United Church of Christ strongly supports evolution

The National Center for Science Education reports that the United Church of Christ has released a new statement on faith, science and technology that describes evolution as a matter of fact. The statement also espouses the misguided faith-based assertion that evolution is the means by which God creates, and claims erroneously that science and religion are compatible. On the bright side, at least they’re not IDiots. An excerpt from their statement, entitled “A New Voice Arising: A Pastoral Letter on Faith Engaging Science and Technology” is presented below.

“Evolution helps us see our faithful God in a new way. Our creator works patiently, calling forth life through complex processes spanning billions of years and waiting for us to awaken and respond in conscious participation in God’s own overarching dream for all living things. Evolution also helps us see ourselves anew, as creatures who share a common origin with other species. Today we know that human bodies and brains share the same genetic and biochemical processes with other creatures, not just mammals but insects, plants, and bacteria. How then should we understand ourselves as evolved creatures, sharing much of our DNA with other species, and at the same time as distinct creatures in the image of God?”

“A New Voice Rising” is being distributed in February to all 5,700 UCC local churches as part of a new campaign aimed at the scientific and technological communities, intended to promote the UCC’s (misguided) belief that science and religion are not mutually exclusive and to express the denomination’s welcome to scientifically-oriented people.

While I’m happy that they are being honest about the evidence for evolution and are standing up for science and rationality, it is nevertheless the case that science and religion simply do not mix. When it comes to making statements about the objective nature of the world, religions rely greatly on faith-based claims. Science does not do this. Science is an exercise in fallibilism, not certainty. It’s about having beliefs that are consistent with the evidence and that can be disqualified. Moreover, on those rare occasions when scientists find merit behind religious ideas or practices, these practices cease to be exclusively religious. They become a part of our rational secular worldview. A good example of this is Buddhist meditation. Strongly supported by extensive research in psychology and medicine, we now have secularized mindfulness meditation which is being applied at a great number of Western medical facilities.

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9 Responses to “United Church of Christ strongly supports evolution”
  1. Juanito Epstein says:

    This is not a new idea, just new to this specific church.

    A Papal letter (Humani Generis) from Pius XII in the 1950s said Catholics could, but are not required to, believe evolution. In the 90s in response to this letter the John Paul said:

    “Today, almost half a century after publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory. ”

    Of course Dawkins finds the Pope’s response unacceptable because the Pope would still suppose that somewhere along the lines humans gained a soul, which Dawkis finds ridiculous. Dawkins even claims he would rather have a fundamentalist/creationist than someone who believes in evolution and a soul.

    I wonder if Dawkins would have the same reaction to this. I would assume the United Church of Christ would believe in a soul (if they believe in a heaven as most Christians do I would assume they must believe in a soul, or else what do they suppose goes to heaven?) then his reaction would probably be the same.

    So I am not sure if this is a victory for the secularists, or if this is a defeat where religion is creeping into the realm of science.

  2. ronbrown says:

    Juanito:
    Certainly it’s not the first time a religious community has done this. But it’s good that one more is taking a stand against the IDists.

    I’d call it a victory in that its a religious community standing against another religious community’s encouragement of unsecular rubbish. However, it is still contains a strong misrepresentation of science.

  3. Vanessa says:

    I read through the letter here: http://www.ucc.org/not-mutually-exclusive/pdfs/pastoral-letter.pdf

    I agree with you that, in a sense Science and Religion don’t mix. The objective pursuit of knowledge where experiments are observable, repeatable and refutable would be tarnished by relying on assumptions based on faith. I personally am appalled at the efforts of many within the religious community to sabotage our scientific enlightmenet by hobbling our children’s education.

    Yet I don’t believe that the attainment of perfect scientific knowledge is the sole calling of humanity. A human being is not knowledge alone, but lives and breathes through our emotions, physical vitality and spiritual connectedness as well.

    The human life is not one dimensional, but a wonderful tapestry too complex for us to fully describe or comprehend.

    I believe the letter was meant to embrace the fullness of the human experience. Embracing what we have discovered at the same time as embracing God’s eternal truths.

  4. Stoobs says:

    Science and religion are certainly compatible, as long as one is willing to limit religion to making assertions which are not scientifically testable, and contain no prescriptive component.

    For example, to say that there is a god – fair enough. There’s no way to confirm or disconfirm that claim, so what the hell, religion can have it. The moment that god is supposed to have, for example, created mankind, or interacted in any way with the material world, or prescribed a particular way of life or behavior, he becomes a problem, and religion becomes something best killed and buried.

    It is true that expanding scientific knowledge is not the sole calling of humanity. That said, religion is ultimately corrosive of reason. There is a reason that people in secular countries have better education, better economic prospects, better healthcare, and so forth – quite simply, religion is about believing things even though there is no good reason to do so, and that is a habit that once formed, is difficult to break. Religion is about accepting the authority of people you know to be liars and hypocrites, and adopting the behaviors and beliefs the prescribe even though those behaviors and beliefs are deeply destructive to your wellbeing.

    In the end, religion is ultimately incompatible with not just reason, but emotional and physical health as well. I can’t speak to spiritual connectedness, since I’m not sure what that actually means – as far as I can tell, LSD or electrical stimulation can produce the same feelings of spiritual connectedness that religion does, without any of the destructive impact. The US enjoys the world’s worst (and most expensive) medical system, an education system that is a joke unless you are wealthy, and an economy that has endured some four or five decades of being progressively hollowed out – and it enjoys all of these things because it is a highly religious nation. Measuring the degree to which these traits are found in other first world nations, and graphing it against how religious those nations are, provides all the evidence that you need to show that religion is ultimately bad not just for science, but for every important aspect of human existence.

    Indeed, the official position of christianity for centuries has been that attempting to eliminate poverty, disease, and thunger is blasphemous – it amounts to trying to turn Earth into Heaven (immanentize the eschaton, in the words of the church,) something which is framed as a direct affront to god.

    Basically, religion is worse than just deadweight – it is destructive, negative, and dare I say it, outright evil. Luckily, the solution is easy. Just give people a decent scientific education, and every generation religion dies a little more. People who take the position that science and religion are compatible are helping to advance proper education, and thus ultimately to destroy religion forever.

    So, in conclusion, I applaud the United Church of Christ for their bold initiative in bringing us one step closer to a world without religion.

    (If this post is a little rambling and confused, it’s because I just came in from work, and the sun is very hot, and the landlord’s dog kept me up half the night… so my coherence is probably at a lower ebb than normal. Sorry about that.)

  5. Kevandamn says:

    It has come to my attention that United Churches of Christ are assosiated w/ Church of Christ. Not a comparison. All you that believe in evolution of man needs to study the bible more often. The answers are there in the Holy scriptures. You who claim to be children of God needs to stand up and rebuke such matters. If you are a child of God you would not have any doubt that we live becuase God breathed life into us and made us in his image. He is NOT an ape!!! Why are there still apes? Guess they missed the boat? Give me a brake! Some people becomes so educated and so into themselves that they have lost reality. Man Will leave you astray but God NEVER will!!!!!!!!!

    • Michael Rainey says:

      Well, modern apes and modern humans are modern species; one didn’t come from the other, we all share an ancient and extinct common ancestor. That is to say, we did not come from chimps, one might even say that humans and chimps are at an equally evolved level from their last common ancestor (though this is obviously a controversial notion, notwithstanding our obvious intelligence vs that of apes). The recent discovery of ardipithecus (may have spelled that wrong, it’s one of the earliest human ancestors) suggests the last common human-chimp ancestor looked nothing like its two modern descendents, the homo genus and the pan genus. Look… Jesus said we need to have faith in *him*, not some obviously incorrect interpretation of a contradictory ancient allegorical tale of how life began on earth… Certainly you must see the difference. The religion is called “Christian”, after all, not “biblican” nor “genisision” nor “noevolutionian”. To put it plainly, if the earth really is younger than 10000 years old and there is no such thing as evolution, then god has gone to unimaginable lengths simply to decieve his creations; young earth creationism simply paints god as a no good liar, which of course isn’t true. I suppose, if a literal interpretation of allegorical books in the bible is where you get your beliefs from, that the earth also doesn’t move and that it’s flat? It says those two things far more explicitly than it says the age of the earth.

  6. Michael Rainey says:

    Hmmm, I don’t see why faith and science aren’t compatible, but as a former atheist I can certainly see where you are coming from. It all comes down to the fact that I, as a member of the UCC, am consciously *choosing* to believe in something unseen; that’s the point. I’d hate to have to go into the very long story of my spiritual growth away from atheism and into Christianity (and I think in the end it would be pointless since I think you and I will agree to disagree), but the basic premises of it can be summed up as followed: science certainly explains, or has the capacity to explain, everything that exists, yet it lacks this capacity to explain why there is such a thing as science or existence to begin with. I don’t believe that humans are unique images of god (a doctrine that comes from a literal interpretation of the old testament, and not only should we not read the bible literally, I personally think the Old Testament has very little if anything to do with the Jesus described in the New Testament, though most disagree with me on this point), humans are rather the most complex organisms that we know of and are thus likely the only known intelligence that seeks these existential questions. It is only in the complexity of our intelligence that we begin to be the “image of god”. I am sure that other animals flirt with this level of intelligence and spiritual self-awareness, though to a lesser extent than man. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was found other apes or dolphins/whales have something similar to “religous” belief (I remember reading a study that suggests dolphins do), and we certainly know that other early human species had religous beliefs. Thus, it is our introspective reason that elevates us towards the “image of god”. Well, that’s at least my 2 cents, try having a bad trip on magic mushrooms maybe you’ll find that your perspective on all matters of existence changes.

  7. God could have used any means to create the universe. These include Young Earth Creation, Progressive Creation ( Common Ancestry and Non-Common Ancestry) as well as Evolutionary Creation also know as BioLogos. I leave my mind upon to all these views. Let us say that I accept Intelligent Design Theory. God spoke and Jesus, the Word, created by some means. I believe that God created more human beings than Adam and Eve. They were are federal representatives. When they sinned, sin passed to all. Cain found a wife because God created other humans than just two. Charles E. Miller, BA in German Studies; MA in Religion

  8. I have made one mistake in my previous statement. The sentence should read: They were our federal representatives. C. Miller

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