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Rev. Betty W. Holley, Ph.D.
Presiding Elder Springfield-Xenia District, Ohio Conference
African Methodist Episcopal
Professor of Environmental Ethics and African American Religious Studies
Payne Theological Seminary
Thoughts on Human Origins
Reconciling Darwin’s theory of evolution with the Christian faith and science can be done using an interdisciplinary approach through combined knowledge from the following academic disciplines: cosmology, geology, biology and theology. Cosmological, geological, biological evolutions are not in conflict with the beliefs of mainline Protestantism. Evolution affords the opportunity to view the Christian faith in a unique and different way.
Science and religion answer very different kinds of questions about human origins. It has been my experience in my pastorate, with a background in environmental ethics, that it is better to keep science and the Christian faith separate; using knowledge from both to answer two very different sets of questions. Religion aids in grappling with questions of “why” there is life. Science answers questions of “how” life evolves on earth. The two creation accounts in Genesis give a faith-based explanation of why life exists and why there is a need to exemplify good stewardship. There is no biological information that speaks to the structure of living things in these two biblical accounts. Both religion and science help us to understand our human origins from two different vast bodies of knowledge, which can never be in conflict, if their distinctive contributions are respected.
Reflections on The Age of Humans (the Anthropocene)
The advent of the Anthropocene, the interval of time in which humankind’s activities alter the planet we inhabit, suggest the urgency to achieve effective planetary stewardship. In this twenty-first century we are facing scarcity in a phenomenal number of critical resources. Millions of people need more access to food, water, and energy to improve their material standard of living. By 2050, the prospect of these needs will indeed intensify. Challenges, especially climate change, are coming at a time when the global environment is showing signs of deterioration. As a consequent of these challenges, the question is raised: Can the planet continue to provide the same accommodating environment that has facilitated human development over the past 10,000 years?
Climate change is a sign of humankind’s driven alterations to our global environment, Earth, our only home. Climate change is the most real and urgent challenge that confronts the Anthropocene. The science facts about climate change are true, clear and real: polar icecaps are melting, sea level is rising and the planet is warming. Climate change, according to The Pentagon, is not only an environmental issue but a national security concern, due to the impact on critical resources.
Life in the twenty-first century for the Anthropocene depends upon how we inform, educate and engage the public relative to challenges climate change presents. Presently, there is climate change denialism that permeates our communities, elected officials, and even our president-elect, that must be eradicated. Fighting mass misinformation about climate change must be our effort as leaders in our various roles. Without our leadership in this endeavor, as we go further into the Anthropocene, we risk driving our planet onto a trajectory toward a state of no return.
What can we do to turn climate change around is the question we must engage when opportunities are presented in our various roles. Lifestyle changes should always be in the middle of our climate change crisis conversations. One lifestyle change that we might want to consider adopting is eating less meat, particularly, beef. Seventy percent of United States farmland is used to grow produce to feed cows. Cows produce methane gas that is released into the atmosphere; contributing to global warming. Eating chicken would be a good alternative in the meat department, if you have the need to eat meat. Changing our diet can have a great impact on the sustainability of humankind, plants and animals. Along the lines of lifestyle changes, we have a responsibility to set an example on reducing our ecological footprint. The most important lifestyle change needs to be our dialing back of consumption, particularly of carbon. Dialogues focused on consuming differently and voting for leaders, who will fight the climate change challenge, opens the door to public engagement opportunities in our seminaries, universities, denominations, civic organizations, grass root organizations, fraternities, sororities, and communities, just to name a few