Evolution Sunday: Groothuis Responds
Church makes evolutionary change over time
February 12, 2007
Here's a neat historic twist: Sunday, in the same Denver sanctuary where William Jennings Bryan, that fiery foe of evolution, is believed to have thundered out an oration 96 years ago, the Rev. Mark Meeks was celebrating a new national church movement called . . . Evolution Sunday.
"I don't need a religion that explains everything, or a sacred text that conforms to my understanding," Meeks told 60 worshippers at Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church, 1100 Fillmore St.
"Scientific exploration can help us understand our religion," continued Meeks, a cozy, bearded presence in a well-seasoned fleece sweater.
On the other side, he said, are biblical literalists who believe "the world came to be 6,000 years ago, already ripe, so to speak . . . They make an idol of the sacred texts, trying to reduce God to our own understanding."
The Bryan link? It's a fanciful but fun stretch. Legend has it that Bryan came to the Capitol Heights church to stemwind at its 1911 opening. Fourteen years later, he was the legendary prosecutor of evolution teacher John Scopes.
Nearly 100 years later, Bryant is nearly forgotten, while the fight over evolution has proved to be timeless.
About a dozen Colorado churches took part in Evolution Sunday, a movement begun last year by Michael Zimmerman, a dean at Butler University in Indianapolis. He's collected 10,000 clergy signatures supporting evolution over creationism.
Nor do the Evolution Sunday supporters like the "intelligent design" theory, says Doug Groothuis, a Denver Seminary philosophy professor who himself writes and debates extensively in support of intelligent design.
"By examining the evidence empirically," Groothuis says, "intelligent design people appeal to certain features of nature that they think are better understood according to a designing mind rather than some mindless process."
But to Evolution Sunday-goers, notions of a grand designer threaten to undermine the science.
"It fosters contempt for scientists in general, and voters are worried scientists aren't doing real science, and so they slash science funding, which is so important to this country," warned Cathy Russell, an evolutionary biologist who celebrated Sunday at her Boulder church.
By the way, Evolution Sunday is pegged to the birthday of Charles Darwin, who turns 200 in two years. (Imagine that celebration.) Russell will be there: "I'm totally passionate about this."
torkelsonj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5055