Monday, May 30, 2011

Imams join clergy and rabbis in supporting Evolution

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Religious evolution cartoon

After nearly 13,000 Christian clergy and 500 Jewish rabbis have signed open letters denying any conflict between their faiths and Evolution, it’s now the turn of Islamic imams, with nearly 250 signatories preaching the collusion of religion and science:

The Imam Letter, launched this week in the US, is the latest challenge to fundamentalists of the three Abrahamic religions who reject evolution in favour of creationism. The Clergy Letter was launched in 2006 and now has 12,725 signatures, followed three years ago by the Rabbi Letter, which has 476 signatures.

Like its predecessors, the Imam Letter explains why it's OK for believers to accept the truth of evolution. It also calls for a ban on creationist teaching in science classes. "As imams, we urge public school boards to affirm their commitment to the teaching of the science of evolution," says the letter, written by T. O. Shanavas, a doctor in Michigan and member of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg, Ohio.

"It shows that evolution and science can transcend what some people see as quite deep religious divisions, providing a unifying factor representing common ground between them," says Michael Zimmerman of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, the architect of the Clergy Letter Project. "Christians are really excited about the Muslim letter," he says. "They realise that Islam is just as fractured as Christianity, with just as many people who take their scriptures out of context to deny the truth of evolution."

Recently, for example, an imam in London was hounded out of his mosque and has suffered death threats for openly declaring support for Darwinism. Likewise, in Christian communities, especially in the US, fringe fundamentalists continue to push for teaching of creationism in science classes.

Now, sure, it’s all just wishy-washy acceptance of an ultimately failed coalition between faith and logic. Sure, all these well-intentioned signatories still believe in unscientific weirdness. Sure, they’re still quite wrong about many things – they wouldn’t be religious clerics otherwise. And sure, this will most likely not have any real, tangible effects, at least in the short run, as a few thousand religious leaders will hardly be sufficient in curbing the mentalities of those peskily intransigent fundamentalists who’d sooner die than accept any shred of reality. But, as always, I’m a firm believer that small steps in the right direction – even baby tip-toe steps, if that – are always better than no advancement at all, and certainly preferable to outright regression.

Women didn’t earn the ability to vote overnight, and the United States wasn’t desegregated after one single public manifestation. This is progress, one way or the other, and it can only be encouraged.

(via The Daily Grail)