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Uniquely Unique | Our Sad History

Part Five in the Uniquely unique mini-series. In the long history of searching for what makes humans special we have repeatedly caused great harm to our neighbors, both human and non-human.

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Part Five in the Uniquely unique mini-series. In the long history of searching for what makes humans special we have repeatedly caused great harm to our neighbors, both human and non-human.

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A podcast that shows the harmony between Christian faith and current scientific discoveries by sharing the stories of interesting people who have found a better way of understanding science and Christian faith.

In the long history of searching for what makes humans special we have repeatedly caused great harm to our neighbors, both human and non-human. In fact, it seems that one of the things that makes our species unique is our ability to cause such destruction. The search for human uniqueness can lead to a kind of thinking that devalues everything non-human. When ‘human’ is defined too narrowly, that can leave some humans out. In the first part of this episode we look at how ideas of race have caused us to treat a large portion of our population as less than human. Then we look at how human-centric thinking has had a detrimental effect on our planet. 

In this new Language of God mini series—Uniquely Unique—Jim is joined by our producer Colin for a deep dive into these questions and more. The quest? To try to come to a better understanding of what it means to be human, to bear the image of God. Along the way, you’ll hear from a variety of experts from a wide range of disciplines, drawing on biology, history, anthropology, philosophy, theology and more to try to make sense of our human identity

The quotes from Joseph Graves were from episode 49: Joseph Graves } The Genetics of Race (Part 2)


Transcript

Stump: 

Welcome to Language of God. I’m Jim Stump. 

Hoogerwerf: 

And I’m Colin Hoogerwerf. 

Stump: 

This is the fifth episode in our mini-series we’re calling Uniquely Unique. 

Hoogerwerf:   

Last episode we talked about technology, which has allowed us to become a creature with a lot of power on this planet. 

Stump: 

Power to do good.

Hoogerwerf: 

Right, like healing all kinds of diseases.

Stump: 

But also power to do evil.  

Hoogerwerf: 

And that’s where we left off last episode talking about when our human capabilities turn to something a little bit darker. And so we’ll pick it up there and we’ll start by hearing from Luke Bretherton, a professor of moral and political theology, who was with us last episode. 

Bretherton: 

When we create forms of life that actually militate against human flourishing, the offense there is not against our humanity, but our  animanity. The remarkable thing about humans, which I think does distinguish us from other kinds of creatures. It’s almost a kind of negative thing. We have the capacity to render toxic in conscious and intentional ways, our own physical survival, let alone thriving.

Stump: 

It has started to become pretty clear by now that we’ve been able to identify some of the things about humans that are really extraordinary, or remarkable, as Luke puts it. It is convincing, even, that these extraordinary capabilities, if you were able to graph them somehow, would make us, as Jeff Schloss called it way back in our introductory episode, spectacular outliers. And that these things make us not only unique, but uniquely unique. 

Hoogerwerf: 

We’ve spent not only this series, but most of our human history trying to identify the unique properties of ourselves and rarely on trying to identify the unique characteristics of other creatures. In doing so, we have at times become obsessed with our own abilities and capabilities. And there is a real risk to this. As we attempt to identify the qualities that make us human, we inevitably also determine that which is not human. And history has repeatedly shown those non-human qualities are taken by humans to be less important, less worthy of our care and attention, even less loved by God. 

Stump: 

David Lahti said something when we interviewed him that really captured an insight about the human condition. 

Lahti: 

All organisms, besides humans, naturally follow the dictates of their Creator and live according to their ultimate purpose. We are the only ones who are able to deviate from that.

Stump: 

History makes it abundantly clear that we have repeatedly deviated from our ultimate purpose in ways that have not been for the betterment of our neighbors, both human and nonhuman. To use theological language, we are the only creatures that sin. How’s that for a human distinctive?

Hoogerwerf: 

Today’s episode looks at this sad history of what happens when our search for what it means to be human goes astray.

Stump: 

In the first part we look at what can happen when we try to identify what a human is too specifically, or when we rely on science to answer questions it is not capable of answering about what it means to be human. When we have too narrow a definition of what a human is, we leave out some humans, or see them as less human. Much of our history (and much of our present) still puts humans of certain genders, ethnicities, or those with different physical and mental abilities outside the inner circle of what is human. We’ll look specifically at how ideas of race have caused us to treat a large portion of our population as something less than human. 

Dunston: 

I had accepted by my church teaching, that God made us different, and he loves us all the same, So therefore, there had to be a good reason for why he made us different, and why he gave us some characteristics that seem to be loved and appreciated and respected and others of us didn’t have those.

Hoogerwerf: 

In the second part we’ll look at what happens when we take the human and all its abilities—abilities that do seem to be uniquely unique—to be more valuable than the abilities of all other creatures. This kind of human-centric thinking has had a long and detrimental effect on the planet and all the creatures who live on it, including our own species.  

Bouma-Prediger: 

One person’s definition of how humans are exceptional is humans are exceptional in their ability to trash the planet. Marmots can’t do the damage that we humans can do, even beavers, you know, who change their local surroundings by damming up that little creek and making a pond so that they can build a lodge on it and be safe from their predators and have more to eat and so on. No other creature has the exceptional ability that we humans have to change the chemistry of the atmosphere.

[musical interlude]

Part One

Stump: 

We’ve been talking about the uniqueness of our species in comparison to other species on the planet, but there is also variety within our species. Each individual who asks this question, what does it mean to be human, is going to have a different set of experiences which will bear on the answers. When we try to come up with some sort of simple answer to what makes us human, we run the risk of excluding some individuals from what we have determined is human. 

Hoogerwerf: 

And to add complexity to that is that for much of our history, the people who have been making decisions about what it is to be human have not varied all that much. Said simply, almost all of them have been white men. 

Stump: 

And it’s probably no secret that both of us fall into the same category as well. 

Hoogerwerf: 

Right. And because we live in a society which has given us a certain amount of privilege, we’re certain to be missing some really important aspects in our quest to find the answer to what it means to be human. 

Stump: 

There has been a long history of science attempting to put some limits on what it means to be human or at least what the ideal human looks like, creating a kind of hierarchy of humanity where some individuals are closer to the ideal than others. Science is not done in a vacuum, but scientists also live within culture which has various sociological pressures and expectations for certain results. 

Hoogerwerf: 

And the church has, by no means, kept itself outside of this attempt to highlight the perfect human. And it’s complicit in the violence and hate directed at people of color. 

Stump: 

Over many centuries scientists came to the false conclusion that race is a biological concept. More recently the scientific consensus has come around to the modern orthodoxy in biology which is that there is no biological or genetic basis for race. Dr Joseph Graves helped us understand this in a two part interview on this podcast a while back. But he did point out that even though scientific data has shown pretty clearly the problems with race as a biological concept, many people, even in the sciences haven’t accepted this view. 

Graves: 

Now there have been surveys taken over the last 20 years where biologists are asked, you know, do humans—and here that we mean anatomically modern humans—do they have biological races? And the results of those surveys indicate that not everybody agrees with this modern orthodoxy and that there are significant pools of scholars who disagree with that modern orthodoxy.

Hoogerwerf: 

And there are real consequences when we try to hold to the idea of race as some real biological division. Of course race is a cultural, social reality as Dr Graves also reminded us. 

Graves: 

Throughout my career. There were impediments that were placed in my way that had to do with my membership in a racially subordinated population in the United States. And that’s real, and that still exists. And of course, you know, because I am a university professor, things aren’t quite as bad for me as people who are chronically unemployed or underemployed in the society, but the same risks with regard to things like being, you know, arbitrarily arrested or killed because of my socially defined race are real for people, even in my social status. 

Stump: 

There are still too many stories of people of color being denied the same kind of humanity that so many of us take for granted. We want to hear another story. It’s a story that attempts to understand this variation that we find in humans as part of our human identity.

Dunston: 

Because I grew up in the segregated south, my community was very reflective of who I saw myself as and that’s a black girl. But being black was not something that I was essentially conscious of, in my early childhood, because everybody was black.

Stump: 

This is Georgia Dunston. She is now a professor Emerita at Howard University and founding director for the National Human Genome Center at Howard. She came to an interest in biology at a young age and was encouraged by her teachers to follow that path. And biology was also a way for her to find answers to her questions that were starting to form. 

Dunston: 

So biology came as a consequence of my interest in human differences and why a God that loved all of us the same, appeared to treat us differently, okay? And I was grounded in the church. I loved the Lord. I was taught about how God loves us all, I learned all the songs to ‘Jesus loves me this I know, he loves all of his children.’ And then, in an environment where I was growing up with segregation, and the issues that were now coming forward on the differences in the schools and opportunities of black versus whites became in focus—it was not a focus in my very early years, because everybody was the same. But as I moved forward, as I grew up, and when I moved to junior high and high school, the significance of being black came into focus in the school arena. And that’s what I’m saying, that I had questions, first for my Sunday school teachers and my pastor. My questions were, if God loves all his children the same, why does he seem to treat—he appears to have pets. It looks like he loves these little white kids better than the black kids, if we look at what’s happening in society. 

So that was one of my questions. And I will say to you, I asked all of the people that I thought had, that could answer the question, first in the church, and then I asked my school teachers. Now the school teachers were those who helped me move along biology and then genetics, as the way to get answers to my questions of why people are different, why God made us different. Because I had accepted my church teaching that God made us different, and he loves us all the same, so therefore, there had to be a good reason for why he made us different, and why he gave us some characteristics that seem to be loved and appreciated and respected and others of us didn’t have those.

Stump: 

At that time in her life, Georgia pretty quickly exhausted all her sources of information on this topic at church and at school. 

Dunston: 

I often tell this story whenever I talk about my dear mother, who just got exasperated with all of my questions. One day, she said to me, in her exasperation, she said, “Georgia May, I do not know why God made you—at that time—a little black girl. I don’t know why he gave you kinky hair. I don’t know why he gave you this characteristic or that characteristics,” versus what I would be saying. This seems to be more desirable, what have you, whether it was the shape of your nose or the texture of your skin. But she said,” I don’t know why. But I tell you what. I tell you what. I want you to ask God. I want you to ask God why he made you the way he made you and what he had in mind for you.” That came at a point in time, where I did just what she said in my prayer, in my prayer. God, why did you make me? And why did you give me the characteristics that you gave me? And how—the big question for me was how do these characteristics and these differences show your love for your children the same? 

Stump: 

These questions did eventually lead Georgia further into science, but she started to find answers to these questions not in the lab, but in Sunday school as a Sunday school teacher. 

Dunston:  

And I’ll never forget, it was a life transforming moment in studying the Bible when my eyes were truly open to Christ. I love the fact that Christ knew who he was. He knew who he was. He knew where he came from. He knew where he was going. And he knew every step on his path. I love that about him. And the idea that he came that we might know who we are. And he came that he could answer for me those questions that I’m telling you. Christ was the one who answered those questions in the context of his life for me, and is the reason why I’m so rooted now in the Christian faith based view for the whole arena of science and religion.

Stump: 

Her journey in asking these questions wasn’t always straightforward. There were times when the questions raised doubts and had her wondering about God’s intentions, especially as she went through graduate school at the University of Michigan. 

Dunston: 

I can tell you I fell away from church in graduate school. I had real questions about God’s presence and blessing me in giving me intellect and what have you. I was sitting in those lectures and in those classes and interaction, and I had real questions about what God had given me of what his purpose was for my life.

Stump: 

But she did make it through graduate school with her faith intact, and as she spent more time in the lab and studying genetics, she found that science also had something to provide in answering her questions. 

Dunston: 

Bottom line is, God has shown us that he indeed, did intentionally make us each unique. And that is clearly supported by the evidence of the human genome sequence. The first observation, that when you look at the whole genome, the 3 billion nucleotide sequence, the data shows less than one 10th of 1% of our genome is involved in coding for proteins that make the difference in the superficial of the phenotypic difference. In other words, the differences between our skin color and the things we see on the surface. So when we divide ourselves in racial groups based on geographic distribution, that largely are based on anatomic features, surface features, and what have you, that we now know from genome study, are largely the adaptability of the genome to the environment that you’re in, because God in His love for all of us the same, allows for those characteristics that ensure our survival, and health in whatever environment we’re in.

Stump: 

We also learned from Joseph Graves that when we look at the genomes of people within racial groups that we’ve identified, there is more genetic diversity within those groups, than there is between those groups. Georgia takes this to represent our uniqueness and our similarity.

Dunston: 

The genome first said that we are all uniquely the same. Although we are different in appearance, we are all the same. So God isn’t treating us differently. He really has put the same beautiful mechanism in all of us for the good life, that he has not only plan but purpose for us. Diversity is the hallmark of divinity. Everything God made is unique, and he and all of his creation, and none of it is exactly the same. 

Stump: 

Early in Georgia’s career she collaborated with Francis Collins at the NIH in putting together a database of genomes of people from African descent. This became one of the forerunners of the human genome project at Howard University. And for Georgia, the genome itself became an important symbol for the uniqueness of individuals and of our membership in the human family.

Dunston: 

Genomics is the science that God fashioned with his own hand to answer every desire of our heart, about who we are, why we are and what we are. And the answer is made to glorify God, your—every genome, every genome, every individual is uniquely put together with a God given capacity to manifest His glory. It’s our inheritance, it’s within us. And the genome shows that everybody is part, every human being is part of one exquisitely diverse family. 

Stump: 

Georgia’s story is one that finds the importance of diversity within the human species. But racism has been and continues to be a stain on what it means to be human, how we have departed from what we were intended to be. And science bears some of the blame for this historically. But we can also see through genetics that we have developed resources and a narrative that helps to address this and put us back onto a better track.

Hoogerwerf: 

But is there something about the human condition, something about what it means to be human, that we’ll always treat some people as less than human?

Stump: 

That is indeed a sad history, I’m afraid.

Hoogerwerf: 

Does that mean it is destined to be a part of our sad future?

Stump: 

Christian theology says it won’t always be a part of our future, and in the grand scheme of things, there are certain ways that we’ve gotten better over the centuries. But of course there continue to be very difficult and troubling examples of how we continue to identify with our own groups and marginalize others. 

Hoogerwerf: 

When we bring this back to the main question we’ve been asking of this series, what does it mean to be human, we find a few answers from Georgia’s story. We find that, for one thing, the search for human uniqueness can lead to wrong conclusions, and those wrong conclusions can end up oppressing whole groups of people, whether it is because of their skin color or their gender or some other attribute which does not fit in with the group making the decision about what characteristics make a human. 

Stump: 

But on the other side of that we learn that to be human is to be a part of a group of unique individuals. And understanding that diversity is vital to understanding what it means to be human. 

[musical interlude]

BioLogos: 

Hi Language of God listeners. We wanted to take a quick break from the episode to tell you about the BioLogos resource centers found at our website, biologos.org. You’ll find articles, videos, and other resources curated for pastors, educators, youth ministry, campus ministry and small groups. Help bring the science and faith conversation to the places that are important to you. Just click the resources tab at the top of the page. Now back to the conversation. 

Part Two

Stump: 

There’s another problem we’ve created for ourselves in how we have treated the planet we have to live in. Colin, your educational background has prepared you to tell us about this.

Hoogerwerf: 

Yeah, I remember a course I took in college called ecological theology. We spent the first several weeks of the class learning about the many different environmental disasters we are facing, even arguing about which were the worst ones: Species extinction, water and air pollution, climate change, soil loss…pick your favorite disaster. It got to the point where all of us in the class were pretty depressed and hopeless before we started talking about what could be done about it. 

Stump: 

It’s too easy for most of us not to care or even notice such things now. 

Hoogerwerf: 

For a long time there have been people trying to highlight these issues, but not many people have been listening, so experts have carried the weight. There’s a quote from Aldo Leopold, one of the fathers of the environmental movement which says that “one of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” The more environmental science I study, the more I see these deep wounds to our planet. 

Stump: 

But I fear the time is coming, and not too far off, if it hasn’t already come, where these issues are going to be painfully obvious to all of us. We’re going to reap what we’ve been sowing for a while, and the attitude that we can consume all the resources without consequences is going to be shown to be hubris on our part.

Hoogerwerf: 

Bringing us back to the theme of this series… This search for human uniqueness has the risk of having us idolize all humans over everything else and at the expense of anything non-human. 

Bouma-Prediger: 

That’s where I’m very nervous, because I’ve seen this historically, and in contemporary culture, time and again. Any language about uniqueness, human uniqueness, exceptionalism, etcetera, almost always ends up trying to justify, people try to justify a kind of commodification of anything that’s non-human. And we know where that goes. I mean, it gives us the world we currently live in where, you know, the only value that non-human things have is their utility, using economic language, their usefulness to us humans.

Hoogerwerf: 

This is Steve Bouma-Prediger. 

Bouma-Prediger:

I am the Leonard and Marjorie Maas Professor of Reformed Theology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Hoogerwerf: 

Steve has been on the podcast before, in episode four, when we talked about the science and theology of soil. And in complete transparency, he has shaped my own thinking on these things since the time I took his classes at Hope College, including that ecological theology course I just mentioned.  

Stump: 

That’s a bold statement he’s making there, that any kind of talk about uniqueness leads to humans looking at the rest of the world only in terms of usefulness. And I think we’re going to have some listeners who are nodding their heads in complete agreement, and we’re going to have other listeners who are shaking their heads wanting to defend themselves and the rest of us humans and our use of resources on this planet. 

Hoogerwerf: 

Yeah, so I think this is complicated because it challenges the way we have come to be in the world. Of course we do have to use resources. 

Bouma-Prediger: 

We need to use things to eat, to clothe ourselves to, you know, to laptop computers, we’re all using right now. Nothing wrong with using things, all creatures use things. But we have to acknowledge the value beyond other creatures’ mere usefulness, if we’re going to all inhabit this home planet together. 

Hoogerwerf: 

I see two challenges coming from Steve’s view. The first is one we’ve been thinking about through this whole series, which is about uniqueness and whether we are in fact unique from the rest of creation. The second is, even if we are uniquely unique, is there some harm that can come from our knowledge of that fact? 

Stump: 

Let’s take those in turn. Like you’ve said, we’ve already spent a lot of time on the first part. And Steve doesn’t necessarily have a problem with our uniqueness. 

Bouma-Prediger: 

So yes, we humans are unique in having the particular, what, set or constellation of features that we have. Whether you talk about, we’re bipedal, and we have, you know, a big cerebral cortex, and we have this ability to use language, etc. That combination of factors makes us different than the marmot or the meadow or the pine tree.

Hoogerwerf: 

We haven’t had much of a problem even from the very beginning in saying that we are unique. But we’re after something different right? We’re trying to figure out if we’re uniquely unique. And in this sense I still have not given up the idea that we might have been able to do a six part podcast series on the question, ‘what does it mean to be a cuttlefish.’  If we came at that question with the same kind of vigor, somehow letting go of our human ideas, would we not find that cuttlefish, too, are uniquely unique? Or would we not find the same things about redwoods, the species that we have used as our example as an outlier? 

Bouma-Prediger:

Sequoia sempervirens, Sequoiadendron giganti. You get two kinds of Sequoias. One is the coastal redwood, you find those in, you know, the Bay Area, north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The giant sequoia you find on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at about 6000, 7000 feet. Those are two unique trees. The biggest, the tallest and the biggest living things. 

Stump: 

You’re going to have to find some way to convince me that a redwood tree has something else that makes its uniqueness something different than an oak tree’s uniqueness—that any other species but us is really uniquely unique.

Hoogerwerf: 

Yeah, and I’m not sure I want to do that. I really have become convinced that we are uniquely unique. We really pushed Steve on this too. We were trying to build a case for being uniquely unique and he always came back with a concern that gets at the second question here which is, once we have determined that we are uniquely unique, what do we do with that information?

Bouma-Prediger:

Some people talk about how we’re exceptional in our ability to devastate our home planet. But then what does that mean? Yeah, are we unique in that regard? Probably so. There’s no other creature I’m aware of on this planet who has the ability to make it inhospitable for every other creature. So that’s another take on sort of human exceptionality.

Stump: 

That idea echoes David Lahti’s idea from the beginning of the episode that we are the only creatures able to deviate from our God given purpose. And those two weren’t the only ones to bring up this point in an interview. Many other people we talked to said that in many ways we are just animals, but if we’re looking for a unique feature of the human animal, it might be our ability to do harm to the planet and other things that live on it. Here’s Luke Bretherton again. 

Bretherton: 

There’s a sense in which we’re just, we’re being bad animals. And that is a remarkable thing, it’s the kind of the lack of wisdom is what marks out the possibility of the human. And we can tell a kind of theological story about that, from the fall and East of Eden onwards. But that’s, I think that is—it’s not that other creatures don’t necessarily have forms of wisdom or something like wisdom, or better and worse ways of, kind of, responding to their environment and making attuned judgments. It’s that humans can actively and intentionally destroy the basic conditions of animal thriving.

Hoogerwerf: 

Alister McGrath also said something like this when we talked to him a while back. 

McGrath: 

I think one thing Darwin has taught us is that there is continuity between us and the animals. And we need to respect that. In effect, it reminds us how important the animal kingdom is. But it also reminds us there are some, if we might say it, animal instincts within us. And we need to be aware of that. If I read a philosopher like Mary Midgley, she is very clear that in effect, we are animals, and that has good aspects and also bad aspects. We need to be aware of that. We are different. But I think I want to emphasize that a difference does not necessarily mean better. Because how many animals are there who’ve been able to develop weapons that could perhaps wipe themselves out? I think we need to be very careful that in effect, we are different. And that brings responsibility. But sometimes I’m not sure we’re capable of exercising that responsibility.

Hoogerwerf: 

I think responsibility is a good word to bring in here. 

Bouma-Prediger: 

I’ll play with the word a little bit here, the way that some people have, response hyphen ability, we have, not just responsibility all in one word. But we have an ability to respond to God’s various callings in ways that other creatures don’t. 

Stump: 

But part of our sad history is that we have not responded very well. 

Hoogerwerf: 

No, we haven’t. 

Stump: 

And it is really interesting to me that we wouldn’t say this of any other creature, that they haven’t responded well. Even when some creatures might cause pain, or suffering, or other kinds of destruction, we don’t attribute to them moral responsibility for that.

Hoogerwerf: 

This is back to your neighbor’s dog biting your son, versus the neighbor biting your son, right?

Stump: 

Right. So it seems to me that this point about our sad history, about the fact that we alone have departed from what we ought to do, is just one side of the coin. The other side is that we have responsibility. There’s something uniquely unique about us that comes as a package deal: we can do some remarkable things, and we ought to get some credit for those when we do them well; but we can also do some really lousy things, and we deservedly get the blame for those.

Hoogerwerf: 

Yeah, but I want us to come back to the point we started with, which is the danger in seeing ourselves as the most important creature, or the exceptional creature. Because it seems like this elevation of ourselves is what leads to some of these bad effects—whether it is thinking that our group, or race, or ethnicity is the really important one and that others don’t matter as much; or whether it is thinking that our species can do whatever it wants to the rest of the planet. 

Stump: 

I suspect this isn’t a very good strategy for a species to thrive.

Hoogerwerf: 

No. And setting ourselves over everything else also has another problem. The more I read about ecology, the more I realize that being human is utterly dependent on the non-human world that surrounds us today. Back in our Biologs episode we learned that our own bodies consist of more non-human cells than human cells. And the more we learn about those microbes, the more we find out that even those have complex and dependent relationships with each other. What we are was shaped in an evolutionary process where the rest of life had a big role in the push and pull of what we’ve become. But what we are today is also totally reliant on our relationships with other creatures, even ones we can’t see. 

Stump: 

So there is a sense in which if we harm or destroy these other creatures, we may be harming ourselves and our ability to thrive or flourish. But I think you want to push further than that, right? It’s not just that we ought to be worried about what will happen to ourselves, but that these other creatures are good in and of themselves too, and we ought to be concerned about them.

Bouma-Prediger: 

It has what ethicists call inherent or intrinsic value, and from a Christian point of view, it has that value over and above its usefulness to us because God values it. And God made it.

Hoogerwerf: 

So what if we started to think about the human not as the thinking creature or even the exceptional creature, but as the responsible creature, the creature that has a calling and has an ability, an authority and an amazing suite of tools to use to nurture and sustain all of creation. 

Bouma-Prediger: 

God made us to be a certain kind of creature, in order to enable us to be image bearers of God, which I take to be based on our reading of Genesis 1 and 2. A key feature that is, have a particular kind of relationship with God that the marmot, and the mountain, and the meadow don’t have. They have their own unique relationships. But ours too, is unique in certain ways as humans, and we’re given certain— made in a certain way, given certain gifts, that enable us to be good caretakers of creation, to image God in that way, by caring for that which God has made.

Stump: 

So we’re not better than everything else in creation, but there is some sense in which we’re responsible not just for ourselves, but for everything else too.

Hoogerwerf: 

Right. We are the wise creature, the sapient creature, but that means we have obligations we wouldn’t otherwise have. 

Stump: 

That sounds like we might be called to be stewards, to be God’s representatives, to bear the image of God, which is the very first thing the Bible says about us.

Hoogerwerf: 

It seems like we’re coming around to the heavens-down approach again.

Stump: 

When David first brought up these two perspectives, heavens-down and earth-up, it wasn’t just about distinguishing the approaches or keeping them separate.

Lahti: 

The two perspectives meet in the middle in some really interesting ways . 

Stump: 

Maybe we need one more episode to flesh that out a little more and see how the two approaches meet in the middle.

Hoogerwerf: 

Sounds good. See you next week.

Credits

BioLogos:

Language of God is produced by BioLogos. It has been funded in part by the John Templeton Foundation and more than 300 individuals who donated to our crowdfunding campaign. Language of God is produced and mixed by Colin Hoogerwerf. That’s me. Our theme song is by Breakmaster Cylinder. We are produced out of the remote workspaces and homes of BioLogos staff in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

If you have questions or want to join in a conversation about this episode find a link in the show notes for the BioLogos forum. Find more episodes of Language of God on your favorite podcast app or at our website, biologos.org, where you will also find tons of great articles and resources on faith and science. Thanks for listening.


Featured guests

Georgia Dunston's Headshot

Georgia M. Dunston

Georgia M. Dunston, PhD, is Professor Emerita and former chair of the Department of Microbiology, Howard University College of Medicine; founding director of the National Human Genome Center (NHGC) at Howard University (HU), and former Director of Molecular Genetics in the NHGC. She was founder and director of the Human Immunogenetics Laboratory at HU and has published extensively on genetic variation in human major histocompatibility complex antigen system and other common markers of disease susceptibility in African Americans. She served on the National Advisory Council for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; the Genetic Basis of Disease Review Committee for the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences Review Committee on Human Genome Diversity Project. Her research on human genome variation in disease susceptibility and health disparities has been the vanguard of efforts at Howard University to build national and international research collaborations focusing on the genetics of diseases common in African Americans and other African Diaspora populations.
Steven Bouma-Prediger

Steven Bouma-Prediger

Steven Bouma-Prediger (PhD, University of Chicago) is Leonard and Marjorie Maas Professor of Reformed Theology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He also oversees the Environmental Studies minor and chairs the Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee. In addition, Bouma-Prediger is adjunct professor of theology and ethics at Western Theological Seminary. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including For the Beauty of the Earth, is a former board member of the Au Sable Institute, and regularly writes and speaks on environmental issues.
Dr Joseph L Graves

Joseph L. Graves

Dr. Joseph L. Graves Jr. is a professor of biological sciences at the Department of Nanoengineering, which is part of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering at North Carolina A&T State University and University of North Carolina Greensboro. He received his B.A. in Biology from Oberlin college and his PhD from Wayne State University. His research includes the evolutionary theory of aging and the biological concepts of race. He has published two books, The Emperor’s New Clothes: BioLogical Theories of Race at the Millennium and The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America and has appeared on several documentaries including the PBS documentary Decoding Watson and the Ken Burns documentary The Gene. Graves is a confirmed Episcopalian and has spent time on the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission of the Diocese of North Carolina.

David Lahti

David Lahti

David C. Lahti is an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens College, City University of New York, where he runs a Behavior & Evolution laboratory focusing mainly on learned behavior in birds and humans. Prof. Lahti received a BS in biology and history from Gordon College. He received a PhD in moral philosophy and the philosophy of biology at the Whitefield Institute, Oxford, for a study of the contributions science can and cannot make to an understanding of the foundations of morality. He then received a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan for a study of rapid evolution in an introduced bird. He has been a Darwin Fellow at the University of Massachusetts and a Kirschstein NRSA Research Fellow with the National Institutes of Health, where he studied the development and evolution of bird song. His current research projects include rapid trait evolution following species introduction, cultural evolution in humans and animals, and the evolution of our capacity for morality and religion
Alister McGrath Headshot

Alister McGrath

Alister E. McGrath is Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford. In addition to his work at Oxford, McGrath is Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, President of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, and serves as associate priest in a group of Church of England village parishes in the Cotswolds. His personal website can be accessed here.
Luke Bretherton

Luke Bretherton

Luke Bretherton is Robert E. Cushman Distinguished Professor of Moral and Political Theology and senior fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. Before joining the Duke faculty in 2012, he was reader in Theology & Politics and convener of the Faith & Public Policy Forum at King’s College London. His latest book is Christ and the Common Life: Political Theology and the Case for Democracy (Eerdmans, 2019).


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