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Discussion at Syracuse University on Feb. 15 will explore compatibility of religion, science
Discussion at Syracuse University on Feb. 15 will explore compatibility of religion, scienceFebruary 10, 2009Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Chaplains from Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel will join with more than 900 congregations from around the world during Evolution Weekend, Feb. 13-15, to discuss the compatibility of religion and science as part of the Clergy Letter Project. The weekend is designed to explore how religion and science, two fields of critical importance to humans, can be seen as complementary rather than confrontational.
A public discussion will be held on Sunday, Feb. 15, at 3:15 p.m. in the Life Sciences Complex Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the University’s visitor lots.
Chaplains from Hendricks Chapel and Jason Wiles, assistant professor of biology in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences, will take part in a panel discussion on how scientists from many religious traditions understand and accept evolution, and how the individual chaplains understand evolution from within the context of their faith. Participating chaplains include the Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Episcopal/Anglican Campus Ministry; Father Linus DeSantis of the Catholic/St. Thomas More Campus Ministry; the Rev. Tomi Jacobs of the Protestant Campus Ministry (Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, American Baptist and United Methodist); the Rev. Michael McQuitty of the Southern Baptist Campus Ministry; and the Rev. Gail Riina of the Lutheran Campus Ministry. More information on these ministries can be found at http://hendricks.syr.edu.
Evolution is as well substantiated as any scientific concept, and it is the central and unifying principle of the life sciences, says Wiles. Students, and members of the public at large, need to understand evolution if they’re going to make sense of biology, geology or nature in general, but this need not cause a crisis of faith among religious individuals, he says. “Many scientists who understand and accept evolution also maintain traditional religious beliefs, and many religious leaders have no problems with evolutionary science,” Wiles says.
“God is still active as creator in and through humanity and the scientific truths we uncover,” says Jacobs. “Science cannot cancel out God, nor should our limited understanding of God cancel out science.”
The Evolution Weekend event is particularly timely this year, since this is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book “On the Origin of Species.”
Participants from 14 countries on five continents, as well as all 50 states in the United States, will take part in the large-scale Evolution Weekend. A list of participants can be found at http://www.evolutionweekend.org. Scientists on six continents, representing 29 countries, have signed on as consultants.
“Religious leaders around the world are coming together to elevate the quality of the discussion about this important topic. They are demonstrating to their congregations that people can accept all that modern science has learned while retaining their faith,” says Michael Zimmerman, founder of Evolution Weekend and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University. “They are also demonstrating that those who are promoting their narrow religious views as the norm are not speaking for most of the world’s religious community. Evolution Weekend shows that the disagreement is actually not between religious leaders and scientists, but rather between those who believe that their particular religious views should be incorporated into the science curriculum and clergy who recognize and respect the diversity of different faith traditions.”
The worldwide Evolution Weekend is sponsored by The Clergy Letter Project, which Zimmerman started in 2004. The Clergy Letter has been signed by more than 11,800 Christian clergypersons who agree that “religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.” Companion Letters by rabbis (with more than 400 signatures) and Unitarian Universalists (with more than 100 signatures) have recently begun circulating.
The letters urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. It asks “that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.”