I am going to talk at one of our local churches on Science and Religion today. I'll report back here a bit later in the day. The message to be featured in the bulletin is located here.
Well, I have to say that the experience was enjoyable. The group I spoke to was from a Lutheran church and I must say that they started with many of the typical misconceptions about science in general and evolution in particular. The big difference is that the group was interested in learning more about the issue. I guess the biggest surprise was how few knew about recent cases in Dover and Kansas despite the 'press' it received among those of us who follow these things. Most were sympathetic to the idea of Intelligent Design until I was able to explain how vacuous it is as a scientific endeavor. The lack of any real science to the Intelligent Design movement and their link to extreme fundamentalism is really going to continue to be a problem for their theocratic agenda. I encouraged them to read (back to back) Francis Collin's book and "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Both authors approach the idea of intelligent design from different perspectives. Dawkins is an avowed atheist and Collins a devout Christian. I think both authors are a worthwhile read no matter what your stance on religion.
There were the usual statements of disbelief such as "I can't believe we came from monkeys" or "I watch a sunset and sunrise on a perfect day and can't believe our place on earth is an accident". However, neither one of those individuals seemed particularly dogmatic about their views and when confronted with Collins' testimony on shared similarities between humans and primates, I could sense that the objections were not as strong.
We touched on the flood of Noah and I mentioned its similarity to the story found in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. At this point the pastor stepped in and also discussed the probability that Hebrews borrowed myths and legends from other cultures in the same way that we still do to this day (Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy etc). We then discussed human evolution and one person demanded to see the bones of the first human. That comment led to an interesting discussion on how evolution acts (on populations rather than individuals) and the meaning of the words "Adam and Eve". Again, the pastor stepped in and noted that Adam and Eve were not individuals, but representative of the first human populations on earth. I think that most of the people were interested in hearing this view on the origins of humans both from me and from the biblical viewpoint.
In the end, I don't know how much good (or bad) I did. I do know that this audience was interested in learning and not demanding. For my part, I tried to lead a discussion and interject with scientific knowledge when needed. I had a good time and hope to continue discussing these issues with this group or any others.