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Michael Zimmerman of Clergy Letter Project Joins Atheists in Making Hay from Dubious “Petition”

David Klinghoffer


Writing for the Huffington Post, Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project has clambered onboard with atheist bloggers Jerry Coyne, P.Z. Myers, and Dan Arel to make hay from a petition effort to ban teaching evolution in public schools. As noted here yesterday, that effort is a very likely phony, transparently so, a false flag operation carried out not by evolution critics but by Darwinists.

That appears to be why the petition’s initiator, purportedly seeking signatures, sent it out to P.Z. Myers and other likeminded folks. When I checked last, the few signatures it had received were almost all joke names.

Zimmerman, unlike Coyne, Myers, or Arel, is cagey and seems to hedge on whether the petition is genuine. He writes, “Make no mistake about it. I fully understand that the petition to ban the teaching of evolution is an amateurish publicity stunt — one without any chance of becoming law.” His headline announces, “A Petition Asking Mike Pence to Ban Evolution in the Name of Religion? Utter Hogwash!” But undeterred, he uses it to plunge into a standard lecture about how his Clergy Letter proves that evolution poses no challenge to religious faith.

The simplest and politest response to such a claim is to say that it is utter nonsense. Indeed, the mere existence of The Clergy Letter Project, an organization I founded and currently lead, offers incontrovertible proof of the absurdity of this claim. The Clergy Letter Project consists of more than 14,000 members of the clergy from all corners of the United States representing a wide array of religions and denominations. Members are liberal and conservative, male and female, young and old, and represent every race and ethnicity imaginable. They have only one thing in common: they know that religion and science can be compatible and that the latter poses no threat to the former.

What’s that he said about “hogwash”? What Zimmerman has done is launched his own dubious publicity stunt on the back of another dubious publicity stunt. If the petition itself is phony, what you properly do is either point that out, or ignore it.

Obviously, a “moratorium” on teaching evolution is a stupid and wrong thing to propose (it’s the opposite of what we advise). Or rather, it would be stupid and wrong if it were offered in sincerity. But a phony proposal intended to generate scare headlines by opportunistic atheists and Darwin apologists, to dishonestly cast evolution skeptics in a false and negative light, doesn’t rise to the level of being evaluated on its merits. Zimmerman may think the petition is “hogwash” but if so, it should provide no platform for publicizing his Clergy Letter.

That having been said, I can’t let this drop without addressing Zimmerman’s own misleading stab at propagandizing for his organization. Take a moment to analyze his statement that “religion and science can be compatible and that the latter poses no threat to the former.” As Darwinists often do, he elides there the question of whether Darwinian theory, the scientific idea in question, is satisfactory as science. Or is Darwinism, like the “petition,” doubtful too? Agreed, religion is compatible with good science. Absolutely. However, is my religion or yours compatible with bad science, failed science, outdated science, any or all ideas that present themselves in the guise of “science”? That’s not a case I’d be eager to try to make.

Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter is all vague generalities, useful in efforts to cast orthodox evolutionary theory as something it’s not: a harmless fuzzball. Empirical study tells a different story. As John West shows from new polling data in our recent report “Darwin’s Corrosive Idea,” the creaky, outdated science of neo-Darwinism is indeed at odds with traditional faith, on which it has a corrosive, documented effect. On the other hand, objective evidence of design, in biology and cosmology, is both strong science and what faith traditions would expect.

Take a moment and download the report now. See for yourself.

Photo: Clergy members, © World Economic Forum ( [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.



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