American Buddhists join the Clergy Letter Project asking for the teaching of Evolution in public schools
On August 29, 2012 At 1:02 pm
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Clergy who want science, including Evolution in schools, created the Clergy Letter Project and the chosen theme for this years “Evolution Weekend” is “Religion and Science” and marks the seventh year for the gathering of clergy to discuss science.
Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. An ongoing goal has been to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic, and to show that religion and science are not adversaries. Rather, they look at the natural world from quite different perspectives and ask, and answer, different questions.
Religious people from many diverse faith traditions and locations around the world understand that evolution is quite simply sound science; and for them, it does not in any way threaten, demean, or diminish their faith in God. In fact, for many, the wonders of science often enhance and deepen their awe and gratitude towards God.
They believe that modern science, including Evolution, and religion are in harmony with each other.
“If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims or adopt them as metaphor.” ~ The Universe in a Single Atom, Tenzin Gyatso – The Dalai Lama
The Unitarian Universalist clergy write, “Fundamentalists of various traditions, who perceive the science of evolution to be in conflict with their personal religious beliefs, are seeking to influence public school boards to authorize the teaching of creationism. We see this as a breach in the separation of church and state. Those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Biblical account of creation are free to teach their perspective in their homes, religious institutions, and parochial schools. To teach it in the public schools would be to assert a particular religious perspective in an environment which is supposed to be free of such indoctrination.”
The Christian Clergy state that unlike the Evangelical Fundamentalist, not all Christians read the Bible literally, at least not as they would a science textbook, even though all Christians do take the Bible seriously.
Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. 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.
Like the Unitarian and Jewish clergy, they urge public schools to teach Evolution and not Creationism. They also ask that science remain science and declare that science knowledge is different from religion.
The Jewish clergy see the teaching of Creationism as a breach of the U. S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s Separation of Church and State.
The Bible is the primary source of spiritual inspiration and of values for us and for many others, though not everyone, in our society. It is, however, open to interpretation, with some taking the creation account and other content literally and some preferring a figurative understanding. It is possible to be inspired by the religious teachings of the Bible while not taking a literalist approach and while accepting the validity of science including the foundational concept of evolution. It is not the role of public schools to indoctrinate students with specific religious beliefs but rather to educate them in the established principles of science and in other subjects of general knowledge.
The American Buddhist Clergy join the other clergy in this letter writing, as they quote the Dalai Lama and declare that Buddhism is “primarily a rational religion”.
In the first sentence of their letter, the Buddhist clergy explain that Buddhist teachings are “intended to help all sentient beings to live a life of integrity in harmony with reality.” While Evolution is not explicitly taught in the Buddhist faith, “it is implicit in the core teaching of interdependent origination, which demonstrates that all things are interconnected and contingent upon one another for their form and development.”
In their creation story, the author(s) do not rely upon a creator deity. They even call their ancient Indian stories “fables” and admit that they do not take the incarnations of animals to humans as literal history, but instead consider them as metaphor, which “describes the evolving nature of life”.
In fact, the concept of Buddha itself is best understood as a symbol for humanity’s evolutionary potential. For all of these reasons, we admonish public school boards to affirm their commitment to teaching the science of evolution.
Michael Zimmerman stated that the sad part of about this announcement “is the sad fact that due to the incessant drumbeat of religious fundamentalism there has to be an announcement at all.”
[A]cross America today, and in a growing portion of the rest of the world, modern science is under attack by those who would prefer that we return to a pre-scientific society, a society in which wishes trump evidence and in which ignorance attempts to dominate knowledge.
According to him, the Evangelical Fundamentalist need to literalize religious text and demand that their adherents choose between literalized fables and modern science is the crux of the cultural war. He also stated that literalists reject modern science because it contradicts religious metaphors used in pre-scientific societies, “turning the world upside-down” in an effort to throw back in to the Dark Ages.
However, he also states the Clergy Letters dramatically show that the religious do not need to reject their religious faith in order to accept “scientific enlightenment”.
Even he agreed with the clergy writing these letters that the radical religionists are attempting to control public education, manipulate policy, and indoctrinate students.
The Clergy Project, albeit mostly Western religions at this point, welcomes the American Buddhist clergy in their efforts to get public schools to teach Evolution.
Various churches, such as the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and United Methodist Church, endorse the Clergy Letter Project. Michael Zimmerman is the founder and executive director of The Clergy Letter Project. Finally, the website for the Clergy Letter Project was created in conjunction with the Center for Inquiry, Austin and together, the Secular group and the religious group launched a website called, “Teach Them Science”.