Why I Went Public on Evolution

I went public in 2012 on evolution. When it comes to personal risks, very personal reasons take center stage. Why did I go public?

@thoughtful this WSJ article is how you first heard of me. Hopefully this article explains why I published an article that did not make much sense to you.

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Beautiful picture of you and and your wife!

Thank you for the explanation and related stories.

Life and science are so wonderfully odd. When we have a myopic focus, we don’t see people or nature for all of their or its complexity. But God widens our view to see grandeur in the way that He works beyond what we would imagine.

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@swamidass, This was the first I heard of your WSJ article (and more of your background). Very interesting story. I highly commend you for vocalizing your belief in Christ’s resurrection! Origins debates will always continue, but NOTHING is as important as faith in Christ.

I admired your bold statement: “Yes, this is worth risking my job.”

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2 posts were split to a new topic: Evolution and Salvation

@swamidass Joshua, thanks for being open and honest about your journey of wrestling through this difficult issue. As a young scientist and a Christian, I really appreciate what you’ve laid out here. I hope that your courage will inspire many - it goes to show that honesty, while risky, can bring about blessings.

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You (Josh) being an evangelical who agrees that the evidence speaks strongly in favor of evolution and normal evolutionary process, is the worry that your fellow scientists would freak out about you being an evangelical? Or that your fellow evangelicals would freak out about you accepting the validity of evidence in evolutionary biology.?

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Yes and yes.

I was immensely worried about this for three reasons.

  1. The persecution narrative i heard from ID and YEC, which essentially teaches that all mainstream scientist are intrinsically hostile to religious belief and have an atheistic agenda.

  2. The statements by many scientists that engaging the public and revealing personal beliefs is both unprofessional and a waste of time that detracts from doing real scientific work.

  3. The fairly common “microagressions” (for lack of a better word), verbal barbs, I observed amongst scientists directed towards christians, along with celebration of anti-religious scientists like Dawkins. They were fairly aggressive during the Dover Trial, when I was a graduate student, but are a still a regular occurrence on this board.

What I learned is that the persecution narrative was largely false, even though there is prejudice against Christians at times. Even from anti-religious scientists, I’ve found that they’ve treated me consistently with fairness in my professional career, in large part (I supposed) because they are professionals and respect my scientific work and my effort to advance science. I also found that engaging the public can be explained to my peers in a way that it is valued, as long it does not detract from my scientific work. In fact, many of my colleagues were very curious about my personal beliefs.

However, I did not know with certainty all that before I went public. It was genuinely scary. I did not know what to expect.

I certainly expected blow back here. In many ways, it was a Rorschach test. I expected, and saw, a fairly sharp divide, one we see all the time on this forum. The response reveals more about the responder than it does about me.

On one hand, we have creationists launching in to ad hominems, accusing me of being an evolution evangelist, and questioning if I am a true or faithful Christian. I knew in writing this I was calling down a maelstrom on myself from Christians. At one Veritas Forum I did soon after, the atheist philosopher privately expressed her concern and condolences, “I think they (the Christians in the audience) are going to be far more upset with you, than with me.”

On the other hand, that was not the whole story. I also had a hunch I would see quite a large number of creationists respond like this YEC.

You can see here that @jeffb, in the view of most Christians including me, is rightly seeing the situation. I really am a Christian, and I’m acting in courage to make Jesus know in the world. That is worth supporting, even if he thinks I’m totally wrong about evolution.

Also, I have seen quite a few people change their minds on evolution, once they had a chance to have some one explain it in a way that made sense to them that they trusted. Not because I’m trying to change their mind, but because they found me trustworthy and they found my faith unobjectionable.


So the scientific response was a wildcard to me, and quite scary because it touched my livelihood. But in the end you were fair to me, and my respect of the scientific community has only grown, and that is in large part why I launched Peaceful Science as a secular effort, not merely Christian.

But the Christian response has been complex and mixed, but that is exactly the complexity that I am skilled at navigating. I’m seeing progress now that most people thought would be impossible.

Make sense? :slight_smile:

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No doubt when science catches up with the Bible, both will agree!
Science is merely man trying to figure out (from man’s limited perspective) what the Genius has already done.

I have more faith in God than in man :slight_smile:

"There are so many things that are beyond our understanding. There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. - Albert Einstein