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“Genesis and Genetics” conference to discuss current faith-science issues

June 1, 2014 | Ashli O'Connell

What influence does genetics play on same-sex attraction? How should Christians respond to adult stem cell research? What do genetic findings have to say about a historical Adam and Eve? What evidences of intelligent design does the human genome hold?

Several leading Christian voices in science will address these and many more current scientific issues at the second Faith and Science Conference, titled “Genesis and Genetics,” which will be at Evangel University June 23-25, 2014.

For Dr. Michael Tenneson, professor of Biology and chair of the conference steering committee, faith and science aren’t polar opposites; they are necessary companions. When science and theology are both done properly, he says, the two should agree on the big questions.

“My conclusion is that we are holistic beings, and so our understanding of nature needs to correspond with our understanding of His revelation through the Bible,” Dr. Tenneson says.

But in a world of rising scientific literacy, the faith-science debate continues to rage in the public forum, and Dr. Tenneson sees the need for educating church leaders and laypeople how to confront the main science-related issues facing them today.

“Scientific knowledge can either strengthen our faith in Christ, or it can weaken our faith — depending in part on how it is presented,” Dr. Steve Badger, recently retired Evangel professor of Chemistry, says. “We want to help leaders embrace science as another gift from God to be used for His glory.”

Dr. Tenneson and Dr. Badger have worked together on research regarding the human origins debate and on how to best integrate faith and science when teaching students. In 2009, Dr. Tenneson and Dr. Badger met with Dr. Jim Bradford, the general secretary of the Assemblies of God who has a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, to discuss the need for a faith-science dialogue.

“We all have this kindred spirit,” Dr. Tenneson says. “We don’t find science killing our faith. We find the two informing each other a lot: our faith informing our science and our science informing our faith.”

The men formed a steering committee and began planning the first conference, securing speakers and papers to be presented. More than 200 people attended the first conference in 2011, which was also held at Evangel. Presenters focused on comparing the three main theistic views of creationism: young-earth creationism, old-earth creationism and evolutionary creationism.

“We have found that the origins debate is a great foil to get people to understand or reason why they believe what they believe,” Dr. Tenneson says. “It’s a great integrative topic because you have to bring theology and science in together.”

The steering committee, of which Dr. Tenneson, Dr. Badger and Dr. Bradford are members, set a goal to have the conference every other year — waiting three years to have the next one so it would take place on the opposite year of Assemblies of God General Council.

Badger says that while several papers at this year’s conference will still focus on creation, the organizing committee wanted to focus on a different topic. This year, that focus will be on genetics.

“We decided on it because of the relevancy to pastors,” Tenneson says. “This theme encompasses what do you do with a people who have biochemistry going on in their brains that make them have same-sex attraction very strong, or other addictive behaviors, and asks, how does this relate to sin?”

Topics discussed will be embryonic and adult stem cell research, prenatal genetic testing, genetic influence on human behavior (such as same-sex attraction), findings from genetics related to a historical Adam and Eve and evidences of design in the human genome. Breakout session topics will also include Christian theories on origins, evidences of creation in the cosmos and environmental stewardship.

The keynote speaker, Dr. John Lennox, is a professor of mathematics at Oxford University and a philosopher of science. His experience includes several debates with the New Atheists.

“His message is that there is a God, and that science doesn’t refute that — in fact it affirms the existence of God,” Dr. Tenneson says.

Along with Dr. Lennox, Dr. Bradford, Dr. Tenneson and Badger, other speakers include the following:

  • Dr. Stephen Meyer: a philosopher of science, a founder of the modern intelligent design movement and a New York Times best-selling author.
  • Dr. Jennifer Wiseman: an astronomer who studies the formation processes of stars and is the director of that Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • Dr. Matt Stanford: professor of psychology, neuroscience and biomedical studies at Baylor and author of the book The Biology of Sin.
  • Steve Krstulovich: lead engineer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago.
  • Dr. Robert White: professor of molecular biology and medical genetics at Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences.

Dr. Tenneson says he would like to see college students take advantage of the special student pricing and come this year, even if science is not their area of study. He says the conference will benefit them by preparing them to defend their faith when confronted with scientific questions in their day-to-day conversations.

“This will equip you to answer some really hard questions,” Tenneson says.

Early Bird registration ($125 adult; $75 student) runs through April 11, and normal registration runs through June 19 ($175 adult; $100 student). On-site registration will be $200 per adult and $125 per student. For more registration information and a tentative conference schedule, check out the conference website.

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