In May 2015, S. Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, received a curious email: would he like to try advising a theological seminary? The note was from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a nonprofit organization that was spinning up a program to send scientists into religious institutions. The organizers had come across an essay he had written, and thought he could help.
Published in the Wall Street Journal, that essay had criticized Florida Senator Marco Rubio for claiming that the age of the Earth was “one of the great mysteries.” Identifying himself as a “Christian and career scientist,” Swamidass wrote that scientists were in agreement on the planet’s age—about 4.5 billion years old—and that accepting it didn’t violate any core Christian belief.
The AAAS had begun to wrestle with how they could address the country’s intensifying science-religion divide.