Evolution conference seeks to reconcile religion and evolution

Well-known anthropologist John Hawkes gives a presentation on evolution during a conference in the Bean Museum on March 14, 2019. The Evolution exhibit opened on March 23, 2019. (Jamie Jensen)

The BYU Biology Department will hold a three-day Reconciling Evolution Conference beginning July 11 to help professors from across the country learn how to teach reconciliation between religion and evolution.

The conference will host 18 different religious universities, each with three representatives: a biology professor, theology professor and local pastor of the same religion.

BYU biology professor Jamie Jensen, who has been at the head of organizing the conference, said bringing all three representatives from each university is to ensure that all bases are covered during this collaboration.

“Our first and foremost goal is to keep people’s testimonies,” Jensen said. “I see so many students that are standing on a precipice that doesn’t actually exist—where they feel like they have to ditch their faith because the science makes sense. There is no reason one would have to abandon their faith to accept the science.”

According to Jensen, the main objective of the conference is to help representatives understand how these two important things, evolution and religion, can work together.

The first day will be dedicated to helping the attendees combine evolution and religion, and the second day will focus on the creation of reconciliation modules for classrooms, Jensen said.

“(These representatives) will be creating lesson plans but with the bend of whatever their faith tradition is,” Jensen said.

Jensen created a reconciliation module for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that will demonstrate concerns Church youth have and how to address those concerns in the classroom.

Each of the modules created during the conference will be compiled on a website for professors at any university to access.

According to Jensen, the website will include these reconciliation modules and short video interviews of each representative from the conference. The biology department has teamed up with BYU broadcasting to edit these videos.

Jensen said the purpose of these modules and videos are to help science professors, who are often agnostic, connect with religious students in their classes.

“Let’s say you are an agnostic biologist who is teaching at a school in the deep south and most of the students are reformed evangelical; how do you get through to them?” Jensen said. “You can go to our website and look at all the different options of lesson plans and choose the one that will work for you and your students.”

Retired BYU biology professor William Bradshaw agreed that this conference will be beneficial to all of the diverse groups attending.

“The notion of reconciliation is an important objective and goal. I predict that it will mostly be successful,” Bradshaw said. “In most of these places, the teachers and ministers will reduce the negative concerns students may bring to their biology course.”

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