Century Marks

Century Marks

Evolution in the church

Some pro-evolution folks have come up with a snarky response to those who think creationism should be taught in public schools—a bumper sticker which reads, "So can I teach evolution in your church?" Paul Wallace, a professor of astronomy and physics who is now attending seminary, argues that if evolution were taught in churches, it would enhance congregants' appreciation for mystery and their understanding of God. Christians opposed to evolution are guilty of "small-god-ism." "If 'God' is not large enough to contain this universe in all its immensity and complexity and age, then it's just not God," says Wallace (Religion Dispatches, February 9).

Smells and bells

Nathan D. Mitchell says that his earliest memories of church are attached to smells: the incense, the musty odor of the cloth veiling the priest in the confessional, the  aroma of the floor wax in the corridor leading to the parish school. There is, of course, a close connection between smell and memory. Mitchell laments that so much liturgical reform and renewal makes intelligibility of the faith the centerpiece rather than sensory perception. "The unintentional consequence is a liturgy which 'explains' rather than evokes, speaks rather than sings, drones rather than dances, and skulks rather than soars" (Worship, January).

Creationism in the schools

The majority of public high school bio­logy teachers are not strong advocates of evolution in the classroom, according to a study conducted at Penn State. The study found that only 28 percent of high school biology teachers consistently follow the National Research Council recommendations, which call for introducing evidence that evolution is a reality and using evolution as a unifying theme in the curriculum. About 13 percent of teachers surveyed "explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light." Sixty percent of the teachers try to avoid controversy. They aren't strong advocates of evolutionary biology nor are they explicit proponents of nonscientific alternatives. The researchers fear that this group may be more a hindrance to scientific literacy than the much smaller number who are creationists.

Parts for sale

Our bodies may be sacred, but given the worldwide demand for organs and other body parts, they are up for sale. A kidney can be purchased in India for $15,000 or in China for $62,000. Desperate people in poor countries like Pakistan, Indonesia or India sell their body parts for a pittance. Sometimes parts are stolen from the recently dead. And sometimes people are killed for their organs (Wired, February).

Dial-up confession

A new application for smart phones is being marketed to assist Catholics in making confession. Using the Ten Commandments, the application asks a number of questions to help Catholics identify their sins, as in "Have I wished evil upon another person?" or "Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?" When the questions for self-examination are completed, users get a checklist of their sins with a suggested prayer of penance, followed by an inspirational message. A Vatican spokes­person has warned that the application, while a means of preparing for going to confession, cannot take the place of a priest (AP).