As Jonathan Dudley pointed out in his recent column (“Evolution Sunday not so benign,” 1/24), hundreds of Christian churches across America will celebrate Darwin’s theory on Feb. 11.

Why will they do this? A little background is helpful here.

Evolution can mean many things. Broadly speaking, it means simply change over time, something no sane person doubts. In biblical interpretation, it can mean that God created the world over a long period of time rather than in six 24-hour days. In biology, it can mean minor changes within existing species, which we see happening before our eyes.

But Darwin’s theory claims much more — namely, that all living things are descended from a common ancestor and that their present differences are due to unguided natural processes such as random variations and survival of the fittest. It is not evolution in general, but Darwin’s particular theory (Darwinism) that Evolution Sunday celebrates. That’s why it is timed to coincide with Charles Darwin’s birthday.

The idea originated with University of Wisconsin evolutionary biologist Michael Zimmerman after a Wisconsin school board adopted the following policy in 2004: “Students are expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information. Students shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of Creationism or Intelligent Design.”

Zimmerman called the policy a decision “to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance.”

But experiments have consistently failed to support the hypothesis that variations (including those produced by genetic mutation) and selection (natural or artificial) can produce new species, organs and body plans. And what may have once looked like solid evidence for universal common ancestry (fossils, embryos and molecular comparisons) is now plagued by growing inconsistencies. It is actually the Darwinists who brush aside these awkward facts who “embrace scientific ignorance.”

Not only did Zimmerman oppose analyzing Darwinism’s strengths and weaknesses, but he also appealed to Christian churches for help. Why?

Polls have consistently shown that about 40 percent of Americans believe God created the human beings in their present form a few thousand years ago, while another 45 percent believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms but that God guided the process. Despite their differences, both of these groups accept a central tenet of Christian theology: Human beings were designed and created in the image of God.

Darwinism denies this.

Darwin himself wrote that he could see “no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the winds blow.” Although he could not “look at the universe as the result of blind chance,” Darwin saw “no evidence of beneficent design, or indeed of design of any kind, in the details.” Thus, asserts Darwinist George Gaylord Simpson, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned.”

Less than 15 percent of Americans accept this view. Yet Darwinists depend heavily on American taxpayers for their financial support. Enlisting Christian clergy to defend “science” or “evolution” is a tactic used to perpetuate that support.

For example, Eugenie Scott directs a militantly pro-Darwin organization euphemistically named the National Center for Science Education. As an acknowledged humanist, Scott rejects the Christian worldview, yet she wrote in 2002: “I have found that the most effective allies for evolution are people of the faith community. One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists at a school board meeting any day!”

To reach skeptics of Darwinism, Scott recommends sugarcoating evolution as change over time. Only after she gets people nodding in agreement to the obvious fact that “the present is different from the past” does Scott introduce them to “The Big Idea” — namely, Darwin’s theory. Organizers of Evolution Sunday use the same bait-and-switch.

The vast majority of Americans reject Darwinism for good reasons: It doesn’t fit the scientific evidence, and it contradicts a central tenet of Christianity. Instead of using Evolution Sunday to celebrate Darwin, churches should use the day to reaffirm the creatorship of God and the value of good science — which includes studying the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory.

Jonathan Wells has a doctorate in religious studies from Yale and a doctorate in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.”