Christian University Rejects Attempts to Reconcile Evolution and Religious Beliefs

Sharon Begley presents an example of how some religious institutions are becoming increasingly intolerant of science in a Newsweek column. Some faculty members of religious colleges have made attempts to reconcile science with their religious beliefs:

One approach is to interpret evolution as the mechanism by which a creator creates. Physicist Karl Giberson of Eastern Nazarene College takes this tack in “Saving Darwin,” which will be published next year. Michael Dowd, a former anti-evolution crusader who is now an itinerant minister, argues in “Thank God for Evolution!,” out in November, that understanding evolution can deepen and strengthen faith. He’s in good company. Biochemist and Anglican priest Arthur Peacocke, who died last year, saw in random mutation and natural selection—the core of Darwinian evolution—a hint of God’s nature: by making mutations the raw material of evolution from which natural selection picks winners and losers, God freely opted to limit his omnipotence. It was evidence, Peacocke said, of divine humility.

Before the episode described by Begley, one might think that the Church of the Nazarene would accept such views:

since its founding in 1908, the Church of the Nazarene has deemed knowledge acquired by science and human inquiry equal to that acquired by divine revelation. And although Nazarene theology “believes in the Biblical account of creation” and holds that God is the sole creator, it allows latitude “regarding the ‘how’ of creation,” as president Bowling put it in a letter to trustees.

Despite such latitude on creation, one professor found that any acceptance of evolution was not tolerated:

A professor at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois and a lifelong member of the evangelical Church of the Nazarene, Colling wrote a 2004 book called “Random Designer” because—as he said in a letter to students and colleagues this year—”I want you to know the truth that God is bigger, far more profound and vastly more creative than you may have known.” Moreover, he said, God “cares enough about creation to harness even the forces of [Darwinian] randomness.”

This led to considerable religious opposition:

Anger over his work had been building for two years. When classes resumed in late August, things finally came to a head. Colling is prohibited from teaching the general biology class, a version of which he had taught since 1991, and college president John Bowling has banned professors from assigning his book. At least one local Nazarene church called for Colling to be fired and threatened to withhold financial support from the college. In a letter to Bowling, ministers in Caro, Mo., expressed “deep concern regarding the teaching of evolutionary theory as a scientifically proven fact,” calling it “a philosophy that is godless, contrary to scripture and scientifically unverifiable.” Irate parents, pastors and others complained to Bowling, while a meeting between church leaders and Colling “led to some tension and misunderstanding,” Bowling said in a letter to trustees. (Well, “misunderstanding” in the sense that the Noachian flood was a little puddle.) It’s a rude awakening to scientists who thought the Galilean gulf was closing.

There is a simple reason for teaching “evolutionary theory as a scientifically proven fact.” Evolution has been proven as fact and evolution has become a fundamental principle of modern biology. As just one example of the degree to which evolution is accepted without any real controversy in the scientific community, see Science and Creationism from The National Academy of Sciences. Their review of evolution begins:

Studies in evolutionary biology have led to the conclusion that human beings arose from ancestral primates. This association was hotly debated among scientists in Darwin’s day. But today there is no significant scientific doubt about the close evolutionary relationships among all primates, including humans.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    absent observer says:

    It’s so much easier to agree that Evolution is a fact. That’s why it’s more rewarding to say it isn’t a fact, because it’s so much harder to do!!1!!111!

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