Earlier this year, The Daily Mail reported that "Nearly half of Americans believe God created mankind in a single day about 10,000 years ago, a literal interpretation of the Bible, according to a new survey that shows the view toward evolution in the United States hasn't changed in 30 years." The fact that so many Americans seem to steadfastly refuse, almost as an act of will, to acquiesce to the authority of modern scientists befuddles researchers and educators. Writing for Forbes magazine, Steven Salzberg laments "only 40% of Americans believe in evolution. State legislatures continue to pass bills attempting to teach children the creation myth."
It seems that a dichotomy has been assumed in America where one is either committed to the truth and authority of science or the truth and authority of Scripture, the twain never to meet.
The BioLogos Foundation, a self-described "community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith" challenges that dichotomy. Recently they hosted an online discussion with a group of Southern Baptist theologians. As The Washington Post blog reports, "In a series of essays titled “Southern Baptist Voices,” the two groups consider questions such as whether the existence of a historical Adam and Eve created in the image of God is compatible with the gradual development of humans through evolution." BioLogos president Darrel Faulk declares that "our intention in initiating this series together was not to engage in a tit-for-tat argument, but rather, for each of us to take the points of the other under serious consideration."
What is striking and newsworthy about the conversation is the level of grace and kindness displayed by the participants. As the Post noted, “while there is disagreement, the authors are quick to emphasize places where they do agree," and "there is room for give-and-take on both sides."
As an Evangelical, I think that what is different about this conversation (and what will ultimately make a huge impact) is that the scientists at BioLogos take faith, and thus their audience, seriously. Very often, I have personally felt as if scientists talk down to Christians. Christians, in turn, dig in their heels and the lines of communication are shut down.
The BioLogos website affirms: "We value gracious dialogue with those who hold other views." This goes a long way toward opening the doors of dialogue. If scientists want to reach the minds the faithful, they will have to understand the place the Bible and Christian tradition holds in the personal narratives of religious believers. Evangelicals, in particular, are known for the very often emotional stories of personal conversion. In such a situation, God is real because of the very real effect faith has had on their lives.
I don't know what future generations will believe about the Bible and science, but it seems clear that both faith and science are going to have deep roots in American life for the foreseeable future. The two had better learn to get along.