Wanted: God—Dead or Alive?

305880083_7cf2d7bf10_mIf you practice a religion faithfully—faith-fully—, why do you do this? And why is it this particular religion that you practice?

“The embarrassing fact is that most religious people seem to believe in a religion for no better reason than that their parents believed in it.” So states poet and literary critic Adam Kirsch in his review-essay “Is Reason Enough?” in The New York Review of Books (April 23, 2015). [Read more...]

The Evolution of Evolutionary Language: The Imago Dei Project

I’m a word-watcher. I like noticing which words are winning the popularity contest in our general culture, then tracing back how (and why) they achieved this winning position.

Take “development.” Folks who were once “fundraisers” are now “development directors.” Formerly “backward” countries are now “developing countries.” The United Nations promotes “sustainable development.” And so on.

“Development” is so popular because it connotes progress—a steady movement toward a worthy goal. But it didn’t begin life this way. Around 1600, “development” entered English via French, meaning “unfold.” Carrying this idea of inner latency, it was adopted by the early nineteenth century European Romantics to articulate their theories of organic growth.

Around mid-century, development’s “unfolding” picked up the idea of “progress”: of unfolding to a higher condition. And so it became a natural term for the newly emerging concepts of evolution.

Etymologically, develop and evolve are nearly identical. But eighteenth century biologists had taken “evolution” as the name for their static view that all forms of life were pre-formed by God at creation. So as pre-Darwinian concepts of progressive evolution began to emerge, “evolution” had the wrong connotations for them. “Development,” though, with its association of organic growth toward a higher state, was perfect for this vision of a changing, transforming natural universe.

[Read more...]


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