Ogden said students who are active in their faith are often reassured to find out he is religious but still believes in science.
"I think that's refreshing for them," he said. "Mostly, I get them in this mindset to find truth."
Roughly 30 percent of his students accept the notion of human evolution at the start of the semester, Ogden said. But by the end of the semester, it jumps to approximately 70 percent. Part of that quest is understanding what is meant by evolution.
Many students don't know what evolution is when they start the class, Ogden said. Some religious students think evolution was "cooked up" to push a worldview at odds with religion. Ogden said he dispels that by showing evolution does not necessarily contradict religion.
"I believe that I want to know what God knows, and he knows the truth," Ogden said.
Francisco Ayala, a former Dominican priest and professor at UC Irvine who authored "Darwin and Intelligent Design," said there is no reason for there to be a contradiction, claiming conflict arises because of ignorance.
"In this country, we have the most advanced science and technology in the world and we're also one of the most religious," Ayala said. "The purpose of the Bible is to teach religious truths."
He said people get into trouble when they "interpret it as a book of science."
For Taylor Van Every, a sophomore at BYU, his understanding of faith and science took place during the past school year when he enrolled in geology and biology classes.
"At first, I was kind of hesitant," he said. "I've been taught the earth is 7,000 years old, but then there's a rock that's 4 million years old. … You have the archaeological facts that are hard to deny."
Now, Van Every says he has found resolution. Rather than contradict each other, science and religion coexist to inform different aspects of his worldview — the physical and the spiritual.
For teachers like Whiting, that's the point. There is a level of uncertainty in both science and religion. He wants students to seek information.
"We don't know much about the mechanics of creation from the scriptures," he said. "How does Adam and Eve fit into that? I don't know. But that doesn't bother me. There are some students who have a hard time with uncertainty. They want to know where Adam fits in with all the hominal line."
The uncertainty doesn't scare Whiting, who said, "It seems like every three or four months, a new, transitional fossil is found," like the one unearthed in Ethiopia.
"It's only going to get more exciting," he said. "We don't understand everything about how evolution works, but at the same time, we don't know everything about the Gospel."
Ross Anderson, a teaching pastor at the Alpine Church, said there isn't a "fundamental disjunction" between science and religion, but to reconcile the two requires humility and an understanding of the limits of both types of knowledge.
"I've found over the years, people are struggling with something that shouldn't be a problem because maybe there's a perspective they haven't thought of yet or information they haven't heard of yet," he said. "Usually, there's things someone hasn't considered."
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