Peaceful Science explains how I find confident faith in the scientific world, whether or not evolution is true. This is meant to be a place where the honest and curious can consider together how mainstream science (including evolution) can be understood within the context of orthodox Christian faith. This is also a call to peace in the creation war.
Who Are You?
I am the blog’s author, Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass MD PhD. I am a computational biologist, that runs a research group at a leading research university, Washington University in Saint Louis, where I work as an assistant professor. In my service time, I work as a science advisor for the AAAS Science for Seminaries Program with Concordia Seminary, speak regularly with the Veritas Forums and Intervarsity. I also collaborate with BioLogos (why explained to scientists and Christians). This blog will be the central outlet for all my faith and science projects.
Why Start This Blog?
The story of how things blog was formed is interesting; it is in response to a surprising experience. Somehow, a few simple posts on my lab website about evolution (evidence and human uniqueness) drew thousands of hits. After being linked to by RealClearScience, several blogs decided to debate and comment several times on these articles. Remarkably, a Wall Street Journal article I wrote in 2012 drew less enduring attention than these two articles. My lab website was not prepared to handle the controversy over these posts, and I did not have the time or tools to effectively manage the comments.
Encouragingly, many are interested in my thoughts on faith and science, but I needed better outlet than my lab website for future posts. Likewise, my first attempt at this (Creation Pacifism), ended up more confusing than clarifying. Thus, after some careful consideration, I launched this website in June 2016. Also with careful consideration, this website institutes a different comment policy than my lab’s website, to keep my purpose clear…
What Do You Believe?
I am an evangelical Christian and affirm the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Lausanne Covenant. I believe in a historical Adam, the physical Resurrection, and that the Bible is Inerrant and Infallible in all that it affirms. I attend a local Evangelical Covenant Church, where I preach frequently (e.g. about Ferguson), and have worked for years with the Veritas Forums and Intervarsity.
Whether evolution is true or not, I am a Christian because I believe God made Himself known to the world by raising Jesus from the dead.1 I find this act of God to be the core of the Christian faith, and more compelling than anything I find in science: certainly more compelling than any scientific argument for creation.
I am not a deist, an atheist, or an open theist. I am an orthodox Christian, who holds theology resonant with Evangelical, Reformed, Lutheran, and Barthian traditions. To that end, I follow Jesus because He rose from the dead. I have searched and searched all over. Nothing compares with Him. Nothing in science unsettles my trust in Him. As great as science is, Jesus is greater.
Finding my confidence outside of science, in Jesus, I see evolution as a reasonable (but incomplete) description of how God created us. As a scientist, I see very strong scientific evidence for common descent. As a Christian, I believe evolution is entirely consistent with a faithful reading of Genesis.2 My reading of Genesis includes a historical Adam and Eve, a death-causing Fall into sin, affirmation of God’s sovereignty, and trust in the Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture.3 Therefore, I am a confident theistic evolutionist. Maybe I am wrong, but I personally see no scientific or theological reason to reject theistic evolution.
What About Intelligent Design?
I know that God created us. He designed us all. However, I do not believe that mainstream science could ever prove this truth. I say this for scientific, theological, and philosophical reasons that will be explained in detail as this blog unfolds. I, therefore, I do not find arguments for design compelling, even though I believe God designed us. I agree with the great science historian from Harvard who writes
In contrast, the Intelligent Design movement is motivated by the unproven assumption that modern science can detect divine design in nature. I read the books, study the evidence and the arguments, and talk to those advancing these arguments. Scientifically speaking, I am not convinced. Most design arguments are obviously flawed, and the best arguments5 are weak. As the great scientist and apologist puts it,
So, at this point, once again quoting Owen Gingerich, “I … believe in intelligent design, lowercase ‘i’ and ‘d’. But I have trouble with Intelligent Design – uppercase ‘I’ and ‘D’ – a movement widely seen as anti-evolutionist.”
How Do You Choose Peace?
I eagerly seek peace with all people, on all sides of the Creation War. By nature, I am argumentative. I am not a very peaceful person. Still, I choose to follow Jesus, and He calls me to peace. I may not be the best example of His way, but it is my resolution to pursue peace in obedience to Him.
There is certainly reason for war. Needless to say, in addition to the Intelligent Design movement, also disagree with Young Earth Creation, Progressive Creation, and Atheistic Evolution. I see their appeal, but disagree on theological, scientific,6 and philosophical grounds. Resolving our disagreements, to me, is not nearly as important as pursuing peace.
Befuddling most of my critics, I generally avoid public showdowns. In most ways, I do not care what others think about origins; reject evolution if that is what you feel you must. I do not care. This is not the most important question facing our world. I am much more interested in explaining how confident faith in science is possible, declaring the true core of the Christian faith, and diligently working for peace.
Of course, I may occasionally defend my scientific claims when publicly challenged. This may include explaining flaws in design or creation arguments, or announcing the strong evidence (using the rules of mainstream science) for common descent. Perhaps more controversially, I fiercely oppose political activism against evolution in education. Usually, I am only willing to argue in public when I have partners in my opponent’s camp.7
Keep firmly in mind, however, I myself believe that God created us; He designed us all. Whether evolution is true or false, I’m so convinced of this Truth that I see absolutely no value in bad (or absurd) arguments for creation or design.
More important than our disagreements, I seek peace through dialogue and friendship. I hope to publicly define and defend common ground, understand those with whom I disagree, explain mainstream science, and confidently follow Jesus in science. To this end, I occasionally invite Intelligent Design proponents, and those who reject evolution, to post on this blog. Peace requires the hard work of dialogue, across the most emotional lines of contention.
Anyone interested in joining the hard work of peace is welcome join me. Together, let us eagerly seek peace in the Creation War.
There is a lot to discuss now, and I’m looking forward to explaining how I hold confident faith in a scientific world. I’m glad you have found me, so let us now continue the conversation…
- Those curious about the evidentiary basis for the Resurrection might find the historical work of NT Wright helpful. ↩
- John Walton (from Wheaton College) writes two books explaining one way of faithfully interpret Genesis that easily fits mainstream science. His interpretation starts from Biblical inerrancy and holds that Adam and Eve were historical people and that the days in Genesis were literal 24-hour periods. ↩
- Those unsatisfied with BioLogos’ big-tent approach to theology and Biblical interpretation might appreciate other venues more. For example, both Peaceful Science and The Hump of the Camel follow more conservative theology. ↩
- Perhaps I do not agree entirely. Most mutations are not disasters, rather they are neutral: neither beneficial or detrimental. ↩
- The best arguments focus on the fine tuning problem and abiogenesis. Science currently does not currently, and may never, understand these features of our world. Still, these arguments are far from from definitive and weak compared to Jesus. ↩
- To be clear, Atheistic Evolution might be consistent with the science. However, science itself, because of methodological naturalism, cannot tell us if evolution is theistic or atheistic. Atheism is a philosophical claim, even if it is correct. ↩
- For example, in my 2016 showdown with Cornelius Hunter and Ann Gauger (0f the Discovery Institute), I only engaged with Vincent Torley (an ID advocate from Uncommon Descent) kindly partnered with me. ↩