It's almost axiomatic that the media focus on bad news and conflict rather than on more uplifting stories. "War Breaks Out" or "Fear of War At All Time High" are headlines that invariably capture attention. Rarely do we encounter a headline like "Peace Breaks Out!"
The same is true for areas far removed from international politics. The media, for example, has promoted the myth that there is a war between religion and science and every little skirmish is highlighted. When Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, proclaims that evolutionary theory and Christianity are incompatible, his comments receive significant coverage in news outlets around the country. On the other hand, when almost 13,000 Christian clergy sign a letter stating exactly the opposite view, urging society "to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge" it's all but impossible to gain any media traction.
You choose. Which statement is more newsworthy, a single fundamentalist minister saying what he has said many times before or almost 13,000 Christian leaders representing myriad denominations saying peace has broken out between religion and science?
Reverend Mohler simply asserted, "You cannot coherently affirm the Christian-truth claim and the dominant model of evolutionary theory at the same time," while the 13,000 boldly noted,
"We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests." You choose.
These same clergy members, and many hundreds others who are not Christians, have come together to form The Clergy Letter Project. Their goals are simple. They want to demonstrate that religion and science can comfortably, indeed intellectually profitably, coexist. They want to prove that the fundamentalist voices arguing that religion and science are at war are not speaking for thousands upon thousands of other religious leaders. And they want to raise the quality of the discourse on this topic. They want to move beyond name-calling and sound bites to meaningful discussion.
Though you may not be aware of it because the media hasn't considered the peace that has broken out between religion and science to be newsworthy, such serious conversations have already begun. For the past five years, The Clergy Letter Project has sponsored an event called Evolution Weekend and thousands of congregations in every U.S. state and from 20 countries have participated. The sixth annual Evolution Weekend is scheduled for February 11-13, 2011 and I'm asking you to join with me in challenging both the media and citizens of the world to take notice.
What's happening is a major paradigm shift. Clergy from a host of religions have decided to declare the war between religion and science over. They are stating, categorically, that their deeply held faith is not challenged by the findings of modern science. Indeed, they are saying that the exciting new scientific discoveries that arise from evolution enrich their understanding of the world and of their faith. They are proud to assert that they can accept both religion and science without having to compromise the principles of either.
This is very real, very important news whether the media recognize it as such or not.
Join with me in ensuring that we capture their attention. Thousands of people, using social media outlets, banded together to catapult Betty White onto Saturday Night Live and into a resurgence of her career. If we could do that for Betty White surely we can do that for science education.
Take a moment and send an e-mail to one of the national media outlets asking them to cover Evolution Weekend. Tweet about Evolution Weekend and ask your friends to do the same. Join The Clergy Letter Project's Facebook page and write a comment.
Spread the word and transform the world. Isn't high quality science education and a more robust respect for religion worth a moment of your time? Turn the end of the war between religion and science into the new Betty White.
Contact anyone you feel comfortable, but here are some suggestions:
1. NPR's Talk of the Nation Science Friday - fill out suggestion form at http://www.sciencefriday.com/about/contact/
2. NPR's Fresh Air - fill out suggestion form at http://help.npr.org/npr/includes/customer/npr/custforms/contactus.aspx?sid=3
3. NPR's The Diane Rehm Show - contact via firstname.lastname@example.org
4. MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show - contact via Rachel@msnbc.com
5. MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell - contact via email@example.com
6. Fox News's Fox & Friends - contact via firstname.lastname@example.org
7. Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor - contact via email@example.com
Take this simple step and make a difference -- a difference that can have a lasting effect on our understanding of both religion and science as well as on the very nature of science education for years to come.
Follow Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mzclergyletter