Monday, February 13, 2006


The Wedge: Who's Splitting Who?

These days, it seems as though you can't open a paper or watch the television news without hearing some pulpit-pounding creationist or intelligent design activist declare that real Christians must decide between the Bible and evolution.

Here in Kansas, for example, school board chair Steve Abrams told a group of fundamentalist Christians that “[a]t some point in time, if you compare evolution and the Bible, you have to decide which one you believe. That’s the bottom line.”

Believers in God and evolution, according to these fundamentalists, are either atheists in disguise or theologically confused.

We're not quite sure who put the holier-than-thou crowd in charge of passing judgement on the beliefs of others, but its now clear that many Christians have grown tired of having their faith challenged -- some would say demeaned -- by those whose own faith is so fragile they find themselves compelled to demand that science be redefined in order to affirm their own peculiar set of beliefs.

Now, however, we have two significant indications that the bible beaters, despite their claims to the contrary, speak only for a narrow subset of religious believers.

The first intimation that the overweening arrogance of the fundamentalist right is beginning to grate on other Christians is the success of the Clergy Letter Project. To date, over 10,000 clergy members have signed a statement affirming that evolution is not incompatible with the Bible.

"We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests," the letter reads.

"To reject this truth or to treat it as 'one theory among others' is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children."

The second important development, is the growing impact of Evolution Sunday, which was celebrated in more than 400 churches around the country yesterday, marking the 197th anniversary of Darwin's birthday.

"I don't think there's a conflict between scientific discovery and what's going on in Scriptures," says Rev. Timothy Dombek, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Greenville, N.C. whose church took part in Evolution Sunday. "I think we're speaking of two different things, two different kinds of truths, and one doesn't negate the other."

Evolution Sunday was so successful, and poses such a serious challenge to the intelligent design movement's "Wedge" strategy of branding all supporters of science education as atheists, that the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog was forced to respond to it:
“Evolution Sunday is the height of hypocrisy,” says Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute. “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?”
As all RSR readers are aware, "Darwinists" have no problem with people criticizing evolution. We just don't want religion taught as science to school children. Chapman has made a very highly paid career out of criticizing evolution on religious grounds, and, so far as we're aware, no one has made any effort at all to stop him.

It is the biblical literalists, of both the creationist and intelligent design species, who have a problem -- a big one -- with Christians who accept the fact of evolution.

Moderate Kansas School Board member Carol Rupe, a good church-going Episcopalian, for example, has been branded as an atheist because she opposes introducing intelligent design into the curriculum. Rupe says of her experience:

"There has been the implication that those of us who want the true science standards taught must be atheists, because otherwise we wouldn't want that. But the whole idea that you can't be a person of faith and want good science is just ridiculous."

Likewise, in Dover, moderate school board member, physics teacher, and Kitzmiller plaintiff Brian Rehm, who is also a Bible school teacher, was labeled "an atheist" because he opposed efforts to introduce intelligent design into the curriculum there.

If intelligent design activists were just a bit wiser, they'd be more worried about Chapman's tendency to get things backwards. That's because the sharp edge of their wedge strategy may be pointed not at science but intelligent design itself. ID's wedge was designed to split Christians off from science. Instead, it appears to be splitting fundamentalists from mainstream Christians.


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