place a day ahead of Darwin’s birthday and was a time for some churches to reconcile the religious and scientific explanations on the origin of life. Instead of rejecting one interpretation in support of another, some churches have declared that evolution and creation can co-exist.
“Science answers the questions ‘How ...?’ Religion answers the question ‘Why …?’” said Rev. Noreen Suriner, pastor of Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church in Binghamton, N.Y, according to the Press & Sun-Bulletin. “They are two different questions, but they are not mutually exclusive. We can embrace both.”
As many as 596 congregations in 50 states had opted to celebrate Evolution Sunday, according to organizers of the observance.
Evolution Sunday began from a statement signed by academics and clergy in support of teaching evolution in public schools in 2004.
Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University and key organizer of the project, said “science is very real and there’s no reason to believe it conflicts with basic Christianity or any other religion,” according to the Press & Sun-Bulletin.
Some Christian scientists joining the evolution-creation debate, called for a closer examination of the science behind the creation story to resolve the conflict between evolution and creation.
Joan Roughgarden, an evolutionary biologist at Stanford University and an Episcopalian, questioned, “When Genesis talks about humans being made from mud, does that mean we are made from the mud one finds in a marsh? Or does that mean we come from a common substance,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Roughgarden, who recently debated outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins, noted that the commonality might be our DNA.
The project has garnered more than 10,000 signatures from clergies – mainly from mainline denominations – according to the project’s website.
Evolution, however, has not been welcomed by all Christians.
In Kenya, tempers are rising over a prehistoric skeleton set to be a main feature at an upcoming exhibit at the famed National Museum of Kenya.
Kenyan evangelical leaders are condemning the display, saying that it promotes the idea that evolution is real and corrupts children that will visit the exhibit.
“I did not evolve from Turkana Boy or anything like it,” says Bishop Boniface Adoyo, head of the nine million-membered Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, according to The Associated Press. “These sorts of silly views are killing our faith.”
U.S. Christian think-tank, The Discovery Institute, which some consider the hub for the intelligent design movement, has also been known for challenging Darwin’s teaching. It has described Evolution Sunday as “the height of hypocrisy.”
A statement on the group’s website read:
“Darwinists are hypocrites for claiming – falsely – that opposite to Darwinism is merely faith-based, and then turning around and trying to make the case the Darwinism itself is faith-based,” wrote Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman.
A survey by the Pew Form on Religion & Public Life in 2005 found that nearly half, 48 percent, of Americans believe life evolved over time, but of those, 18 percent think that evolution was guided by a Supreme Being. The survey also found that 42 percent believe life has always existed in its present form, in other words, no evolution occurred.
“It is not un-Christian at all to believe God may have used evolution to develop all of creation,” said the Rev. Ronald Wenzinger, according to Press & Sun-Bulletin.