Kathleen Parker on Francis Collins' Biologos
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Yesterday I focused on the need for "cross-talk" on matters of science policy, highlighting for example the importance of a middle ground perspective on science and religion. It had escaped my eye, but at the Washington Post on Sunday, columnist Kathleen Parker apparently is thinking along similar lines, spotlighting a recent "Candle in the Dark" initiative from Francis Collins.
I don't normally agree with Parker, yet I continue to read her and respectively assess her ideas. For example, I think in the past she hasn't given the Obama administration enough credit for incorporating a range of ethical perspectives into its decision on stem cell policy.
On the other hand, in this recent column, I agree with her when she applauds Collins' recent launch of Biologos, a Web site and foundation aimed at sponsoring dialogue about science and religion. In her column, Parker reports that a key audience for the foundation's work are home-schoolers and other Christian educators. Collins specifically hopes to develop curriculum and outreach that will enable this growing movement to accurately and constructively instruct students on evolution and the relationship between science and religion.
From Parker's column:
Collins, an evangelical Christian who was home-schooled until sixth grade, wants to raise the level of discourse about science and faith, and to help fundamentalists -- both in science and religion -- see that the two can coexist. To that end, he created the BioLogos Foundation and last month launched a Web site -- BioLogos.org -- to advance an alternative to the extreme views that tend to dominate the debate.
Yes, he asserted to a room full of journalists gathered here, one can believe in both God and science. In fact, says Collins, the latter does more to prove the existence of a creator than not.
This doesn't mean that Collins falls in line with those promoting creation science or, more recently, intelligent design. He merely insists that belief in God doesn't preclude acceptance of evolution....
....Collins says that many creationist-trained young people suffer an intense identity crisis when they leave home for college, only to discover that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Talk about messing with your mind.
Collins says he hears from dozens of young people so afflicted. Most susceptible to crisis are children who have been home-schooled or who have attended Christian schools. Of all religious groups and denominations, evangelical Protestants are the most reluctant to embrace evolution. Their objections haven't changed much since Billy Sunday first articulated them almost 100 years ago and revolve around the fear that acceptance of evolution negates God.
To Collins, Darwin is a threat only if one thinks that God is an underachiever. Collins doesn't happen to believe that. His study of genes has led him to conclude that God is both outside of nature and outside of time. He's big, in other words. The idea that God would create the mechanism of evolution makes sense.
Now, if only he can convince his fellow Christians.
Through the foundation and Web site, Collins is hoping to help home-schoolers and other Christian educators come to grips with their scientific doubts. Among other projects, he intends to develop curricula that combine faith and science. He also hopes to help fundamentalist scientists see the error of their ways.
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