Editor's Note: Below is one of the “highlight clips” from the plenary talks at our Christ and Creation conference last month in Houston, TX. This week’s clip is from April Maskiewicz Cordero's talk, titled "Nosing Around the Genome." April, a professor of evolutionary biology at a Christian college, laid out the evidence for evolution in a simple, understandable fashion. In the clip below from the conclusion of her talk, April shared the deeply personal journey that has given her a passion for helping Christian students reconcile faith and evolution. (If you like the clip below, be sure to check out April's excellent TEDx talk linked in the sidebar).
What I’ve learned is that I have to help my students reconcile science and faith by addressing their fears and their anxieties first. And I know their fears and anxieties well because I lived them.
I attended a large public university and when I started in college I was a Christian. And in one of my first biology classes the professor told us you can’t believe in God and accept evolution, that evolution proves that there is no God. And I found this really puzzling, and I went to a couple pastors I knew and I sought them out and asked them. They told me the same thing, that you had to choose: faith or evolution. My biology classes were showing that evolution was the reality, and since everyone told me I had to choose, I made a conscious decision in college to give up my faith, reject all belief in God, and I became an atheist.
And it wasn’t until a couple years after I got out of college that I came back to Christ; but then I had to spend the next ten years trying to make sense of the philosophical and theological issues so that I could reconcile my Christian faith with my acceptance of evolution. Now it’s twenty-something years later, and I do everything I can to help change this conflict caricature of evolution and faith. My parents look and me and go, “Why, why do you do this? This is hard work.” I do it because I care about people’s salvation.
I don’t want students not going into the sciences because they’re told they have to reject evolution or reject mainstream science; I don’t want students leaving their faith because they learn about evolution or because they learn about other science things. So I care about these kids.
Many of them do leave their faith, unfortunately. The Barna Group conducted a poll, you heard about it a few minutes ago, of young adults with a Christian background. And they found this: 3 out of 10 feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in;” a quarter hold the perception that Christianity is “anti-science”; and just about as any say they’ve been turned off by the creation and evolution debate. This is heartbreaking and unnecessary.
Pressuring our young people to reject evolution outright leads them into a corner, and they end up with a faith crisis. I just heard about one of these Monday night in my class. Three weeks ago I was in Oklahoma speaking at a Christian university, and 50 so students in the room, and one of came up to me afterward and he said, “can we talk over coffee?” He shared with me that he gave up his faith. That his home church and his parents did not want to engage in conversations about the evidence for evolution. And he felt that the conversations he did have with them; they were closed-minded, and he felt it was dishonest and almost deceptive, and because of that he gave up his faith.
We can do better than this. We need to do better than this. We need to have honest, intellectual, and transparent conversations and engagement with the scientific findings. We owe this to our youth.