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Friday, March 31, 2006

Going to church to learn science.

The UU church in Overland Park, Kansas, is sponsoring free classes on evolutionary biology. "We hear a lot about evolution in the news, but most of us haven't taken a biology class in 10, 20, or even 50 years," says Thom Belote, the minister there (as well as my friend and occasional guest blogger here at Philocrites). "Whether you are a high school student getting ready for a test or someone who could use a refresher, this class will help you be more informed about evolution." The instructors are biology professors and science teachers.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 31 March 2006 at 7:07 AM

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March 31, 2006 03:44 PM | Permalink for this comment

This is precisely why my UU parents pulled me out of UU Sunday School in first grade.

They figured church was where to learn about things pertaining to religion, not science. As they saw it, if my Sunday School spent its limited time focusing on things that were easily available to learn elsewhere, at the cost of depriving me from exposure to things that I could learn nowhere else but church, what good was it?

The next year they enrolled me in the Congregational Sunday School instead. Not because they necessarily believed what I was being taught, but because at least it exposed me to the appropriate questions and issues, and the traditional religious answers. They figured, I can't begin determine for myself whether to dissent from some of those traditional answers (as UUs customarily have done) unless I understood them first, and as long as the UU church was teaching me evolution, it wasn't teaching me any of the questions, issues, answers, or dissents.


March 31, 2006 04:20 PM | Permalink for this comment

It doesn't appear to me that the church has replaced its Sunday School programs with biology; these are adult programs offered to the community. Of course, we're also living in very strange times when some school districts -- and, in the case of Kansas, the state board of education -- sometimes waffle about whether science can be taught in science classes.


March 31, 2006 06:47 PM | Permalink for this comment

Whoa! He didn't say the evolution course was in Sunday school. I think it's a great idea to offer courses in evolution in an area where you aren't sure to get evolution in biology classes.
What makes evolution not religion? I think if God made the world, God made evolution. God would certainly have no incentive at all to hurry the thing along -- remember, God has an infinite amount of time to grow bored silly. Especially if there's only one God -- can you imagine how boring it would be to be a lone God who tinkers?
But, seriously, as a service to the community, offering biology classes to adults and teens sounds like a very appropriate service for that part of the country.
You think some fundamentalists will show up to argue?

h sofia:

April 1, 2006 04:47 PM | Permalink for this comment

Sounds like a great idea to me - especially since it's FREE. And it's a service to the community. A lot of US Americans don't understand the fundamentals of evolution, and that hinders their ability to understand what the religious debates are about.
My church offers adult RE courses in all types of things: Spanish, Islam, Building Your Own Theology, certain types of Buddhism, Managing Finances, and so on. Among the most religious communities, the church/synagogue/mosque/temple is considered a resource to its members, meeting all kinds of needs.

Steve Caldwell:

April 2, 2006 09:27 AM | Permalink for this comment

I suspect the reason a UU congregation would teach evolution is partly the same reason a UU congregation would teach comprehensive sexuality education.

In many parts of the US (e.g. Kansas, Louisiana, etc), the only groups that has the theological freedom to teach evolution and sexuality are UU congregations.

So-called "secular" public schools don't have this theological freedom to teach evolution or sexuality because of the surrounding conservative "Bible-Belt" culture.

If public schools did their job and taught both evolution and sexuality, there would be less need for UU congregations to teach these subjects and more time to focus on more traditional religious questions in RE classes for all ages.

The resources for teaching these subjects in public schools are available on the shelf today.

For example, there is no First Amendment restriction on using the "Our Whole Lives" curriculum in public schools today. However, it would be illegal to do so in Louisiana (the curriculum says something positive about homosexuality and it mentions abortion). This Louisiana legal restriction doesn't affect UU and UCC congregations (who are free to teach OWL).

Christine Robinson:

April 2, 2006 04:33 PM | Permalink for this comment

I have read that the tide is turning against abstainance only sex education as parents realize that they really do want their kids to know how to avoid illness and pregnancy in the often protracted years between Middle School and Marriage. The time is ripe for our churches to begin offering a condensed version of OWL to the public. (not, of course, on Sunday morning...)

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