How can an trusted insider change minds among insular groups of people who are skeptical, even hostile, to science? In the process of making these breakthroughs, what does this insider learn about themselves? Sinai and Synapses Fellowship alumna Dr. Amanda L. Townley, who grew up in a United Methodist and Southern Baptist family rooted deep in ministry, has spent her career living these experiences, and has learned extensively from them about bridging tradition and science.
Dr. Amanda L. Townley is an Associate Professor of Middle Grades & Secondary Science Education at Georgia Southern University. She is passionate about evolution education and science literacy in the Southern US, where she grew up. She hopes to make evolution less taboo and scary for the next generation of students and educators.
Dr. Ciara Reyes-Ton is a biologist, science writer and editor who is passionate about science communication, teaching and outreach to diverse audiences, whether that be to the general public, religious communities or the students she has taught. She has a Ph.D. in Cell & Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan, and a B.S. in Biology from Valparaiso University. She has served as Managing Editor for the American Scientific Affiliation’s God & Nature Magazine, and previously taught Biology at Belmont University, Lipscomb University and Nashville State Community College. She is currently the Digital Content Editor for BioLogos. She is deeply committed to further science and faith dialogue and share the harmony she’s found with others. Outside of teaching and writing, she enjoys singing and coffee.
Ciara Reyes-Ton: Can you share a little about your Christian testimony?
Amanda L. Townley: I grew up in a family deeply rooted in ministry from rural Northeast Alabama. My father’s family came from the United Methodist tradition, and my mother’s family was Southern Baptist going back a number of generations. I was raised in both traditions, but around the age of eight, I became primarily Southern Baptist and espoused a literalist reading of scripture, including the creation account.
Growing up, I was heavily involved in church; whenever the church doors were open, I was there. However, during my later high school years I began to lose my faith and grew disconnected from the church proper. For years I studied world religions and dug deeper into the history of Christianity. Eventually, I was able to recover the faith that I had lost, but it was only after I replaced the naive and borrowed faith of my childhood with a more personal relationship with Christ for myself. I started to seek answers to my own questions, which helped me better situate my beliefs and develop a more profound relationship with God.