Dr. Chad Chisolm’s Professional Writing class, over the course of the semester, has been bringing in a variety of speakers to come talk with the class, as well as anyone else who might be interested in attending, on a topic related to one of the four books read in class. On Monday, November 19, Professor Staci Johnson came in to class to speak on biology, origin and science and the relation of all three to Christianity and religion. This discussion is related to the book The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery by Jay W. Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez. The book discusses the notion that our world was specifically designed not only with the deliberate intent to support life but also with the exact specifications to allow us to discover and learn about the world we live in and the cosmos that surrounds us. Professor Johnson’s talk discussed a variety of individual topics all relating to biology and Christianity.
Professor Staci Johnson is an associate professor of biology here at Southern Wesleyan University. She teaches classes on general biology and biological ethics, but also commented on a course she teaches that discusses topics such as our origin and science and how we can view these subjects through a Christian, theist lense. Over the course of her hour-long discussion, Professor Johnson would talk on her upbringing in the church, the differing worldviews in regards to biology and religion, and the two most common opinions on evolution and origin.
Professor Johnson began her talk outlining her youth, growing up in a church-going family and learning Christian values at a very young age. She remarked on how her devotion and belief has always pushed her to learn more about things such as science as well as urging her to learn, teach, and study through a Christian lense. She dispels, quite early on, that the common notion that scientists and biologists are atheist is false. Additionally, she totally disagrees that being Christian and holding tight to religious values can interfere with the study of science. She supports these convictions by citing that the two ways we know about God are through scripture and nature and that nature is, as a whole, the jist of biology. From there in the discussion, Johnson transitions to the topic of evolution and origin. Acknowledging that these are both quite controversial, especially with regards to religious belief, she continues, noting the two most prevalent circles of belief with regards to the study of evolution. These two areas of belief are theistic evolution and special creation. The concept of theistic evolution explains that God is in charge, but essentially created the earth and its inhabitants then left them alone to evolve and adapt freely as science will allow it. Those in favor of special creation believe in the notion of God creating the earth and all living things but, rather than the hands-off approach of theistic evolution, He ‘tinkers’ with His creations enabling evolution and adaptation. Essentially, the main difference between the two, she explained, is simply the concept of direct intervention by God versus a hands-off approach by God. She also mentions some weaknesses of both camps, noting the theistic evolution group often falls susceptible to aligning with Deism. By this point in her discussion, time was running thin, so Professor Johnson left the class with a few final thoughts on creation in general as well as biology and creation, injecting her own personal beliefs this time rather than a more broad description. She also mentioned a couple of her personal favorite books relating to the topics mentioned in her discussion: Origins and Science & Grace.
Professor Johnson’s talk was intriguing, evocative, and truly captured the interest of the class. To learn more on the topics of origin, creation, biology, and science and how they all relate to Christianity and religious belief, I implore you to take a look at the two books mentioned above or speak with Professor Johnson herself, I am sure she would always be interested in discussing these ideas.