Evangelists hand out Darwin books

Friday, November 20, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- As she waited for a shuttle in front of Plaster Student Union at Missouri State University, student Robyn Williams almost turned down the offer of a free book.

Williams said she'd accepted so many Bibles from curbside evangelists working in front of the student union that she didn't need another.

But the book offered to her Wednesday was different.

When Williams discovered the book was Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species," she accepted it.

"He said it was a very good introduction, and it helped explain it," Williams said of the man who gave her the book.

The text of the book -- still seen by some 150 years after it was first published as an attack on the Biblical explanation of creationism -- is unchanged from the original, the people distributing the book say.

But the edition from Bridge Logos includes a 50-page introduction by Christian author Ray Comfort, who takes a creationist and Christian stance to question the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution.

Williams had no qualms about accepting the book.

"I believe they can coexist, that one isn't necessarily more right than the other, that they can work together," she said of evolutionary theory outlined in "Origin of Species" and creationist advocates who argue a higher power created life.

Comfort notes in an afterward that atheists are so upset about his introduction that they advocate ripping it from the book.

On his Living Waters ministry website, Comfort announced the reaction from atheists prompted him to stop giving interviews.

Greg Marlin coordinated the Springfield distribution that was part of what has been described as a nationwide distribution of 170,000 copies of Darwin's book at universities across the country.

Affiliated with Springfield-based Born Of Him Ministries, Marlin helped organize the give-away in cooperation with groups as varied as the Chinese Christian Student Association and the Monett Ministerial Alliance. Thirty volunteers helped hand out the books.

For his part, Marlin said he couldn't recall ever holding a copy of "Origin of Species" before the book distribution.

Several students taking copies said they'd done little more than read short sections or excerpts of Darwin's book.

"I'm not sure it's something I'd read cover-to-cover," MSU student Andrew Sherman told Marlein.

"It's something you should have on your bookshelf as a reference."

Giveaway volunteer Charlie McCord of Purdy said he'd be pleased if just a few students read Comfort's introduction.

"If one person's life has been changed because of all this, that's one person's life that has been affected," he said.

MSU biology professor John Heywood said he has a concern about what he considers a creationist strategy to use Darwin's words to criticize evolutionary theory.

"If they want to hand out creationist literature, they should be upfront, rather than camouflage it," he said

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