In this issue:
Belief in "theistic" evolution on the rise
Pastor finds evolution on a biblical
Teaching of evolution still debated in
New book on the origins of evil
Belief in "theistic" evolution on the rise — slightly
More Americans today believe that humans evolved with God as a guiding influence, while a dwindling percentage believe that humans were created by God in their present form, according to a recent Gallup poll. Four in 10 Americans (down from 44%) believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago, while almost an equal number, or 38%, say that God guided the process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms. As far as those holding
"creationist views", the 40% figure is down from the high point of 47% in 1993 and 1999.
The telephone survey of Americans ages 18 and older was completed in early December and includes more than 1,000 respondents chosen randomly.
According to the Gallup organization, American’s views on human origins tend to vary significantly by level of education and religiosity. Those with less education are more likely to hold a creationist view, while those with college degrees and postgraduate education are more likely to hold one of the two viewpoints involving evolution.
Those holding the creationist viewpoint are more likely to attend church frequently, but there are still 40% of weekly churchgoers who do not fall under the creationist category. About one-fourth of those who seldom or never attend church also share the creationist viewpoint.
Roughly 85% of Americans have a religious identity, so it is not surprising that 8 in 10 Americans have a view of human origins that involve actions by God, according to Gallup. Evolutionary views have been generally stable over the last 28 years, although there has been a rise in acceptance of a secular evolution perspective. The shifts themselves have not been large as the basic structure of beliefs surrounding human origins is generally the same as it was in the early 1980s, researchers say.
Politically speaking, Republicans are more likely to take a creationist viewpoint. Politics do play a role in the creationist argument as many groups have tried to influence the teaching of evolution in public schools in recent years.
Pastor finds evolution on a biblical scale
Pastor Keith Adkins is looking to help people who have given up on the Bible, which inspired him to spend 12 years writing a book that scientifically explores the Bible’s evolution.
"God created evolution is how I’ve always seen it," says Adkins, whose taught Bible study as a United Methodist pastor for 27 years and also possesses a geology degree from Indiana University and theology degrees from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. His book
"A Natural History of Scripture" was released in December 2010.
The book came about after a series of lectures on canonical formation where he came to view the Bible as a book in process. He then created a natural history model that correlates with the timeline of how the current Biblical canon came together. He believes that the natural forces behind Darwinian evolution are clearly visible in the story of biblical origin. For example he compares the action of natural selection with the work of the writers of books of the Bible in the assumption that many more words were produced than survived.
"The Bible we have today is sacred for sure, but it was developed by many different people and evolved over a long period of time,"
writes Adkins. "The Bible is sacred because its purpose is to share
about our relationship with God, as opposed to sharing about history or
theology, but the words and means of transmission were very human."
The book offers up arguments on the Bible’s evolution and rather than becoming disillusioned with the human aspect of biblical formation, Adkins seeks to communicate an understanding of the birth and development of scripture as Jews, Christians and Muslims have come to know it.
Teaching of evolution still debated in Louisiana, Kentucky
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) late last year approved high school biology textbooks despite complaints of creationists over the book’s teaching of evolution. Groups reportedly were seeking books that at least mentioned creationism or intelligent design.
The vote to approve the new biology textbooks was not unanimous, but met with approval of students and a Presbyterian pastor who reportedly told the BESE committee that science teachers of Louisiana should teach science and let churches and families teach religion.
The National Center for Science Education’s Executive Director Eugenie C. Scott said:
"The board’s decision is a ray of light, especially because the creationist opponents of these textbooks were claiming
— wrongly — that the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act requires that biology textbooks misrepresent evolution as scientifically controversial." He added that the BESE withstood the pressure to compromise the quality of biology textbooks and thanked the Louisiana Coalition for Science, which was established out of concern for the teaching of science in the schools.
The textbook approval comes five years after the well-known verdict in
Kitzmiller v. Dover, which prevented the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.
In Kentucky, the controversy continues as Republican State Representative Tim Moore introduced legislation that has been called the Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act. The proposal is being debated in the state legislator and encourages local school district teachers and administrators
"to foster an environment promoting objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories." While the act does not mention evolution or biology specifically, it does seek to allow teachers as permitted by local school boards to use materials in addition to state-approved texts for discussion of scientific theories. It also adds that the provisions do not promote religious doctrine or discrimination.
According to the National Center for Science Education, Kentucky is unique in that it already has a statue that authorizes teachers to teach
"the theory of creation as presented in the Bible" and to "reach such
passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the
theory of creation."
New book on the origins of evil
Ervin Staub, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), recently released a book on the roots of evil called Overcoming Evil published by Oxford University Press.
The book describes the origins or influences that lead to genocide, violent conflict and terrorism and identifies principles and practices of prevention and of reconciliation between groups after violence. Staub draws on his past work on these issues, as well as on research in genocide studies, study of conflict and psychological research on group relations. His work considers the role of difficult social or life conditions, repression, culture, the institutions or structure of society, the psychology of individuals and groups and the behavior of witnesses or bystanders within and outside societies. It looks at the psychological processes such as the devaluation of the
"other", the power of ideas and people’s commitment to destructive ideologies.
Staub will be a plenary speaker at the 2011 Institute on Religion in an Age of Science Conference on
"Doing Good, Doing Bad, Doing Nothing: Scientific and Religious Perspectives on Human Behavior" in Chautauqua, New York. The annual summer conference will also feature talks from science and religion scholars, such as keynote speaker Mel Konner, who is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University. Konner has spent two years among the Kung San (Bushmen) and has taught at Harvard and then Emory for over 30 years. More information will be available at www.iras.org as the program comes together.
Staub will be giving two presentations. One will be on the roots of genocide, violent conflict and terrorism and a second session is on creating goodness, moral courage, altruism born of suffering and constructive ideologies and active bystandership.
Covalence, February, 2011