Biologist Ken Miller recalls first reading Darwin's famous work The Origin of the Species during the summer after high school. Despite it's revolutionary ideas about biology, Miller found the book fascinating for a completely different reason:
"The truth is during that summer I thought it was the most boring book I read the whole time, but there was one thing about that book that kept my attention, and that is that every time somebody saw me reading it they warned me about the book. They said it was dangerous. They said I should be careful. I never really understood the reason. I never understood the source of that anxiety."
Even as The Origin of Species celebrates is 150th anniversary, the same sense of distrust seems to surround the book in some religious communities. Why do they still view Darwin's book as something dangerous? As Rev. Arnold Thomas of The Riverside Church in New York City puts it:
"I think it's controversial because there are religious beliefs about creation that people hold very dearly, and people look at evolutionary science as a threat to what they have been taught to believe."
Does this mean that conflict between Christianity and science is necessary? Certainly not. Yes, Darwin's work will always be a source of anxiety for those that insist on a fully literal reading of the Bible. However, Rev. Thomas encourages us to not allow ancient texts, even those we hold sacred, to enslave our thinking. While these texts offer timeless religious wisdom, they do not require us to ignore modern scientific ideas.
PBS discusses the controversy surrounding evolution in greater detail as part of their "Evolving Ideas" series, available online at PBS.org.