Five Questions with Dennis Venema
As a Senior Fellow of Biology for The BioLogos Foundation, Dennis Venema provides our readers with clear, easy-to-understand descriptions of genetics and evolutionary biology. We sat down with him to learn a bit more about his work.
1. What is the most rewarding part about your work as a Senior Fellow for BioLogos?
Easily the most rewarding part of my work is seeing students and other young people feel freed from the false dichotomy of having to choose between well-supported science and their Christian faith. Many students feel trapped into choosing one or the other, and they may not even know that there are evangelical Christians who take God’s Word seriously and also accept the evidence that He has used evolution as a means of creation.
2. Do you have one article you’ve written that you wish everyone would read?
If you’re looking for a brief introduction to some of the lines of evidence for evolution and how they cohere, I’d recommend a brief three-part series I wrote for the BioLogos Forum a few months back: Understanding Evolution: Theory, Prediction and Converging Lines of Evidence. It’s an attempt to show nonscientists how theories in science work and just how robust evolution really is as a theory in the scientific sense.
3. On a similar note, do you have a favorite book or article about science and faith?
It wasn’t all that long ago when it would be difficult to recommend even a handful of books or articles on science and faith written from an evangelical perspective. Now we are blessed with a number of such resources—and I find that each is suited to a slightly different audience. Francis Collins’s book The Language of God is very engaging and personal. Darrel Falk’s Coming to Peace with Science is very patient and perhaps best for the most cautious or fearful students. Deb and Loren Haarsma’s book Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design is an excellent all-around resource, as is Francis Collins and Karl Giberson’s newest book The Language of Science and Faith. I’m also very much enjoying the ongoing series that Senior Fellow Ted Davis is writing for The Forum at present.
4. What do you think is the most compelling example of evolution?
The strength of evolution is not in any particular line of evidence, but rather in the fact that all the lines of evidence cohere and support the same basic conclusions—something I try to bring out in The Forum series I mentioned above. That said, I find that pseudogenes with shared mutations are a line of evidence for evolution that is very challenging to get around. My favorite pseudogene is the human vitellogenin pseudogene—a remnant of a time when our ancestors were egg-laying organisms—and I’ve used it as an example in several posts. I discuss why this pseudogene is such a conundrum for anti-evolutionists in a recent post about the ENCODE project, titled ENCODE and “Junk DNA,” Part 2: Function: What’s in a Word?
5. What one piece of advice do you have for Christians hoping to start discussions about science and faith in their churches?
Don’t forget that the most important thing is that believers who hold different views on creation are nonetheless brothers and sisters in Christ—and this fact needs to be front and center in our minds even as we respectfully disagree on origins. I’ve recently written about this in a piece for The Colossian Forum entitled What I Would Like to Hear a Young-Earth Creationist Say. I don’t always live up to this standard myself, but it’s the stance we need to adopt as we dialogue with our brothers and sisters in the faith.