Foreword from Karl Giberson: The following post is from Emily Zygiel, an honors Biochemistry major at Stonehill College, taking my Science & Belief class. On the final exam I asked the class to explore how the facts of science and the values of religion combine to their worldviews. Emily wrote the following essay, rejecting the premise of the question, the first student who has ever done that.
Emily’s discussion was so insightful that I wanted to share it on my website. It has been lightly edited.
I am a scientist. Every day, I gain a deeper understanding of nature at its most elementary level.
I am imperfect. Every day, as I gain a deeper understanding of nature, I realize how much I don’t know and will likely never know.
I am an agnostic. Every day, as I realize how much can’t be explained, I wonder if there is a god.
Wheaton College in Illinois is preparing to terminate its first tenured female African American professor, political scientist Dr. Larycia Hawkins. The charges against her--which will cost her her job-- are theological: She believes that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. Hawkins, by all reports, has been popular with students (you can read glowing comments about her on rate my professor), and her scholarship is not in question. She is also tenured, a feature of Higher Education that exists for the sole purpose of protecting scholars from the sort of witch-hunt she is experiencing.
The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, America's tiny but loud voice for Intelligent Design, is once again trotting out their thoroughly discredited argument that good science education requires that our public schools "teach the controversy." America's public schools should present the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, as well as alternative explanations for our origins. They charge that academic freedom demands that teachers be encouraged, or perhaps even required to present both sides of any scientific controversy: "At Discovery Institute, we advocate teaching the controversy about evolution. That is for several reasons. Students should learn the full range of evidence on evolution. Teaching the controversy aids in developing critical thinking. And it trains students to think like scientists."
The third Republican debate suggests that the GOP race for president may be shaking down to Ben Carson as the official "outsider" and Marco Rubio as the preferred establishment candidate. While many believe that Carson's ascendancy will be short-lived, this electoral cycle has been full of surprises. We should all hope, however, that Carson soon fades because his presidency could be an unprecedented disaster for American science.
Carson says, for example, in a widely quoted speech, that Darwin's theory of evolution "was something that was encouraged by the Adversary."
We don't talk about sin anymore.
This worries me.
For two thousand years those of us in the Judeo-Christian Tradition have wrestled with sin--a sin originating with Adam and Eve. For most of those long centuries we believed that Adam had fallen from God's favor in the Garden of Eden and God had responded by cursing the world. That legacy included a mysterious "original sin" that we are born with--a sin condemning us to hell unless wiped away by salvation. But even salvation--whether by baptism or being born again--didn't fix the problem and Christianity developed rituals, sacraments, and liturgies to remind us that we sin and must seek forgiveness. Millions of Christians still kneel every Sunday and ask God to forgive them for "things done and left undone."
The “two cultures” is all too relevant of a description of my relationship with my non-science peers. I recall a conversation I had with one of my good friends, who majored in English at Stonehill College. We argued about whether science or humanities is better in terms of resourcefulness for humans. English and the humanities provide language and discussion, creation and ideas, my friend argued. I pushed back with my belief that science is the core of life. It describes in a very physical manner how we survive, and what good is a conversation if we cannot inhale oxygen, exhale carbon dioxide, and contribute to the ecosystem that ultimately feeds our lives?
Dear President Pearsall:
The time has come to fight back against the fundamentalists who are destroying the mind--not to mention the heart and soul--of American evangelical Christianity, including your university.
You have just assumed the presidency of Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) under a dark cloud. Your predecessor, David Alexander, resigned in disgrace amidst a scandal that seems to be growing, and you unexpectedly found yourself in an office that you did not seek, confronted with problems that you did not create. The greatest of these problems was your predecessor's termination of Tom Oord, a popular professor and your school's leading scholar.
Another evangelical denomination has voted Darwin and his champions off the island.
In a story becoming all too familiar, another pro-evolution faculty member has been forced to leave his evangelical institution. Jim Stump, longtime professor of philosophy, productive scholar, and popular, award-winning teacher at Bethel College in Indiana, resigned his position in June because of pressures put on the college by its sponsoring denomination, the Missionary Church.
Right-wing conservatives in the Church of the Nazarene have driven another scholar from their ranks.
The trustees of Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) announced on June 26 the termination of Dr. Tom Oord, tenured professor of theology, ordained Nazarene elder, and lifelong member of the Church of the Nazarene.
The tragic shooting in South Carolina offers another painful reminder of American Christianity's troubled relationship with race and segregation. While it is true that most of the great abolitionists were inspired by their Christian faith, it is also true that their opponents were inspired by their Christian faith. As a result, much contemporary racism is rooted in Christianity.
Unfortunately, the Bible is not very helpful when it comes to race issues. Many have found within its pages justifications for slavery, abuse of African-Americans and segregation. Unfortunately, the divisions between the races are exacerbated, not diminished, by Christianity.