Psychology, Sociology, and Ethics

The following projects were supported by the BioLogos Evolution & Christian Faith grant three-year program. 

BioLogos does not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the project leaders or their institutions, nor do the project leaders or their institutions necessarily endorse the views expressed by BioLogos.

Evolutionary Creation and Christian Ethics

St. Louis University

Dr. Craig Boyd

Biological evolution has traditionally presented a challenge to Christian faith for two primary reasons: (1) it seems to call into question the dignity of humanity, and (2) it seems to present a threat to a literal understanding of the Creation narratives.  It could be said that these two problems have received the greatest amount of attention.  However, evolution has also presented at least two difficulties for Christian faith in that it (1) seems to be the basis for a kind of “naturalistic evolution” – that is, if human nature is constantly changing, doesn’t it seem as if the standards of our behavior would also need to change?, and (2) if evolution seems to advocate the “survival of the fittest” doesn’t this necessarily lead to a kind of moral “social Darwinism?” I argue that that to embrace evolutionary creation does not require that theists must defend a kind of “scientific moral relativism” since the principles of natural law ethics and the development of the virtues seem to converge with the ways in which people have evolved.  However, the challenge of social Darwinism has been recently advocated by various people who see themselves as “Christian libertarians” who want to follow the economic teachings of Ayn Rand while simultaneously being a disciple of Christ.  Rand presents a naïve version of social Darwinism and fails to understand how compassion and love can develop in an “evolutionary world.”


Support for the National Longitudinal Study of Religion and Human Origins

Calvin College

Dr. Jonathan Hill

This project will field a national survey of U.S. adults (N=3,000) designed to profile how faith commitments and social context influence beliefs about human origins.  No detailed, nationally representative account of religion and human origins presently exists. The existing survey data on this topic are typically limited to a single question included in general population surveys.  These snapshots are often unsophisticated in their mapping of beliefs about human origins, conflating complex views into simplistic categories.  This survey will carefully probe beliefs about human evolution, divine involvement in the creation of humans, the historical existence of Adam and Eve, geological timeframes, and original sin, making sure to carefully catalog the entire spectrum of possible positions.  Moreover, this survey will pay careful attention to the social context of these beliefs by exploring what friends and family believe, if church leaders take a stance on these issues, what the perceived social consequences of changing beliefs would be, and the influence of science education.  The immediate outcomes of this project will include both popular and scholarly articles that disseminate the main findings from the survey.  In the long term, this project ultimately aims to provide a solid empirical base for informed dialogue among Christians committed to taking seriously both scripture and science. By accurately assessing what people believe about human origins, and taking concrete steps toward understanding why people hold these beliefs, this project can help forge a better way forward that is grounded in both knowledge and Christian charity.



From Monkeys or From Dirt? Cognitive Science and Human Origins

Bethel University

Dr. Adam Johnson

Evolution appears to provide the best scientific account for many aspects of human and animal biology. However, evolutionary accounts of human origins – even those consistent with theism – are poorly understood and accepted within many Christian communities. Why? Although this observation is frequently explained in terms of social or theological responses, we hypothesize that the cognitive demands associated with constructing a coherent scientific, philosophical, or theological account ofhuman origins push many people to their natural cognitive limit and, consequently, shape these origins discussions.

Constructing a coherent account of human origins requires vast memory resources and comprehension – more than most people freely have available in our busy world.We hypothesize that the cognitive burden embedded within human origins discussions produce a variety of emotional responses that influence origins discussions. Overly complicated discussions produce negative emotions such as exhaustion, frustration and cognitive dissonance. We tend to avoid ideas and explanations that produce such negative emotions. As a result, it’s often less cognitively and emotionally burdensome to neglect theological commitments – as in atheistic evolutionary accounts – or philosophical and scientific commitments – as in biblically literalist accounts. The cognitive perspective suggests that theistic evolutionary accounts frequently pose a variety of cognitive and emotional burdens that atheistic evolutionary and biblical literalist accounts do not pose.

Our research will examine the cognitive and emotional challenges presented by different human origins accounts, determine whether presenting theistic evolution as a narrative or story can overcome these cognitive and emotional challenges, and lead to broader discussion of human origins.


Evolutionary Psychology and Christian Views on Human Thriving

Fuller Theological Seminary

Dr. Pamela King, Dr. Justin Barrett, and Dr. James Furrow

Because Christian psychologists have largely stayed away from evolutionary psychology, the metaphysical and ethical assumptions of its non-theist practitioners have tended to become passively accepted and conflated with the genuine scientific insights of this area of science.  Evolutionary psychology need not be practiced in a way hostile to theism or Christianity, but holds intellectual and methodological resources that may invigorate Christian psychology around some of humanity’s biggest questions. This project demonstrates the fruitfulness of placing evolutionary psychology and Christian theological anthropology into direct conversation by considering the question: What is human thriving? The Fuller Evolutionary Psychology and Human Thriving Project is an interdisciplinary research project drawing upon the fields of theology, evolutionary psychology, and developmental psychology. Through a process of convening leaders in theology, the social sciences, and the church, the project will produce a jointly authored volume; reports for Christian academics, ministers, and educators; a course curriculum for seminaries; and web-based resources that will enable Christians to understand the philosophical and methodological significance of evolutionary psychology as it relates to human thriving. Of particular importance to the project is the role of the church in enabling its congregants to thrive spiritually and as persons. The Fuller Theological Seminary team is led by Pamela Ebstyne King, a developmental psychologist and ordained minister (P.C. USA) and is joined by cognitive and evolutionary psychologist, Justin Barrett; attachment scholar and marital and family therapist, Jim Furrow; and analytic theologian, Oliver Crisp.

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