Taking Darwin to church

I received this communication about a project known as Take Darwin to Church to try and decrease the opposition to the ides of Darwinian evolution.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Religious Leaders Bring Darwin to Church

(Wed., Jan. 4, 2017) Tempe, Ariz.—This year, a coalition of religious leaders, Humanists and scientists aims to bridge the perceived divide between science and religion by taking Darwin to church. Dozens of congregations all over the country are opening their pulpits to science advocates this year in a new interfaith project, Take Darwin to Church.

“Charles Darwin is often looked at as someone who represents religious controversy,” says Kile Jones, project coordinator for Take Darwin to Church. “But many people of faith celebrate his scientific discoveries, and the courage he showed in looking for the truth. Our project is based on the idea that people of all faiths and no faith have a lot of common ground in the area of science. It’s a way to build bridges.” Jones is also the founder of Interview an Atheist at Church Day and an interfaith activist.

The project officially launches on International Darwin Day—a global holiday celebrated on February 12, Charles Darwin’s birthday. Take Darwin to Church is largely funded by the founder of the International Darwin Day Foundation, Dr. Robert Stephens, and is part of a larger movement that seeks to popularize Charles Darwin. A major goal of the project is to remove the controversy around the well-established theory of evolution via natural selection.

“Already, nearly 200 religious congregations have committed to celebrate Evolution Sunday on Darwin’s birthday week in 2017,” says Dean Nosek, minister at Price United Methodist Church in Price, Utah. Nosek cites the Clergy Letter Project, which collects signatures from religion leaders who support evolution. “Take Darwin to Church helps makes visible the religious community’s recognition of Darwin’s impact on biology, cosmology and theology. And it affirms science as a place of common ground among people with Biblical faith as well as nonbelievers.”

The catch is that the level of religious opposition to Darwin’s ideas depends on what people think those ideas represent. There are a whole range of possible beliefs that people have and the reception that a speaker on Darwin gets will depend on what the speaker emphasizes. Any church that invites a speaker to talk on this topic is likely to have little problem with the general idea of evolution, that species have emerged over time from other species. Some are going to have more difficulty with the idea that the process is unguided and thus does not require any divine guidance or intervention at any time, making their god redundant. What people are likely to find it hardest to stomach is the idea that evolution is not teleological, that if the clock were run again, human beings like us may not have emerged at all, thus casting doubt on what ‘being in god’s image’ means or whether their god even exists.

But it still seems like a good idea. And I am intrigued by the idea of interviewing an atheist in church, as people seem to have greater difficulty in dealing with atheists than with evolution.


  1. says

    Not sure how well it would work, I’ve come across several catholics who deny evolution even though the Vatican accepts it and the canonical teachings right now say that Genesis is allegory, not history.

    It is my understanding that american christians are even more disperse in several branches of christianity where even churches of the same branch, like evangelicals, vary wildly in their teachings depending on the priest of each particular church. I think this lack of centralization will make it harder for the message to reach much people at all.

    Particular churches who let them in are probably run by priests and attended by believers who already accept, or are somewhat knowledgeable on, the theory of evolution. Churches run by dogmatic creationists and attended by uneducated people (which I assume would be the top priority targets of this project) are not likely to let Darwin in at all.

    TL;DR: Take Darwin to Church will likely succeed in preaching to the choir and little else. I could be wrong, tough.

  2. Crimson Clupeidae says

    200 churches? There are probably almost that many just in my zipcode. Sounds like a good thing, but it’s statistically close to zero.

    Also, I don’t know if these things are a good idea, really. The only churches that will allow this are already liberal and humanitarian leaning, so you’re literally just preaching to the choir here.

    Also, what’s the message? “It’s ok to believe all that stuff that science is 99.999% sure is wrong, as long as you buy into evolution”?

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    If a god used evolution to create, that god was seriously inept (five erase-&-start-overs?!?) and horribly cruel.

    Unfortunately for rationalists, this argument exactly fits the description given of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god.

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