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The Church Must Not Ignore the Evidence

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March 27, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's video features Kathryn Applegate. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video conversation, Kathryn Applegate, biologist and BioLogos program director of website development, discusses the implications for the church if we ignore scientific developments.

Applegate notes that even ten years ago, before the Human Genome Project and before some of the recent fossil discoveries, there were still a lot of open questions about biological evolution. But Applegate states that this is no longer the case, and that we can no longer deny the scientific evidence.

Applegate reminds us that if we continue to ignore evolution –– and not just evolution, but science more broadly –– many may leave the church, unable to reconcile a rigorous belief in science with orthodox Christian belief.

Thus the need to open the dialogue between science and religion isn’t just about evolution, it is about science writ large. Science has implications for many bioethical issues that pastors will need to confront in their congregations. The church needs to foster an open inquiry into scientific truth, because all truth is God’s truth.

Science is useful—it brings us technology and a deeper understanding of creation. Applegate believes that BioLogos is doing is “a good service for the community” as more educational materials are needed—especially for churches—that articulate the various positions and scientific theories in a way that is accessible to the layperson.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Kathryn Applegate is Program Director at The BioLogos Foundation. She received her PhD in computational cell biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. At Scripps, she developed computer vision software tools for analyzing the cell's infrastructure, the cytoskeleton.

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beaglelady - #8003

March 29th 2010

Hello Amy Balentine,

I would like to suggest some additional free resources for learning about evolution, all produced by the mainstream scientific community:

Understanding Evolution
This compelling site was created by the University of California Museum of Paleontology with support provided by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  Note that you can sign up for updates by email. The site is updated frequently.

beaglelady - #8005

March 29th 2010


There is also the excellent series of on-demand webcasts produced in 2005 by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for their “Holiday Lectures” : 
Constant Change and Common Threads

Note that the last lecture in the series involves a discussion of science and religion, where the scientists are joined by theologian/professor James A. Wiseman   and philosopher Michael Ruse.  The is an additional lecture at the bottom of the page by Kenneth Miller, a cell biologist, professor, and devout Catholic.  Miller is arguably the leading figure in the science/religion dialog, and a great speaker.  He served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Dover ID trial (Kitzmiller et al v Dover Area School district) .

These lectures are especially accessible since they are aimed at high school kids.

I know of even more resources if you are interested, but these should keep you busy for a while. Enjoy!

beaglelady - #8006

March 29th 2010

Oops! I messed up the link for the Holiday Lectures webcast on Evolution. So here it is:

Evolution: Constant Change and Common Threads

amy balentine - #8007

March 29th 2010

Thanks Kathryn and beaglelady for addressing my question. I look forward to what Biologos has to say in upcoming blogs and I will check out those links, beaglelady.

Glen Davidson - #8009

March 29th 2010

and about the fact that recent discoeries make the Cambrian Explosion more, not less, of a problem for evolution.

A common, but I think quite evidently false, claim.

The genetic (esp. molecular clock) evidence is especially good at showing that the Cambrian phyla diverged from each other, probably prior to the “explosion.”  Here’s a pretty good powerpoint presentation from Cornell:

Evolution of Cambrian phyla

Again, note particularly the genetic evidence, which has no gaps in it.

I like the presentation, but I think it would have done better to have noted the dramatic rise in oxygen levels at the beginning of the Cambrian which apparently occurred, and which would be likely to support a rapid adaptive radition.

Glen Davidson

Glen Davidson - #8012

March 29th 2010

Last word in #8009 should be “radiation,” of course.

I wanted to emphasize that one should not suppose that the linked powerpoint presentation is not the last word on the Cambrian, and that some paleontologists would likely disagree with some of the interpretations of data presented. 

But it’s a fairly reasonable, evidence-based approach, and opponents of evolution have no scientific alternative.

Glen Davidson

Edge - #8031

March 30th 2010

I love this site and great post. I am a PhD student who is close to graduation. I work in the field of molecular evolution and until recently I had pretty much divided myself into two people. I was a creationist at church while doing research in molecular evolution. I finally faced facts and have accepted TE. Just trying to decide how to talk about this with my pastor. I come from a very conservative church (the pastor just finished teaching a series on YEC). Not sure how to broach this topic with them. Any advice?

Greg - #8039

March 30th 2010

Hi Edge,

Over at An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution - http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/ - there has been discussion of the “Test of Faith Course” but that apparently isn’t available in the US yet. A good talk I came across via there too was “can an evangelical accept evolution” by a biologist. You could search it on youtube. Otherwise introducing people to, and starting a discussion of, anything by Francis Collins, Darrel Falk, Richard Colling, Denis Lamoureux, or anyone else associated with Biologos would be a good start.

Gregory Arago - #8043

March 30th 2010

It’s great that you’re following your calling in the field of molecular biology! Many religious have been disuaded from this field by anti-evolutionists, by those who find no hope of cooperation between biology & theology, through fear of bringing religion & science into a proper balance in a ‘scientific & secular age’.

I second Greg’s suggestions, i.e. the Faraday Institute’s Test of Faith.

Let me add, however, the danger in accepting a TE that is ‘too broad’, thus making an idol of evolutionary theory. Teilhard de Chardin is typical example, for him everything should be seen perceived through the lens of evolutionary theories. This, imo, is going to far. So, you should also ask yourself “what are the limits of evolution?”, i.e. what are examples of ‘things that don’t evolve’?

If your pastor teaches YEC, then s/he is an active creationist. You might direct them to BioLogos and Faraday also. Some churches simply don’t know there is any other option than YEC. This is part of the mission of B-L: to raise awareness of alternatives.

Gregory Arago - #8044

March 30th 2010

“It does pretty much have to say no Adam and Eve, I’m afraid, given the current evidence, at least not in any form resembling the traditional account.  Purpose in the universe?  Science says it exists, at least since humans have their own purposes.  Cosmic purpose outside the Universe?  Who knows?  And grand philosophical question, far outside of science.” - Nick

I for one am not content to ‘stay inside science’ as if it were a shield to keep me from knowing what is beyond the realm of science to discover. Science serves its purpose for the improvement & betterment of humanity (goal) & sometimes causes great harm or potential destruction (side-effect). To ask “why should scientists take them seriously as science” is to miss the point entirely because many people do believe in miracles & in the spiritual realm, which science does not study.

Gregory Arago - #8045

March 30th 2010

‘Science’ has nothing to say about purpose. To say “at least since humans have their own purposes” is a non-scientific statement. Scientists qua natural scientists know nothing about *purpose* in a philosophical or theological sense, unless they are more holistic than the ‘check your soul at the door’ kind of science that some people today promote. That is why ‘science’ is sometimes seen as a dispiriting institution, activity, process, etc.

Geneological & cultural evidence is a strong counter-power to genetic evidence. Nick Matske wishes to erase A&E from history (call them fantasy or unreal or false), but he faces an invincible foe. Would BioLogos help him?

Kathryn Applegate - #8062

March 30th 2010

Hi Edge,

I can totally relate to the divided feeling you describe - I was there for a long time.  You feel like an outsider at church because it’s assumed that you can’t accept evolution and be a Christian, but you feel like an outsider in the lab where it’s assumed that if you’re a creationist, you must be crazy.  Unfortunately the middle road - embracing the God of the Bible as Creator, who uses the means of evolution to create - can be difficult!  But there are many of us who are “out” about our convictions in this regard, and BioLogos is a good community to share real discussion. 

BTW, my pastor is also a young earth guy, and we’ve had several good discussions about the science and its implications.  My advice is to tread slowly and patiently, with humility and love.  Feel free to email us if you want to get in touch further.


DWDMD - #8104

March 30th 2010

Edge, from my own standpoint of living in a very theologically conservative part of the South, where I teach church studies about the foundational doctrine of Creation and how it meshes with the findings of evolutionary theory, I would advise you to first study how a person can accept the Bible as revelation from God, full of the truth God wishes to communicate in order for us to know and follow him, without always employing a literal, modernist “plain reading” interpretation of this aggregate of ancient texts.. This involves study of the literary genre of each portion, its context within the book, relation to other books, its context in history, the goal of the author, and other interpretive skills as well.

DWDMD - #8105

March 30th 2010

I have an M.A. in theological studies, but am not a biblical scholar, so I rely on commentaries written by people who do not have a prior commitment to literalism for information, and I pray for wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit as I read.
The more I have studied the Bible, the more my confusion over seemingly contradictory passages and teachings has resolved, and the more true and relevant and dear it has become to me.

Big Mike - #8165

March 31st 2010

Dear Kathryn

I do not wish to appear rude but your wish for a conversation between science and The Church seems to be a one way discussion - one in which The Church must always give way to the findings of science (in which i mean to both the propositions of science as well as individual scientists and scientific authority). Biologos continually shows reverence to the likes of Francisco Ayala, Francis Collins, Ken Miller etc in the area of Intelligent Design and Neo-Darwinism but these individuals alsways seem to get their scientific facts wrong and then rely on theological arguments to support the case for Neo-Darwinism over that of Intelligent Design. For example in the recent book review of “Signature in the Cell” (later amended to, I quote ‘the conversation initiated by our essay posted on December 28’) Ayala demonstates an inability to grasp the basics of Intelligent Design; even worse the one scientific fact he does mention ‘the alu sequences’ which is purtnent to the issue at hand Ayala gets wrong. The same thing happened in his debate with William Lane Craig at the end of 2009, Craig humiliated Ayala on the science and philosophy and Ayala retreated to sophomoric theology to argue for his Darwinistic world view.

Big Mike - #8166

March 31st 2010


Why should any Church take Ayala as a scientific authority and dismiss Intelligent Design as theology/philosophy/bad science etc when ID proponents (Like Stephen Meyer) and Neo-Darwin sceptics (like Craig) have a better grasp of the science?

Jonathan - #47682

January 17th 2011

(sorry for the mistakes, I’m French)

Thank God for this website.
I’m a bible-believing Christian who recently decided to face the facts and stop denying the evidence (especially because of the genome).
I want truth, whatever the implications.

As christians, how can we be so intelectually dishonest and deny the overwhelming facts?
It does not reflect the character of Christ, at all.

Christians shouldn’t be so insecure on these issues if they are mature in Christ.

It’s going to be a tough battle I’m afraid, I don’t even know how to start…
Most church people have zero knowledge in science and only rely on what their pastor say, it will take decades before the evangelicals leaders change their position on evolution.

gingoro - #47735

January 17th 2011


Welcome to the discussion.  Since you commented on an old post I suspect not many people have seen your comment.  Most of the discussion occurs on the more recent topics.  Since I subscribe to an RSS feed that supplies all comments, it so happens that I noticed your comment. 

As well as Christians who accept evolution we have atheists and young earth Christians so don’t expect all who write comments to be supportive. 

Personally I like posts by Denis Alexander, Pete Enns, John Walton and Dave Ussery.  Denis Lamoureux is also good although I do not at this time agree with his treatment of Adam and Eve.

This might be a good series to read:

Again welcome
Dave Wallace

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