Sunday, September 16, 2007

More News on Richard Colling...And A Good Idea

Richard Colling has also been exchanging comments on Henry Neufeld's blog, Threads From Henry's Web. I would recommend adding Henry's blog to your blogroll lists, particularly if you are at all interested in thoughts on the intersection of science and theology. Colling's comment to Neufeld is another straight-from-the-heart account of the current situation at Olivet Nazarene University, where his book has been banned from classroom use and he is no longer allowed to teach the biology class - simply because he has a theistic view of evolution. Colling has also been posting at The Panda's Thumb...with some encouraging news:

Actually, the feedback I have received in the past few days has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Only one hate mail this morning. I thanked her for taking the time to communicate her views to me.

The students and alums who know me are really beginning to mobilize. I heard that the president’s office is receiving many very upset phone calls and emails from people supporting me and my work. Remember, I have been here for 26 years loving and caring and investing my life in the lives of my students. Calculate ~25 major graduating each year for 26 years. This translates into a large number of alumni who know that these accusations of eroding the faith of students with my book or teaching is a complete fundamentalist fabrication.

(Anyone surprised that fundamentalists are fabricating issues and evidence?). The good news is that Colling seems to now be getting support from students, faculty and parents who actually know something about the subject of his courses rather than his critics who are largely making it up as they go. An anonymous reader on my previous post suggested another good strategy that Colling's supporters might want to try:

If I were a student on Dr. Colling's campus, I'd try to organize a peaceful gathering on the quad or under the flagpole, where his book would be read aloud, paragraph by paragraph, to anyone who would listen.

An absolutely fantastic idea! We have enough prayer-around-the-flagpole events anyway...why not one is support of an earthly cause for a change?

There is another theme running through all these emails, posts and comments regarding Colling's situation - his teaching is not at odds in the least with Church of the Nazarene theology. Another anonymous reader indicated the following:

THERE IS NOTHING IN OUR DOCTRINE OR MANUAL OF BELIEF THAT CONTRADICTS EVOLUTIONARY THEORY! We believe that God created the Earth, but we have never had the small-minded, rather stupid view that He could not use evolution to do that. And no one I know, at least in our local church, holds to a 'young earth' viewpoint. Nor is that view an accepted one in our doctrine. That is one of the saddest things about Dr. Colling's plight--that he is being pilloried for teaching biology in a way that does not even contradict our doctrine.

Professor Colling said as much again in his comment on Threads From Henry's Web:

They can’t stand the apparent public endorsement of evolution in spite of the fact that our denomination and university statements are fully accepting of verifiable scientific discoveries - including evolution. I teach all my biology courses with accuracy and integrity, and then encourage those students who come from the more conservative homes to keep an open mind. I try to help them explore ways in which these remarkable evolutionary mechanisms might actually be considered compatible (or at least not inconsistent with) with belief in God. This approach to teaching is shared by all the biology faculty here.

This is really the crux of the problem. Whether or not you believe in a deity, the fact is that MOST theologies do not have an issue with evolutionary theory, or the fossil record, or the fact that Lucy may have been one of our ancestors. The problem starts when an ignorant few suddenly decide they are going to re-interpret standard theology to make it appear that churches have an issue with evolution. I know a lot of people often cite my former, Catholic Church as a light of evolutionary acceptance, but I can no longer accept that description. Despite Pius (who was lukewarm toward evolution, I grant you), despite John Paul, despite Benedict's recent proclamations, there are many(mostly American) Catholic writers who seem to still insist that, "No, that's not what they meant....the only science Catholic doctrine really supports is intelligent design". And these writers are gaining more ground within the Catholic pews than all three popes put together. They are, in effect, attempting to re-package theology so that it is more accepting of their personal views.

And Colling and others are right to worry about the long-term effect this theological insistence on anti-science will ultimately have on the long-term survival of Christianity. Many of us were pushed toward atheism (or at least, out of organized religion) largely because the loudest voices in the church still promote faulty science (be it creationism, erroneous "biblical" archaeology, or something else). If church leaders (and supporters) can fabricate science, then what other aspects of doctrine (historical, theological, or otherwise) are they also fabricating?

1 comment:

Henry Neufeld said...

Thanks for the link and also for this:


Many of us were pushed toward atheism (or at least, out of organized religion) largely because the loudest voices in the church still promote faulty science (be it creationism, erroneous "biblical" archaeology, or something else). If church leaders (and supporters) can fabricate science, then what other aspects of doctrine (historical, theological, or otherwise) are they also fabricating?


I frequently have discussions with other teachers and pastors who believe that they will somehow "protect" people's faith by avoiding controversial topics. "Why take a stand about evolution?" I'm asked, even by people who are quite convinced of the facts.

The reason one must make such a statement is that if we're quiet (by we, meaning religious teachers of all sorts), it will be assumed that we support one of the versions of creationism, and we become part of this big lie. There is nothing to drive people away from whatever one is advocating than lying about it.

I very much appreciate also your statements in your "About me" paragraph. That's what science is about; it's why I admire scientists so much and why I believe it is incredibly important to protect the integrity of science. I never worry about the other beliefs (religious or not, political persuasion) of someone for whom integrity is a sacred creed.

Apologies for the long comment--I'm not good at brevity.