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The Prism and the Rainbow: A Christian…

The Prism and the Rainbow: A Christian Explains Why Evolution Is Not a… (2010)

by Joel W. Martin

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God or Darwin? It is one of the most contentious conflicts of our time. It is also completely unnecessary, according to Joel W. Martin, an evolutionary biologist and ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church USA. In this slim but powerful book, Martin argues that it is not contradictory to be a practicing, faithful Christian who accepts the science of evolution. Martin finds that much of the controversy in the United States over evolution is manufactured and predicated on a complete--and sometimes willful--misapprehension of basic science. Science and religion, he says, serve different purposes and each seeks to answer questions that the other need never address. He believes that many of the polarizing debates about evolution distract from the deeper lessons of Christianity and that literal, fundamentalist readings of the Bible require the faithful to reject not just evolution but many of science's greatest discoveries. Just as the scientific explanation of rainbows is not meant to refute the biblical "rainbow" story of God's promise, evolutionary theory is not a ploy to disavow the divine. Indeed, Martin shows that the majority of Christians worldwide accept the theory of evolution. He urges his fellow Christians to refuse to participate in the intellectually stifling debate over evolution and creationism/intelligent design.… (more)



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The Prism and the Rainbow: A Christian Explains Why Evolution Is Not a Threat by Joel W. Martin. Library section 7 E: The Church in the World, Hot Button Issues. Martin, an evolutionary biologist and elder in the Presbyterian Church USA, argues that it is not contradictory to be a practicing faithful Christian and also accept the science of evolution. He says that creationists and those who believe in intelligent design willfully misapprehend basic science. Science and religion serve different purposes and when we confuse them we miss the deeper lessons of faith and deny many of science’s most major discoveries.
This book says that evolution is the only system of thought that explains how every creation of the universe fits together, from geology to molecular biology to zoology, physics to paleontology to genetics. Martin says that though it is labeled as a theory, in science the word “theory” does not imply doubt, but rather, it’s how scientists refer to a certain body of knowledge which is supported by facts, hypotheses, and all sorts of proven evidence. Early in the book he defines certain scientific key words – theory, rule, law, and hypothesis, so we understand what he’s talking about when he uses these terms in the rest of the book.
He likens the discovery of evolution to how we think of rainbows. In the Bible, a rainbow was believed to be a sign from God. Biblical writers had no idea of the science behind a rainbow, that is, raindrops acting as tiny prisms, splitting light waves into their color spectrum. Scientists did not create rainbows, they simply discovered and revealed how they are made. While we now know this, it still does not take away from the Biblical meaning of a rainbow. Regardless of how it was made, we can still see it as God’s handiwork. The same holds true for evolution.
Martin provides a chart listing whether certain religious denominations consider evolution congruent with their religious tenets. The ELCA, for example, sides with evolution along with Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, and UCC. Those which do not find evolution compatible with their religious beliefs are Southern and National Baptists, Assemblies of God, Seventh Day Adventists and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. In an appendix he presents the stances of these various denominations, which are quite revealing. He discusses the development of creationism, and how, when it was challenged, it was removed from school materials in most states. Then the creationists formed a movement they called intelligent design, which is simply creationism in sheep’s clothing. They call for a “fair and balanced” treatment of evolutionary theory in schools, while trying to hide the fact that they are religiously motivated. The courts still continue to uphold the separation of church and state as defined in the US Constitution, not admitting intelligent design in school texts. There are many well-funded web sites that tout intelligent design and this is creepy and unsettling.
Another interesting concept Martin expressed was the fact that through the entire Bible the idea of oneness, of peoples coming together, is stressed. Any belief that denies this sacred oneness, is incorrect. Evolution’s most important finding is that all animals and plants come from one unifying source – the Big Bang. Science did not INVENT the Big Bang nor evolution nor rainbows. It has REVEALED them, but that does not remove God from the history of life on earth. Explained another way, Martin says, “The fact that the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa – revealed by the science of astronomy – does not removed God from our universe. The relatedness among all forms of life on Earth, humans included, and the diversification of life over millions of years – revealed in the science of evolution – does not remove God from the history of life, or from our lives.” To me, that is not only comforting but exciting, and reason for joy.
This book is easy to understand – you don’t have to be a scientist to do so. It’s clearly written and authoritative. Read the first few chapters of Genesis before you begin. The last third of this book contains a useful appendix and notes supporting his text, which you will want to refer to because they are very authoritative. He also includes pithy quotations at the beginning of each chapter. Each chapter is very short, only a few pages, in which he explains one or two new concepts at a time, explaining things fully and logically. The differences between science and religion become quite clear. ( )
  Epiphany-OviedoELCA | Sep 9, 2011 |
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