This is my response to a mail to the Epicurean mailing list on the subject of Evolution. Enjoy. ;)

> Thought for the day:
> Teaching of evolution in public schools does
> indeed violate the First Amendment and should be
> banned.  Properly taught, evolution leaves no
> room for any beliefs commonly associated with
> religion in this country.  Therefor it makes a
> religious statement that is too strong to be
> appropriate to government.

Evolution is a well established scientific theory, not a religion. Because
logic dictates that if a scientific theory is true, a religion is no
longer valid, or some small portion of a religion is no longer valid, that
is the fault of the religion for being wrong, not the theory for being
correct. We could maintain that the theory is not proven, thus only a
theory; in that case I highly suggest we stop teaching physics, math,
chemistry, art and creative writing classes. 

This is comparing apples and oranges. Science is the pursuit of truth
without the baggage of excessive tradition, leaders and expansive

Religion is a large number of people believing in something that thus far
has accumulated little to no proof and apparently requires none. That is
fine for them. Should we discover that in all probability it is gravity
that holds us to the earth and not the sheer will power of Xemu, Lord of
Darkness, should we then stop teaching it simply because it makes a rather
large bunch of people look foolish?

I am sorry that while we reach the threshold of truth by doing research
and reproducing the very effects of the theory we maintain, the 3000 year
old make believe story of mud, apples and snakes falls apart.

I find it difficult to believe that religious activists dare even speak on
this subject. They have no ground in the factual arena, in proof they are
lacking, in reason they are void. 

I wish to clarify that there are no "evolutionists". It is not a
philosophy, nor is it a religion. There are scientists and those who seek
to hide what truths those scientists uncover.

(If there is some small cult "evolutionists" whom see Darwin as the second
comming and Galapagos as the new eden, I appologise for not keeping up on
my minority cult awareness)

In the end, I refuse to argue the existance of god, I will say that
christianity has become dated. It needs an overhaul or it should step down
and let some other group take the podium and dictate oppressive morality
to the masses while gleefully burning books, or some such thing.

> Could it be the Creationists are right on the
> point about teaching evolution in schools.  


> As an afterthought, might evolution be a more
> powerful philosophical force if it were banned
> from our mediocre public schools and left to the
> dedicated subversives?

I don't care about power, I also dont see evolution as a philosophical
anything. Philosophy is people sitting and talking about doing. Science is
sitting and doing. Evolution has been done, thus it has passed from the
realms of philosophy and become science. ;)


(On a side note; I learned evolution in Catholic school.)

I fail to see how "evolution leaves no room for any beliefs commonly associated with religion in this country" (or any country for that matter).

For the record, I used to be a Catholic priest, one trained in Rome at that, and never had any problem with evolution. Yes, I used to believe that the world was created by God. And as part of that belief, I simply believed that the world was created in the simplest form possible and that evolution was part of that creation.

The biblical story of creation is actually two separate stories written by two different authors. Biblical scholars refer to one of them as the Yahwist, the other as the Elohist. That is because in the original Hebrew text one calls God Yahweh, the other Elohim. This indicates they lived in two different periods of the evolution (no pun intended) of Hebrew religious thought.

The final editor of the book of Genesis simply did not want to decide which story was "right" or "wrong". Obviously, he did not take either story literally, they were simply stories whose purpose was not to teach physics or any kind of literal history in modern sense. Their purpose was to instill the following religious message to the reader:

The stories did not mean to say how God created the universe, only that he did. That is why the editor of the book of Genesis had no reason to pick one story over the other. He included both, placing them one after another.

If taken as infallible historical truth, the two stories contradict each other. When taken as symbolic stories whose only purpose is to impart a religious truth (or a belief that it is a truth), then there is positively no contradiction between the two stories. Obviously, the editor could see the contradictions in the literal text and it did not bother him. That's not because he was dumb (hey, he could read and write, something few could in those days), but because he did not perceive them as literal history.

Indeed, virtually no one takes those stories literally, not the Jews, not the Catholics, not the Orthodox, not the Protestants. The only exception are the fundamentalists. Of course, they don't study the original Hebrew texts (and Aramaic and Greek for other books), they only use the fairly poor translation commissioned by King James, so they cannot see the subtle distinctions. But no serious Scripture scholar takes those texts as literal historical truths.

That said, it may be true that evolution leaves no room for the beliefs associated with some religions in this country, but certainly not with any beliefs.

As long as I'm on the topic, it is only the fundamentalists who believe the Bible was written by God. The Catholics and most other Christians believe it was inspired by God. That belief includes the conviction that God protected the authors (of whom there were many) from making any errors in the matters of faith and faith only, but not in other matters (physics, history, etc).

The Bible neither teaches evolution nor denies it. It teaches that God created the Universe, but it does not teach the details of how that happened (hey, none of those who wrote the Bible were there to witness it!). So, it is perfectly conceivable to believe that God created evolution.

For what it's worth, back when I was still a Catholic and believed in creation, I found the idea of the God who created a world that evolves much more appealing than that of a God who just made a world incapable of evolution. And trust me, I took my religion very seriously (and still do even if it is a different religion now).

As a Christian and a scientist/engineer (though not a Christian Scientist) I find that it *is* possible to believe in God and Christ as savior and Lord, and still deal with the world in a rational and scientific manner. We were created by God in his image, as a painting or scupture might be the image of it's artist.
Evolution is the process of that creation:
As an artist might chip away bits of marble to make a statue, God refines and polishes his creations, improving and perfecting us

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