Podcast: Darrel Falk | The Bridge from Biology to Faith

In this episode, Jim Stump is joined by Professor Emeritus of Biology at Point Loma Nazarene University, Darrel Falk. Darrel reminisces about some of his experiences with the early genetic sciences as well as his role in the beginnings of BioLogos as an organization. They then dive into human identity, and how cooperation has had a role in shaping our genetic makeup.

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Loved this episode. also, very interested in his manuscript that caused so much controversy!

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Thanks @k.v.mom. Just two weeks ago, I met someone who was one of Falk’s students during that time and was part of the manuscript controversy!

If I want to read it, do I just read the first chapter of his book?

Here is the story from a CT article:

Meanwhile, at Point Loma Nazarene University Falk found a wholesome, faith-filled environment eager to discuss how faith and science could work together. There was controversy in the Nazarene denomination—one biology teacher, Richard Colling, lost his job at a sister school, Olivet Nazarene University. But Point Loma took the lead in stimulating dialogue.

Beginning in the summer of 1991, Falk joined in a multidisciplinary faculty discussion group that read books together and talked through many areas of faith and science. After years of discussion, he felt that he should write a book aimed at students, explaining to them how biologists see the world. He tried writing a chapter, but it was stiff and awkward. One student who read it said, “If you could only write like you teach!” Falk put the idea aside and shortly afterward became associate provost and a dean at the university*.

While in that position, administrators asked him to talk to a young-earth creationist who was volunteering to teach science classes. Point Loma had no courses on either evolution or creation, and the volunteer teacher aggressively pushed for his position. “You’re going to have to deal with this issue,” he said. “A tidal wave is going to come.”

"I felt we had nothing to point to that says, ‘here’s what we believe,’ " says Falk. So he returned to his writing, pretending he was in his classroom teaching genetics or comparative anatomy, answering questions posed by students.

When he had a manuscript, he offered it to students for their reaction. One showed it to a parent, who copied it and sent it to denominational leaders and others. The same parent later wrote to the college’s president with a series of accusations, demanding a response. Falk responded as graciously as he could. The parent was not satisfied; he accused Point Loma of deliberately destroying young people’s faith. It became a crusade, pulling in pastors and higher denominational officials. Finally, in the fall of 2000, the college president called Falk in and showed him a detailed, multiple-page letter from Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

Dobson is a Point Loma graduate—one with great influence over evangelicals. Falk composed an 11-page response to Dobson’s letter, and was invited to a nail-biting summit with Dobson in Colorado Springs.

“The key accusation,” Falk says, “was that I was destroying the faith of my students.” He asked 31 students to write anonymously about the role of the Biology Department in their faith. Almost all wrote very positively. He took those letters to Dobson. To Falk’s great relief, the meeting went well, ending in a cordial agreement to disagree.

In Coming to Peace with Science, Falk lays out the evidence for an ancient earth and the gradual development of its creatures over millions of years. He speaks of the message of Genesis—indeed, the whole of Scripture—as a testimony to God’s goodness and his plan to save the world. However, “I expect that many persons in our churches will read this book and put it down still believing in sudden creation. From my perspective, that will be fine. My prayer is that each person who reads it will respect that one should be able to be accepted as an equal partner in Christ’s body even if he or she believes that God created gradually.”

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I wonder how well it would have gone over to correct the last sentence to read:

My prayer is that each person who reads it will respect that one should be able to be accepted as an equal partner in Christ’s body even if he or she believes that God creates gradually.

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I believe that @ThomasJayOord struggled with a similar controversy at a Nazarene college in Idaho more recently. It’s a difficult subject. On a much smaller scale, as an EC in a church of YEC, I am not sure how vocal to be when someone brings up a strongly YEC view. So far, I’ve limited my discussions to talking with my pastor (who is strongly YEC). I would like to avoid controversy on one hand; but I do think we are setting up our younger folks for disillusionment later on.

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Great episode. I think I missed one of the authors that Darrel mentioned: Agustin Fuentes, Joseph Henrich, and ?

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WOW, what a ride! It’s so unfortunate how people hold on to certain viewpoints to the point of being militant… that parent was so out of line, but this is the sad reality of YEC vs TE. people automatically assume we’re atheists and destroying faith when it’s actually YEC that caused mine and other’s deepest doubts.

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Welcome, Christy! @cbenthem, it is good to have you here. I had difficulty hearing who it was also, but guessing and googling, I think the author referenced was Martin Nowak. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Nowak
http://www.martinnowak.com/

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I’m checking in on occasion, if any one has any questions they’d like to direct to me. Since some of the comments relate to the nature of conversations between YEC individuals and those of us who believe that God created through the evolutionary process, I want to be sure you know about the book that Todd Wood (young earth creationist) and I have written together. (It’s called The Fool and the Heretic.)

I am especially excited these days about that which Jim and I discussed in the last five minutes of the podcast.

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Thanks for dropping by to touch base, Dr. Falk. I have pondered your discussion with Jim regarding the role of selfishness and selflessness in our makeup, and wonder what the recent health crisis will reveal about our true nature. Perhaps the response of the church (we as the body of Christ) will be critical.

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I was surprised that none other than James Dobson was confronting you. Yike.
Thanks for stopping by, Dr Falk. We have enjoyed “The Fool and the Heretic” with quite a bit of discussion. The Fool and The Heretic - Whale Discontinuity
Godly Discourse: The Fool and the Heretic at Calvin College 1/9/20

I appreciated the model that you both, with the Colossian Forum, were able to present in terms of good discourse.
You both exhibited humility. I was especially impressed that Todd Wood had said he was enjoying learning how the OT interpretation could be different than he had originally thought.

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First, I’d like to make a few general comments, Phil, in response to your question. I want to emphasize that secular scholarship is increasingly pointing to the significance of kindness, morality, etc. in our lineage’s success over at least hundreds of thousands of years, but likely longer. I don’t think Christian scholars are sufficiently aware of the conclusions of the secular community illustrated by books like Blueprint by Nicholas Christakis or Transcendence by Gaia Vince, in addition to the work I mentioned on the podcast and much more. A number of scientists are amazed with how rapidly and completely our species displaced all others as they moved up from Africa about 70,000 years ago (see Varki, PNAS, 2016). What is the suite of characteristics that we had the enabled our success? Could it have been morality (Michael Tomasello, A Natural History of Morality) or the set of “gentleness traits” commonly associated with domestication—unique to us and likely not found in Neanderthals (see Science, 2019). In short, we were created for goodness, but as we know far too well human beings are fallen creatures

To your question, Phil: what will we learn about our true nature (especially as exemplified by the church) as we face the current crisis? I think we have to be careful about expecting too much of the church (a far too human enterprise). Jesus’s words from Matthew 7:22,23 ring out in my mind these days: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name… [Jesus said in response] I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.”

But your question is oh-so-legitimate. As the world faces crises of enormous proportions in the coming decades, will Christians effectively demonstrate what it means to be new creations? Will we exhibit “the mind of Christ” as Paul puts it in I Corinthians 2:16? Or as he says in the very next verse (3:1) will we be people of the world–mere “infants in Christ?”

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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