Responses to “Can a Biologist Trust an Evangelical Christian?”

As an indicator of how incendiary these issues can be, even on this small blog, my entries on a panel discussion about Christianity and evolution prompted some controversy in the comments on my original entry and the entry with a link to the audio of the event.

In other words, it will consist of a one-sided dialogue on the topic? No opposing views from scientists who haven’t “been convinced”? So much for building trust…

We were trying to build trust with the non-Christian academic community at Indiana University, and we realized that could cost us the trust of some of our fellow Christians.

I count myself among the scientists who have been convinced by the evidence for evolution and often wrestle with how this evidence and my faith can work together. I cannot speak for the other organizers of this event, but one of them signed a letter to the editor of the Indiana Daily Student in preparation for the panel discussion.

A large volume of evidence exists in favor of evolution from paleontology, genetics, and multiple other fields. If we are to make any progress on shining Christ’s light into the corridors of academia, we cannot ignore, mischaracterize, or mock this evidence or the people who have spent their careers researching it. To advocate intelligent design would, in my experience, immediately vaporize any credibility or trust we had built.

To be fair, I wouldn’t like it if a bunch of intelligent design supporters had a “panel discussion” under the guise of promoting trust between science and Christians. It’s not helpful on either side of the debate to do this sort of “let us explain how you’re wrong” thing.

Our goal was not a debate; our goal was to reach across the gap that currently separates many in the scientific community form the Kingdom of God.

In practical terms, if we wanted to find a scientist who was “not convinced” by the evidence for evolution, I think we would have wanted someone who is doing active, high-quality research in biology like Dr. Jeff Hardin, our panelist from the University of Wisconsin.

I don’t know of any scientists who fit that criteria other than Michael Behe, and I doubt we could have afforded is honorarium on our budget. Campus Crusade had a philosopher rather than a scientist argue for “yes” in answer to “Is Intelligent Design Viable?” This debate was their contribution to the themester; it was much larger than ours.

Well, it didn’t start out terribly well in the opening comments:

“The stereotypical evangelical Christian culture is deeply anti-intellectual and forces its members to choose between their faith and good science, like biological evolution.”

Already, a bias against and uncharitable understanding of the other side is introduced here. While some evangelicals are certainly anti-intellectual, I have found this to be largely the exception and not the rule. Evangelical Christians are some of the most intellectually honest thinkers in society, particularly the leaders of Evangelicalism. Also, you say that biological evolution is “good science.” I know of many scientists and other bright minds who would disagree strongly with that view. Are they being “anti-intellectual?” It seems a bit unfair to call anyone who disagrees with you “anti-intellectual”…

In my comments, I was simply acknowledging that, for better or worse, the stereotype I described exists and is believed by many members of the academic community, probably including many members of the audience. Darius’ opinion of the intellectual prowess of evangelical leaders is not shared by a large number of my colleagues, and that is a painful reality for me. It is a reality that we had to address directly in our discussion, and that is what I tried to do in my comments.

If any of you have suggestions for how to better overturn this stereotype in the minds of my scientific colleagues, I welcome them.

I haven’t listened to the rest yet, but already this is set up with certain prejudices already assumed. I think it would be good to do a panel discussion on “Can an Evangelical Christian Trust a Biologist?” 🙂

We talked about that. It is an excellent idea and a logical compliment to the event we held. We decided to keep our focus narrowly on reaching into the academic community. However, this is the sort of event I would like to see happen as the science community tries to reach into the evangelical Christian community.

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One Response to Responses to “Can a Biologist Trust an Evangelical Christian?”

  1. Anonymous says:

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