Today is a day for fresh starts in the United States. A personally exciting one is that, for the first time, the science adviser to the President will be a life scientist: geneticist and mathematician Eric Lander. So it seems like a good day to announce some new directions for my blogging here at Emerging Scholars Network. I’d like to work in a couple of new strands more focused on biology. We’ll still check in on the science news, just not every week. We’ll still chat about sci-fi books and films from time to time. I just think we could stand to mix things up a bit and to address what I think are some growing needs.
When I first started writing for this blog, about the last thing I wanted cover was the creation and evolution conversation. I felt like that was all anybody thought of under the science & faith heading, so I wanted to broaden that conversation. I also wasn’t that personally invested in the topic; I knew the broad options, I knew where I stood, and I was content with that. Now, 350+ posts later, I still think the science & faith conversation could be broader. At the same time, I’ve seen much more of the evangelical Christian conversation around creation and evolution, and a lot of what I’ve seen ain’t pretty.
It is no secret that some prominent atheists have attempted to use evolutionary biology (often paired with theology, philosophy and/or history that raises eyebrows) to debunk theism broadly and often Christianity specifically. So it is reasonable and unsurprising that Christians have responded critically. Unfortunately, instead of offering a theology consistent with evolutionary biology and a critique of philosophical materialism, the response often targets evolutionary biology itself. As a result, many evangelical Christians think evolutionary biology is ideology at odds with Christianity rather than science revealing how God works just like the rest of science. Thus anything anti-evolutionary is pro-Christian. That perspective, combined with an unfamiliarity with biology, sets a fairly low bar for what counts as worthwhile resources to share and arguments to make.
Of course, there’s only so much I can do about what other people write or share. So I figure I should focus on creating resources that can also be shared. Obviously there are other books and articles and blog posts and Wikipedia pages about any evolutionary biology topic one could imagine. Many of those are not explicitly Christian (or anti-Christian either), like most science material. And I don’t have a distinctly Christian take on evolutionary biology. I’m just looking to boost the signal-to-noise ratio on the actual science, and maybe making it more palatable by confessing a traditional credal Christianity at the same time.
Rather than just hit on the parts that intersect most directly with the Christian narrative, my (perhaps overly) (OK, probably) ambitious goal is to cover evolutionary biology in a more comprehensive fashion. Basically, I want to do a version of everything I wish someone had told me about evolutionary biology a couple of decades ago so I’d have known sooner how fascinating it is. Naturally, that will still introduce some bias to depth given to various topics. But hopefully the end result will be a decent overview of what we know about how evolution works and the major milestones in evolutionary history.
But wait! That’s not all! Ultimately I got into science because I wanted to practice science, not write about science. I’ve been tinkering with an artificial life/computational evolutionary biology framework inspired by my X-Men fandom. I don’t know if it will ever produce results that are publication worthy, but I’ve found it to be a helpful learning tool and I hope it might be useful to you too. So I’ll be mixing in some posts with details on experiments I’ve run and ideally that you can try also. Am I biting off more than I can chew? Maybe! But we’ll find out together.