Diane Sweeney

A Teacher Overcomes Differences While Teaching Evolutionary Creation

I grew up with two much older brothers who were both studying to be doctors when I was still in footsie pj’s. My father was a chemical engineer and my uncle was a research chemist. Science was a common topic at the dinner table and it still is whenever we get together. We are all devoted Christians who loved to take hikes and visit National Parks and wonder at God’s creation.

When I got to college I studied biochemistry mostly because that is what my brothers had studied. I wanted to be just like them. But God had other plans for me. God made me a teacher – down to my DNA. I teach compulsively on planes, in grocery stores, at a zoo, wherever anyone will listen to me. I love making the complex understandable in fun and relevant ways.

After teaching for several years, I met Neil Campbell, who wrote the college biology textbook I used in my classes. I admit to be rather star struck when I met him. I got his autograph and had a friend take a picture with him. What shocked me more was that he knew who I was from the education articles I wrote and presentations I had given. He wanted me to work on his team to create a high school biology textbook program. I jumped at the chance.

At the same time I was working with Dr. Campbell, the evolution/ faith controversy was a very hot topic because in Kansas, the school board had ruled that students were not required to be tested on material that proclaimed an ancient earth or common ancestry of living things. In Pennsylvania, the Intelligent Design movement was making headway and in Georgia, a sticker was being placed on biology textbooks that stated that evolution is a theory and not a fact and should be studied with an open mind. When our textbook program was making its debut, there were often protesters outside the convention center passing out anti-evolution tracts. I felt caught in the middle of this debate. I wanted to explain to the picketers evolution is a process of creation that need not be godless. I wanted to explain to the biologists that not all Christians felt this way and that the protesters were misinformed by well meaning pastors and teachers.

But the controversy hit home most personally when I joined a wonderful Lutheran church in California. My son had started kindergarten there and I found a community of people who became my family. I learned so much from the pastor and I grew so much closer to the Lord. I had never felt so much love in a place as I did at that church. It was very unsettling when some of my dearest friends shared with me that they believed in a young earth. I guess I had imagined Young Earth believers to be uneducated and backward, not eloquent, thoughtful, people whose love for God inspired me beyond measure. I was deeply humbled by my friends and I began for the first time to truly respect my brothers and sisters in Christ who had different views on origins. This community trusted me as well. In fact, they encouraged me to teach science at their school and I became the first teacher in fifty years at my Christian school to teach about evolutionary creation. It was one of these students who years later introduced me to BioLogos. He told me to check out this website because they “sound just like you”. And that is how I found my home at BioLogos.

I have taken part in their seminars for high school biology teachers and through the (BioLogos) ECF grant program, my partner and I are producing a video-study series to help Christian high school students integrate faith and science.

Dear BioLogos reader ...

In the escalating vitriol in our culture, “science” and “faith” have found each other on opposite sides of a polarized divide. Truth and community are under attack.

If there is one thing the pandemic has shown us, it is what science can and cannot do. Scientists and doctors have done amazing things during the pandemic—identified the virus, treated the disease, and developed safe vaccines that work.

But in these polarized times, science can’t reduce anger, forgive sins, build mutual respect, or fill us with compassion for others.

Science alone can’t give us hope. Faith can. Join BioLogos today in reaching a world desperate for hope. Your tax-deductible donation will be the difference between someone encountering misinformation, or a thoughtful, truthful, and hopeful Christian perspective that shows faith and science working hand in hand.

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Diane Sweeney
About the Author

Diane Sweeney

Diane Sweeney is a veteran instructor and curricula developer with over 25 years experience in education. She is currently an AP biology instructor and department head at Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton, CA. She previously taught at the Punahou School in Honolulu, HI; Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, CA; and Prince of Peace Lutheran School in Fremont, CA. Her publications include writing for the biology textbook program Biology Exploring Life (lab manual and teacher’s instructions) by Campbell, Williamson, Heyden (Pearson 2009). Diane has a BS in biochemistry from UC Riverside and an MA in education from Stanford University. Diane has been active with BioLogos for many years. Through a BioLogos grant, she co-created with Pastor Joshua Hayashi Author of Life, a collection of 7 short documentary films and companion curricula for churches and schools. Diane is currently serving on the BioLogos Advisory Council and on the curriculum development team for Integrate. Diane enjoys cultivating native Californian plants and growing fruits and vegetables in her garden when she is not hiking or biking in the San Francisco Bay Area.