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Museum of Idaho to host discussion on evolution and religion

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A juvenile T-rex skeleton is part of the Museum of Idaho’s ‘Darwin & Dinosaurs’ exhibit. | Adam Forsgren,
Evolution can be a touchy subject for religious people and members of the scientific community. Now, to help improve communications between the two sides, the Museum of Idaho will host a presentation dissecting the differences and commonalities of evolution and religion.
The presentation, “Evolution and Religion: Two Ways of Understanding Life on Our Planet,” will be headlined by Dr. Jamie Jensen, an associate professor of biology at Brigham Young University in Utah. Jensen said her goal is to tear down impediments to communication thrown up by people on both sides of the religion/evolution issue.
“I grew up in a home where my parents are both converts (to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and science was a big thing in our home,” Jensen told “So it wasn’t ever a big conflict for me. It wasn’t until I was around other people of my faith that I realized that this really was a big issue.”

Jamie Jensen

Jensen’s career has focused on education and how kids learn science. To that end, she’s been part of a 30-year-long longitudinal study analyzing how Latter-day Saint children learn evolution. The study sparked her interest in doing more work to understand the most effective ways to teach evolution and why those methods work. She’s expanded her work to other faiths.
Her work has brought her to several conclusions. She said the most important was that the communication between both religious people and science adherents needs to change.
“I think that we’ve approached this conflict that really shouldn’t be a conflict wrong for a long time, from both sides,” said Jensen. “From the scientists’ perspective and a religious perspective, it’s been an attitude of conflict and war, and it doesn’t need to be that way.”

Part of the ‘Darwin & Dinosaurs’ exhibit. | Adam Forsgren,
Jensen said she wants to show religious people that there can be a bridge between their beliefs and evolution. She also wants to help the scientific community communicate the subject matter in a more culturally competent way.
The event complements the museum’s current exhibit, “Darwin & Dinosaurs,” which deals with evolution.
RELATED | New Museum of Idaho expansion opens with ‘Darwin & Dinosaurs’
“That (exhibit) has generated a lot of discussion in the community, which is what we were hoping for,” said museum spokesperson Jeff Carr. “The last thing that we want to be is controversial, but we think there are learning opportunities with this exhibit, and there are conversations we can have. We hoped through the exhibit, and especially through this talk, that no matter how you approach this subject, from this side or from that side, people will realize that maybe we’re all not so far apart as we may have thought previously.”
Jensen says those who attend her presentation can expect spirited discussion.
“I’m hoping to get a lot of audience interaction and participation,” she said. “I don’t want to start from a place where people don’t need any information, but I’m looking at science and religion as two ways of knowing and what are the differences between them.”
She also said she’ll cover basics about evolution and her research to reconcile religion and evolutionary science.
“There’ll be data, there’ll be interaction, there’ll be lots of audience participation,” said Jensen. “We’ll be predicting things, and I’m hoping to have more of a discussion format.”
The Museum of Idaho will present “Evolution and Religion: Two Ways of Understanding Life on Our Planet” Friday at 7 p.m.
The event is an attempt to expand the museum’s “Museum Club” program, usually aimed at retired patrons, to museum visitors of all ages. Click here for more information.

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