Monday, August 25, 2008

Evolutionary Breakthroughs

The NYTimes has an extensive article today concerning teaching evolution. It covers much of the struggle that has been occurring, particularly in areas of strong evangelical camps who take Genesis 1:1-2:3 very literally. In this evolutionary struggle to survive, when confronted with students who have been taught their whole lives that creation occurred exactly, and in every detail, as Genesis has depicted it, a bit of gentle persuasion becomes the necessary means of instruction. Evolution is not at all a controversial issue among scientists--it is one of the most established aspects of "life science" and, in fact, is often considered the cornerstone of scientific thought.

Moreover, there are other ways to interpret Genesis. It is a text that has been revisited for centuries (millenia actually), sometimes read literally, sometimes allegorically, sometimes more impressionistically (getting a general impression of the meaning rather than taking every single word literally), sometimes atomistically. Genesis 1, itself, in fact should be seen less as contradictory to science and more as a poetic reflection of God's creation. It is a tightly woven poem that appreciates cosmic wonder and order. The same wonder, perhaps, that has led many physicists and biologists to their respective fields. Ironically, both scientists and anti-evolution Christians, read this poem the exact same way, robbing it of its poetic, evocative power. Indeed, for many Christians (and Jews), there is no contradiction between their faith and scientific inquiry. For many, they are rather complementary, science enriching their view of creation and the unity of all living things. Setting science and religion in opposition, however, seems to be damaging to both. It depletes the richness, depth, beauty, and, I might say, poetry of the cosmos. It makes both sides look intractable and dogmatic.

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