What does it mean to "teach" something? So much depends upon this basic question. If teaching is the passing on of indisputable fundamentals, and evolution is considered one such fundamental, then of course many people should be concerned about teaching evolution, not the least of whom are scientists themselves.
But if evolution is the current best scientific description for how life formed and developed on our planet, then teaching evolution is in a sense teaching the scientific method, something that scientists and people of faith can and should encourage.
So, what's the scientific method? According to Rudolph Carnap: "Science is a system of statements based on direct experience and controlled by experimental verification."
So science prioritizes direct experience, and then uses controlled methods of verification to test experience. In the case of evolutionary biology, biologists continue regularly to verify what they observe through direct experience in the natural world, and any good evolutionary biologist (which would also make them a good scientist) would tell you that if direct experience and experimental verification led to a new theory, they'd be the first to embrace it.
Theories are not fictions or fairy tales. They're the best current explanation we have for what is.
Much the same can be said of theology (which is why theology is actually one of the sciences). The methods for testing theological truth claims are of course different from the methods for testing biological truth claims. Nevertheless, theology is not settled, and it is always developing.
This is why any good theologian, and really any good pastor, should teach evolution. Because evolutionary theory is the scientific communities current best explanation for all that lives and why and how it lives, and bringing that direct experience into conversation with the theology that emerges from reflection on Scripture and the life of the church is perhaps the best way to shed even clearer light both on the doctrine of creation (theologically speaking) and the theory of evolution (biologically speaking).
This is to say, doctrine is also a theory. Theology is also a science.
A parishioner recently wrote something I believe to be so very true.
"To me, in life, there is nothing more dangerous than fanaticism. Doesn’t matter if
you’re a fanatic creationist or a fanatic evolutionary scientist, or fanatic anything.
We are not doing anyone any favors by thinking black-or-white. Questions are
healthy and welcome, in science and in faith. Open your mind. The Bible was not
written to be a scientific text – and yet the mythical creation story has many parallels (albeit poetic ones) to how the science community views the origins of our uni-
There are a couple of claims in here worth expanding. First, it really is the case that as far as we can tell, the original intent of the authors of Genesis was not to give a literal scientific account of creation, but a mythopoetic one. We should not ask of Genesis 1 something it was never written to give.
Second, questions are healthy and welcome, in science and in faith. That's why bringing evolution and Scripture into fruitful conversation is so beneficial. We learn more about both, deepening both our faith and our abilities as scientists.
Third, the creation story does have many parallels to how the scientific community views the origins of our universe today. Even beyond evolutionary biology, there are fascinating parallels between Genesis 1 and current quantum theory.
It is also true that we sometimes do not fully comprehend the implications of revolutions in scientific worldview until much after they take place. In this way, quite a bit of the scientific worldview is a form of faith. Often, as a pastor, I wish both sides of this conversation, the scientists and the Christians, might see how much overlap there is between their forms of thought, they're hopes and goals.
As They Might Be Giants sing, Science is Real. And so is faith.