BioLogos in 60 Seconds

| By on The President's Notebook

People often ask me, “So what is BioLogos?”  I’ve been asked this at church, at scientific conferences, at family reunions, and even the dentist’s office!   How do you explain what BioLogos is all about to someone who has never heard of us—especially if you don’t know their background and views?  And how do you do it in a short compelling way without launching into an hour long lecture??  

Of course, it’s part of my job as president to have a great answer to the question “What is BioLogos?” but I’m certainly not the only one who gets asked.  All of us on staff hear the question, and many of us in the BioLogos community do as well.  Last month, I was traveling on the east coast and had dinner with some friends of BioLogos, and they told me that they often get the same question.  And they struggle with how to articulate a good answer, especially to co-workers and friends who have never thought about these ideas.  

In modern parlance, this is called an “elevator pitch.” Say you meet someone on an elevator. Can you explain your great idea in the 30 to 90 seconds before they get off? (that’s 75 to 225 words, folks). I really was asked the question once on an elevator!  Here’s how I respond to the question:  

You may have heard of Francis Collins. He is one of the world’s leading biologists - he led the Human Genome Project and currently directs the National Institutes of Health. He wrote a best-selling book called The Language of God in which he tells his story of becoming a Christian through reading the works of C.S. Lewis.  Collins’ book generated a lot of questions! Many secular scientists said “We know he’s a great scientist, but why is he talking about religion?”  And many Christians said “It’s great he became a Christian, but why is he talking about evolution?”  Francis Collins founded BioLogos.org to be a place to talk about these questions, a place to celebrate the harmony between great science and biblical faith.  

That’s about 125 words.  The pitch can’t be much longer than that, even outside an elevator, or people will think you’re lecturing!  Besides, after 125 words, many people are curious and eager to ask a follow-up question, or have a significant concern or objection, so it’s best to pause and see what they have to say. There’s enough in the pitch to put the main ideas on the table, and do it in a way that opens the door to conversation with most audiences. Their reaction will tell you a lot about their own views and concerns, and from there you can customize your explanation.

Many listeners will latch onto the person, saying “Oh, I’ve heard of Francis Collins.” The story of a person makes a pitch easier to follow than an abstract statement of viewpoints.  And if Francis Collins interests your listener, you have a great opportunity to talk about how a committed Christian can do great science.  The details in a pitch are an opportunity to connect with various audiences - “the human genome project” assures science-minded listeners that BioLogos is talking about great science, and “C.S. Lewis” assures conservative Christians that BioLogos takes faith seriously.  The pitch describes common responses - this not only illustrates the breadth of the BioLogos mission and audiences, but it gives listeners a place to find themselves in the pitch.  Many people react by telling their own stories - stories of their own encounter with science and faith or how a loved one is working through issues of evolution.  Other listeners will respond in more abstract terms, wanting to discuss the state of dialogue in the church and the world today. Sometimes listeners will get right on board with the mission and start asking about the website or how they can get involved.

Other listeners will respond in more abstract terms, wanting to discuss the needs in science education, the state of the dialogue in the church and the world today, or theological questions about evolution. Some listeners will go right to the practical, asking about the website or how they can get involved.A colleague of mine recently was asked, “So what is BioLogos?” while chatting with a bunch of fellow scientists at a top research university.  In the scientific culture, the topic of religion is usually avoided, but my colleague’s connection to BioLogos put the topic on the table.  In fact, it launched an hour-long discussion about science, spirituality, and Christianity that revealed their hunger to learn more.  I hope your interest in BioLogos can work as a discussion starter, whether with Christians wondering about modern science, or scientists wondering about God and the Bible.

How would you define BioLogos in 60 seconds?

Notes

Citations

MLA

Haarsma, Deborah. "BioLogos in 60 Seconds"
http://biologos.org/. N.p., 3 Dec. 2015. Web. 25 September 2017.

APA

Haarsma, D. (2015, December 3). BioLogos in 60 Seconds
Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/biologos-in-60-seconds

About the Author

Deborah Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma serves as the President of BioLogos, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.

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