Thursday, June 20, 2013

Americans, Evolution, and What Their Churches Actually Teach

An interesting survey on the MIT web site contrasts the views of Americans who reject evolution compared with the officially stated positions of their churches.

46% of Americans state that they believe that human beings were created by God in their current form sometime in the last 10,000 years. The usual interpretation is that these Americans are blindly following the teachings of their respective churches. In fact, only 11% of Americans belong to churches that openly reject evolution.

The paper lists official statements by the major religions in the US. The current statements on the subject by the Catholic church are fairly typical:

"there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of faith"

"it is important to set proper limits to the understanding of scripture, excluding any unreasonable interpretations"

The Rabbinical Council of America, the group established by the orthodox Jewish community, issued a similar statement in 2005:

In light of the ongoing public controversy about Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design, the RCA notes that significant Jewish authorities have maintained that evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, nor with the first 2 chapters of Genesis.

There are authentic, respected voices in the Jewish community that take a literalist position with regard to these issues; at the same time, Judaism has a history of diverse approaches to the understanding of the biblical account of creation. As Rabbi Joseph Hertz wrote, "While the fact of creation has to this day remained the first of the articles of the Jewish creed, there is no uniform and binding belief as to the manner of creation, i.e. as to the process whereby the universe came into existence. The manner of the Divine creative activity is presented in varying forms and under differing metaphors by Prophet, Psalmist and Sage; by the Rabbis in Talmudic times, as well as by our medieval Jewish thinkers."