The ASA (American Scientific Affiliation) is an organization of scientists who are Christians. It has traditionally been strongly pro theistic evolution. Its most prominent member is Francis Collins. I’m also a member.
About three years ago I received the following mass mailing from the ASA’s Jack Haas (I’ve known Jack since 1990 and our exchanges have always been cordial). In this letter he describes how the ASA had, in times past, been concerned to address “the sweeping tide of scientific materialism,” but had recently decided to change its emphasis to combat young-earth creationism.
If the problem with young-earth creationism is that it is off by a few orders of magnitude about the age of the earth and universe, the problem with scientific materialism is that is off by infinite orders of magnitude about what is ultimately the nature of nature. When I received this letter, I was so upset that I decided to let my membership (which I had maintained since the 1980s) lapse. Only at the instance of some fellow ID proponents in the organization did I decide to stay.
I write this post to put into perspective Denyse O’Leary’s recent remarks about the “gutting of a spiritual tradition from within” (see here — the relevance of her remarks to the ASA cannot be missed) and to highlight that with the efforts by Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris to ramp up their propaganda for atheism since this letter by Jack Haas was written suggests that the ASA was mistaken in shifting its emphasis away from “the sweeping tide of scientific materialism.”
Lay Education Committee of the
American Scientific Affiliation
PO Box 668 ~ 55 Market Street
Ipswich, MA 01938
I am writing to report the progress of the Lay Education Committee (LEC) on the “educational package for the person in the pew designed to promote a better understanding of the place of science within a Christian worldview.”
ASA’s original concern “for the waning faith of modern youth subjected to the sweeping tide of scientific materialism” was set aside for other interests as the times changed and the organization grew larger. As a result, our direct impact on the local church has been minimal.
At the 2000 Annual Meeting at Gordon College, some members discussed the difficulties that evangelicals have with questions deemed to have both scientific and biblical input. Later, the ASA office received a letter and a substantial gift from one participant challenging us to reach out to the church laity. He noted:
[BEGIN BLOCKQUOTE]The young-earth message has bitten deeply into the evangelical culture, and people trust this message. What will it take to show people believably that the young-earth view is not the only possible one, without undermining the Christianity or sincerity of those that hold that position?[END BLOCKQUOTE]
The ASA Council directed the formation of a committee to respond to the challenge. The LEC first met at the 2001 Annual Meeting. It was decided to develop an educational package that could be adapted for church adults and high school students, Christian schools and home schools. The package will consist of a 300-page book, 60-minute DVD and teaching/study guide. At this point, much of the book has been completed and we are starting work on the DVD and teaching/study guide. Publication is expected by mid-2005 unless we run into a financial roadblock.
Much of the project is expected to be funded by foundation grants. We have already received encouraging responses. The total budget will exceed $250,000 which includes production and marketing costs. Many of us have given large blocks of time in planning, writing and management of this project. Now we need your financial help! We need your gifts both to accomplish the project and to indicate to foundations our commitment to it. At the same time, I want to express my concern that you not forget the need to support the general budget of the ASA. Executive Director Don Munro reports that member contributions are significantly down this year. Any gifts to the LEC project should be in addition to your usual ASA contribution.
I would be pleased to respond to any questions via firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for hearing me out — and for your support. Please make out your check to the ASA marked as LEC project.
For the LEC Committee