Teaching Evolutionary Science in a Christian College Context

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October 20, 2010 Tags: Education

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video “Conversation,” three faculty members from Christian colleges share thoughts on teaching evolutionary science to Christian undergraduates.

Professor Dorothy Boorse, Biology, Gordon College

“There’s an age when you think about your faith and you become a thinking whole person who begins to think about the world and how it relates to your faith, or you choose not to think deeply about those things,” says Boorse. “The world will ask you questions and they will not always be easy to answer. If you think they are easy to answer, then you probably aren’t really looking at them.”

Professor Jim Nichols, Biology, Abilene Christian University

Regarding the instruction of evolutionary science, Nichols suggests that the best approach might be to try and defuse this topic by presenting the science and some opinions—while advising students not to fixate on evolution as a faith issue. Nichols reminds that if people are asked what the most important faith issue is, “[Nobody] is going to say creation and evolution…People instead care about other things that are more fundamental to their growth.” He also emphasizes to students that atheism and belief in evolution are not the same thing.

Provost Claudia Beversluis, Calvin College

Beversluis notes that while Christian parents want their children to emerge from college with a strong belief in Christ, they also want their children to be truth seekers, intellectually honest, competent and credentialed—perhaps even in the sciences. This is possible, suggests Beversluis—but both sides of the equation are important—keeping faith intact and the spirit of inquiry and truth seeking intact.

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beaglelady - #36649

October 26th 2010

Just cleaning up my previous post. (Have to encode the angle brackets):

Definition of SOCIAL
1
: involving allies or confederates

2
a : marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with one’s friends or associates

b : sociable c : of, relating to, or designed for sociability
3
: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society

4
a : tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others of one’s kind : gregarious b : living and breeding in more or less organized communities

c of a plant : tending to grow in groups or masses so as to form a pure stand
5
a : of, relating to, or based on rank or status in a particular society b : of, relating to, or characteristic of the upper classes c : formal
6
: being such in social situations


beaglelady - #36651

October 26th 2010

Maybe 3x is the charm? 

Definition of SOCIAL
1
: involving allies or confederates (the Social War between the Athenians and their allies)
2
a : marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with one’s friends or associates (leads a very full social life) b : sociable c : of, relating to, or designed for sociability (a social club)
3
: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society (social institutions)
4
a : tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others of one’s kind : gregarious b : living and breeding in more or less organized communities (social insects) c of a plant : tending to grow in groups or masses so as to form a pure stand
5
a : of, relating to, or based on rank or status in a particular society (a member of our social set) b : of, relating to, or characteristic of the upper classes c : formal
6
: being such in social situations (a social drinker)


Gregory - #36728

October 26th 2010

Ladies & gentleman, we have a special phenomenon here to witness today. A person named ‘beaglelady’ has just quoted from a dictionary the word ‘social’ to a ‘sociologist’! Isn’t that a laugher? wouldn’t it also be funny to quote from a dictionary the word ‘natural’ to a ‘naturalist’ so as to try to ‘teach’ them?

“The cultivated person’s first duty is to always be prepared to rewrite the encyclopedia.” - Umberto Eco

Now, why don’t you explain why you’ve done this, beaglelady, unless you just wanted to waste my time with M-W. I’m a PhD & researcher in sociology. You & DaveW dismiss my contributions here, but cannot speak knowledgeably about them.

I’ll make it easy for you, by asking just one question: Do you, beaglelady, think that human beings are different in DEGREE or in KIND from (other) animals? DaveW won’t answer this question & doesn’t want to speak about ‘soul’ or ‘spirit,’ so there is no use having this conversation with him.

The Chaadaev quote above in particular is wonderful & sticks in the mud of the zoocentric misanthropists like DaveW, aka gingoro. Shall we hope that at least our heavenly Father knows the difference between human beings (made in God’s image) & other creatures?


Trevor K. - #36832

October 27th 2010

So one brings one’s total belief in Science as the omnipotent force from outside of the bible and then contaminates the understanding of the bible with one’s superior human knowledge.

It’s time for the weekly spam:
Please read here: http://creation.com/10-dangers-of-theistic-evolution


beaglelady - #36920

October 27th 2010

Gregory,

Human beings are made in the image of God. This fact has nothing to do with the fact that some species of animals are social.  If two chimps are seen grooming each other, is that really going to threaten the very foundations of Christianity? 

There is nothing wrong with English dictionaries. You have complained about dictionaries before, e.g.  in how they give the word evolution multiple meanings. It’s simply a brute fact that a word can have more than one meaning.  Deal with it.  Even if you write a new Gregory dictionary you can’t expect others to adopt it.


Gregory - #36952

October 27th 2010

Is it that tough question to answer, beaglelady?

Do you, beaglelady, think that human beings are different in DEGREE or in KIND from (other) animals?

If you won’t or don’t want to answer, just say so. At least I have the courage to speak on this.

Otherwise, these games you’re playing by focussing on ‘social’ with a sociologist are boring. Do you really think I am not aware of your point? There is much more in what I’ve written above that you are not addressing.


beaglelady - #36957

October 27th 2010

It should be obvious to any reader that when I say that humans are created in the image of God, they are different in kind.  I’m not playing games.  I’m explaining that some species of animals are quite properly considered to be social, and that English dictionaries support me on that point. English is my native language.  My family has been here a long time. (One of my ancestors even fought in the Revolutionary War.)  I do know something about the correct usage of the English language!


Gregory - #36964

October 27th 2010

“humans are created in the image of God, they are different in kind.” - beaglelady

Thank you, beaglelady, for your answer. DaveW will not answer it, so I nod to your courage to speak out.

To me, as a sociologist, one of the things that differentiates human beings as being special in KIND, is our sociability, our language, communication, reason, values, ethics, etc.

Ethologists wish to blur these lines, so do Darwinists, by de-privileging humanity and making us appear to be different only in DEGREE. They do this for ideological (or worldview), not scientific reasons.

You would reject this, beaglelady, but you don’t seem to want to allow me to be a soul-ciologist by wrestling misuses of the term ‘social’ from ethologists. Do you see the dilemma?

Made in the image of God, but not ‘special’. This is what some people want.

Indeed, this might be Darwin’s biggest challenge to philosophy & theology.

Species egalitarism - these are the terms Fuller uses to describe the Darwinian view. I recommend to you, beaglelady, Fuller’s book “The New Sociological Imagination”. It is highly readable for a general audience and not just sociologists. Here he addresses this issue directly.


beaglelady - #36976

October 27th 2010

Thank you, beaglelady, for your answer. DaveW will not answer it, so I nod to your courage to speak out.

He might be no longer following this thread.  There’s no need to assume that he lacks courage, or that his African background has something to do with it.

Ethologists wish to blur these lines, so do Darwinists, by de-privileging humanity and making us appear to be different only in DEGREE. They do this for ideological (or worldview), not scientific reasons.
You would reject this, beaglelady, but you don’t seem to want to allow me to be a soul-ciologist by wrestling misuses of the term ‘social’ from ethologists. Do you see the dilemma?

I can see lots of things going on.  It’s not up to you to decide what words mean or should mean.


Gregory - #36984

October 27th 2010

“It’s not up to you to decide what words mean or should mean.” - beaglelady

For goodness sake, I’m not ‘forcing’ you or ‘dictating’ to you about anything, beaglelady. Have a bit of charity with me, will you please?! This ‘scoring points’ stuff is tiresome.

I’m simply asking you to think and to learn and to make the best decision for yourself. The point of contention is very real in sociology and anthropology, among other HSSs, and even if you don’t think so or don’t know this doesn’t change that reality. Will you accept that people come to sites like BioLogos to listen and to learn, as well as to speak and to teach?

If you’ve learned something, that’s great. At the least, I’m pleased, like I said, that you had the courage to answer the question directly. That’s more than can be said for some people.

This has nothing to do with whether or not DaveW is a nice guy (b/c I think highly of him). He simply refuses to address ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ and w/out these things, one cannot be a soul-ciologist. So there is something he is missing, witnessed by his unwillingness to answer the question that you answered.


gingoro - #37134

October 28th 2010

Gregory@36984
“He simply refuses to address ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ and w/out these things, one cannot be a soul-ciologist.”

So Gregory since this is such an important issue to you could you please define the words spirit and soul.  Since Paul says they are different could you also explain how they are different.
Dave W


gingoro - #37136

October 28th 2010

Gregory and others
I will address a few of the items that Gregory has said about me because they may affect my interaction with others who regularly comment at BioLogos.  My discussion will occur over several comments as I get them written. Other items, some of which are false only concern Gregory and are therefore irrelevant.

“Science vs. Religion actually means natural science vs. religion & *not* social science. Right?”

Absolutely not although the conflict being discussed at BioLogos is mainly between evolutionary biology and religion.  Science includes HSS.  IMO we Christians have a conflict with the some of the social sciences at least some of the time wrt evil and sin.  For those of us who are reformed the conflict extends into total depravity.

“You want to ‘deprivilege’ humanity. I’m against this.”

So am I against it, but for different reasons and with different language that you use.
Dave W


gingoro - #37140

October 28th 2010

Gregory and others
I did not say that mankind does not have a soul and or a sprit, just that I don’t understand for sure what they are.  30 years ago I used to think that I knew what the soul and spirit are, now I am not so sure.  When one gets to be 70 one may become somewhat less sure about matters that one held a dogmatic position about when one was a child.  In any case soul and spirit may not be something we have but something we are, I am unsure.  As I see it soul is possibly that which makes us unique and recognizable.  It includes our relationship with God.  Spirit is possibly the total state of our existence which allows God to re-instantiate humans after death at the resurrection however I would not deny a more traditional definition. I see mankind as body, mind, spirit and soul.
Dave W


gingoro - #37141

October 28th 2010

Gregory and others
“he is thinking back to his childhood in Africa, divorced from the Jewish, Christian & Muslim doctrines of human specialness.”

Hogwash, untruth.  My parents were missionaries in Ethiopia with SIM an interdenominational evangelical mission board and my father was a Baptist minister.  In addition to my parents teaching I was incarcerated and abused for nine plus years in mission boarding schools.  Believe me at school, we were well instructed in the Christian faith on a daily basis, especially in the morning and evening on school days plus of course most of the day on Sunday.
Dave W


gingoro - #37143

October 28th 2010

Gregory

“Not different in KIND, but only in DEGREE”
“no soul & no spirit, no uniqueness in humanity to speak of…”

IMO the specialness of mankind is related much more to our relationship to God than to whether we are different in kind or different in degree from our nearest common ancestor with the ape family. 

God has written his law on our hearts and that alone makes us different in kind!

In essence I have previously answered the kind/degree question when I say that mankind is created as God’s ikon or image.  See:
http://biologos.org/blog/was-adam-a-real-person-part-i/  search for gingoro - #27799

Christ came and died as a man not a dog or even a chimpanzee or an ET (of course Christ is both man and God), and therefore man is special.

Christians have a living relationship with God beyond this life in the New Heaven and Earth. IMO the whole Bible’s story of relationship between God and man imbues mankind with specialness.

IMO the view of the uniqueness of humanity being tied up with kind/degree seems rather impoverished although true. 
Dave W


Gregory - #37281

October 29th 2010

“God has written his law on our hearts and that alone makes us different in kind!”

Amen, DaveW! We are agreed.

“Man is special.” - DaveW

Yes. We are agreed again. (Though, your last sentence is confusing - true although impoverished? - so it is left unaddressed.) You have taken a stand, finally, after many years, DaveW, and I applaud your courage for that. I’m not sure you understand how significant it is to have said this and how it distinguishes your views from various ideologues that are against this.

Better not tell the Darwinists about this because to a man or woman they reject the specialness of humanity and they reject that human beings are different in KIND because “God has written his law on our hearts.” They simply do not accept that story of humanity and God.

Anyone who thinks Darwinists or in general ‘evolutionists’ (I exclude ‘theistic evolutionists’ here because there is far too much wobbly ideology going on there) actually *DO* commonly argue that human beings are ‘special’ and different in KIND rather than DEGREE, please speak up. This goes right to the heart of what the featured video is angling at.


Peter Lake - #37657

October 30th 2010

Gregory and others—

If I may, in spite of late arrival, offer a comment, it might be this:

In considering the arguments made by “Darwinists” and “evolutionists” (two species no better delineated than is the admittedly variable—and changing—ha!—“theistic evolutionist”), one must remember that said arguments are tailored for use in a particular arena.  Almost always, the intended audience is one that itself is considering science in the modern sense—i.e., those things which may be known objectively.  Wishing to be good rhetoricians, they most often do not address subjects outside the realm of objective reality, as this would only distract from the typical discussion.

Now, having said that, we should also recognize that within the areas of sociobiology, neurology, and population biology, at least, one may often encounter discussion of real, objective findings suggesting that consideration of the sociality within and among animal species is useful or at least interesting.  That could be, and often is, provocative—and perhaps unwelcomely so—to a person of faith, especially a Christian.


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