Science

Seminaries Awarded $1.5 million to Include Science in Coursework

Jennifer Wiseman, director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion. Photo via Deryck Chan, Wikimedia Commons/RNS.

Responding to a real or perceived gap between science and faith, 10 U.S. seminaries will receive a combined $1.5 million in grants to include science in their curricula, the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced Oct. 8.

A diverse set of Christian seminaries will be awarded grants ranging from $90,000 to $200,000 provided by the John Templeton Foundation, which has funded various efforts to bridge science and faith, including $3.75 million to AAAS for the project.

“Many (religious leaders) don’t get a lot of science in their training and yet they become the authority figures that many people in society look up to for advice for all kinds of things, including issues related to science and technology,” said Jennifer Wiseman, director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion.

Indeed, evangelical Protestants are more than twice as likely as other Americans to say they would turn to a religious text, a religious leader or people at their congregation if they had a question about science, a study released by AAAS earlier this year suggested.

Some Americans Still Monkeying Around on Science Education

Colloquially known as the “Monkey Trial,” the Tennessee v. John Scopes trial ended on July 21, 1925, but 89 years later, the American public is still debating on where it stands with religion and science education.

John Scopes, a public school teacher, was charged by the state for teaching evolution because one of its laws prohibited any public school curricula that contradicted creationism. The trial began on July 10, 1925, and Scopes pled not guilty. Along with other members of the community, Scopes had planned the curriculum as a publicity stunt.

Eighty-nine years ago today, Scopes was found guilty and sentenced to pay a $100 fine — an estimated $1,300, when adjusted for inflation.

 

A Noah State of Mind

AS THIS IS written, the big, fat Hollywood blockbuster Noah is opening amid condemnation from some Muslims and evangelical Christians and praise from most film critics.

Today, any product that touches the Bible is bound to be perceived as another entry in the culture wars. But that doesn’t seem to be what the producers and filmmakers had in mind with Noah. After all, it’s time-tested public domain material that presents great opportunities for computer-generated imagery (CGI) special effects. Paramount, the studio that put up the $125 million production cost, mostly wanted to peel off a slice of the Christian audience that flocked to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and the History Channel’s Bible series.

But Noah was a culture war surrogate long before Russell Crowe donned his biblical robes. That’s because the creationist organization Answers in Genesis (AiG), which runs an anti-evolution Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, has for the past few years been trying to raise money to build a theme park anchored by a Bible-sized replica of Noah’s Ark. The Creation Museum is famous for such attractions as exhibits that depict humans and dinosaurs as neighbors. You may have heard it described as the museum for people who think The Flintstones was reality TV.

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Resurrection: Calculating the Probabilities

Easter Sunday image by Adam Howie / CreationSwap.com
Easter Sunday image by Adam Howie / CreationSwap.com

The end of the Gospel of Mark is, shall we say, indecisive. Mark’s account of the resurrection begins with the women going to anoint Jesus’ body and discovering the stone rolled away, Jesus’ body gone missing, and “a young man, dressed in a white robe” sitting in the tomb. This man tells them not to be alarmed, as if that’s possible under the circumstances, and announces that Jesus “has been raised.” The young man instructs them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus will meet them in Galilee. Really? Our dead friend is arranging a meet-up via an angel-gram? I think I’d react the same way the women do in verse 8: “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Here is the note that appears in my NRSV Bible at the end of verse 8, which is followed by one more verse, the so-called “shorter ending of Mark:”

Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9-20. In most authorities verses 9-20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful.

I’m doubtful, too, but not because no one seems to know how the Gospel writer wanted to end his Gospel. But because doubt seems to be the reaction du jour. In the longer ending, we find out that the women break their silence, but those who are “mourning and weeping” for Jesus “would not believe it.” Mark tells us Jesus appeared to “two of them, as they were walking in the country.” But when they “told the rest,” again “they did not believe them.” This is completely understandable because resurrection cannot be considered part of normal experience, no matter what century you are living in. And yet the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection want us to believe in the reality of it, that Jesus appeared to them and they could experience his dead-yet-aliveness, normal human beings though they were.

As Fox-TV Re-creates 'Cosmos' Series, Carl Sagan's Following Grows

“Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” airs March 23 on Fox. Photo courtesy of Fox Broadcasting. Via RNS

Many viewers may be hoping that Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey lives up to the original series created by astronomer Carl Sagan 35 years ago.

But no one will watch the program, airing Sunday on Fox, with greater anticipation than nonbelievers — atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other “nones.”

Among this group, many credit Sagan and the original Cosmos with instilling in them skepticism of the supernatural and a sense of wonder about the universe. Both, they say, encouraged their rejection of institutional religion.

Humanists are especially eager. They claim Sagan as their own, and see in the Cosmos series — a multipart journey to the outer reaches of our universe — and in his dozen books a vibrant strain of their own philosophy. That philosophy favors reason over religion and holds human beings as both good and responsible for the Earth’s plight.

Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design And THE Problem Of Animal Suffering (Interview With Ron Osborn)

Osborn is an adjunct professor in the Department of International Relations at the University of Southern California. His articles have appeared in a variety of popular as well as scholarly publications including Commonweal, First Things, Sojourners, Review of International Studies, and Politics and Religion. Osborn’s writing has been shaped in important ways by his experiences growing up in Thailand, Taiwan, and Zimbabwe to missionary parents. His first book, Anarchy and Apocalypse: Essays on Faith, Violence, and Theodicy (2010), defends a distinctive form of nonviolent nonconformity with power or Christian anarchism.

Science Group, Evangelicals Push New Collaboration

More scientists are religious than the general public realizes, a new study finds. Photo Courtesy of NASA via Shutterstock

Scientists and Christian evangelicals can collaborate for the good of society but it will take some serious effort, experts said as they launched a new campaign to change perceptions between the two groups.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and its Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion program released a major research project on Sunday, at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago, and announced an upcoming series of conferences mixing believers, scientists, and many who are both.

The massive survey of views on God, religion, science included 10,241 respondents and took a particularly close look at the views of evangelicals and people in science-related occupations.

'Ham on Nye' Debate Doesn't Reflect Reality

Courtesy Answers in Genesis
Courtesy Answers in Genesis

Whenever I hear about someone else making a case for Young Earth Creationism in the name of Christianity, I’m embarrassed, once again, to associate myself with them. And people wonder why many of us prefer to identify as “Jesus followers” or “Spiritual but not Religious” rather than be lumped in with the Ken Hams of the world.

Duh.

The thing is, a healthy number of us who consider ourselves to be Christian embrace science. We think critically. We accept the likelihood that much we think we understand about the world, the universe, and about our faith can (and should) change as we learn new things. We understand that faith is more about questions than answers, and that the prime mover in our faith practice is to be more like Jesus in our own daily walk, rather than focusing so much on making others more like us.

The desire of a vocal minority (yes, that’s what I said, and I meant it) of Christians to cling to a notion that the entire universe is a few thousand years old, despite the clear physical evidence to the contrary, points less to a reasonable alternate view of the observable world. Rather, it points to a desperate attempt to maintain a dying voice in the cultural conversation.

Talking to Evangelicals About Climate Change

IN 2013, Sojourners commissioned a messaging study to contribute to the creation care movement—the Christian response to climate change. We polled nearly 1,100 people, oversampling for evangelical Christians, since evangelicals can be politically effective when activated on justice issues, as they have been on immigration, HIV/AIDS, and human trafficking.

Our goal was not only to learn evangelicals’ attitudes about climate change, but also to explore which messages are most compelling so we can better communicate on the issue and make an effective difference for God’s creation.

The first thing we learned was that many of the common stereotypes about evangelicals and climate change simply aren’t true. For one thing, the majority of evangelicals we surveyed (60 percent) agree that climate change is happening, and most say that human activity plays a role.

Second, one’s position on climate change is better predicted by political affiliation than by religion but, interestingly, evangelical Republicans are more likely to support action on climate change than non-evangelical Republicans. Young evangelicals are also more receptive to climate change messages than non-evangelical young people. And for those who don’t agree with us on climate change, there is a low level of certainty: Twenty-five percent of evangelicals are in the moveable middle, either “somewhat sure” that climate change isn’t happening or undecided. This means there’s a good chance that they already care, or that their opinion could be changed.

SO IF YOU have the opportunity to talk with someone about the greatest threat facing the health of God’s Earth and the people living on it, how do you have that conversation? To find out, we tested 10 different arguments in favor of taking action to reverse climate change.

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Ham-on-Nye Debate Pits Atheists, Creationists

Promotion photo for the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. Photo courtesy of http://www.answersingenesis.org/ Via RNS.

Bill Nye may be “The Science Guy,” but Ken Ham is the “Answers in Genesis” man, and a debate between the two over the origins of life has nonbelievers and Christians wringing their hands.

Nye, host of a beloved television science series, and Ham, president of a creationist apologetics ministry, will meet at the Creation Museum, where Ham is also the president, on Feb. 4. In what some wags are calling “the Ham-on-Nye debate,” they will weigh this question: “Is creation a viable model of origins?”

In truth, both sides answered that question long ago — Nye with Charles Darwin’s work on the origin of species and Ham with the first book of the Bible. Yet many observers — both religious and nonreligious — say the debate is a very bad idea.

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