Churches urged to challenge Intelligent Design
Scientists trying to prevent US schoolchildren from being taught to doubt the theory of evolution are seeking to recruit churches to back them up.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has said it is concerned at moves by some evangelical churches to have the idea of "intelligent design" forced onto the science curriculum in several American states.
Their call follows "Evolution Sunday" where 450 Christian churches celebrated the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin last week.
"The faith community needs to step up to the plate," said Eugenie Scott, the director of the National Centre for Science Education, during a news conference at the AAAS's annual meeting in Missouri.
She said that the idea that you were either a Christian creationist or a "bad guy atheist" was toxic, but continued to be believed by many people.
Gilbert Omenn, the president of the AAAS, said that it was time to recognise that science and religion should never be pitted against one another.
The board of education in the state of Ohio last week backed down on plans to include in its science curriculum a model lesson plan teaching intelligent design.
A similar controversy in Pennsylvania last year resulted in a school board in Dover, which had approved the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in biology lessons, being voted out after 11 parents brought a federal court case. The judge ruled that the lesson plan violated the principle of separation between religion and state.
Senior scientists and theologians were amongst those welcomed the landmark decision.
Fourteen other US states are nonetheless preparing to consider Bills which scientists fear would compromise the teaching of evolution.
Some pastors of mainstream Christian churches, both Protestant and Catholic, have already showed themselves willing to line themselves up on the side of the scientists.
During the celebration of 'Evolution Sunday' churches said that Darwin`s theory of biological evolution was compatible with faith and that Christians had no need to choose between religion and science.
Many churches held adult education and Sunday school classes on evolution, and ministers preached that followers of Christ do not have to choose between biblical stories of creation and evolution.
A variety of denominational and non-denominational churches, including Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Congregationalist, United Church of Christ, Baptist and a host of community churches, participated in the event.
It followed an initiative by Warren Eschbach, a retired Church of the Brethren pastor and professor at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, who helped sponsor a letter signed by more than 10,000 other clergy.
"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," the clergy wrote.
The letter urged school boards across the country to "preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge."