Friday marks the birthday of Charles Darwin. While it might seem an unlikely place for some, those wishing to celebrate the life of the great British naturalist and his theory of natural selection might want to head to church Sunday.
Each year, on the Sunday closest to Darwin’s birthday, pastors from around the country celebrate Evolution Sunday by speaking from the pulpit about Darwin’s contribution to our understanding of the world.
Michael Zimmerman, dean of Butler University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Indiana and an evolutionary biologist by training, is the creator of Evolution Sunday and the founder of The Clergy Letter Project. The letter in question, now signed by more than 13,000 religious leaders, states that those signing it accept evolution as a foundational scientific truth:
We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.
The full text of the letter can be found here.
The purpose of Evolution Sunday is to demonstrate that Christians and those of other faiths can embrace both God and evolution. While fundamentalists may oppose anything but a literal translation of the Bible, Zimmerman started the project in 2004 as a reminder that most mainstream faiths prefer to embrace religion and science.
More than 850 scientists have volunteered to be consultants to clergy seeking assistance in understanding some of the scientific concepts, hopefully improving communication between what is too often cast as two opposing sides.
This year, 841 churches from all 50 states, Washington DC, and 12 countries are celebrating Darwin’s theories with their Sunday sermons.
On a related note, National Geographic has a cool article on Darwin’s DNA, which traces his genetic ancestry to his paternal ancestors from their migration out of northeast Africa to the Middle East or North Africa around 45,000 years ago.