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Seminar Series: Christian Perspectives in Science (2002)


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Schedule for 2002


Friday, February 8, 2002, 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Hessel Bouma III, Biology Department, Calvin College.

Title:  "Embryonic Stem Cells: Promises and Perils"
Embryonic stem cells are being widely touted by scientists, politicians and the media as potentially the long-awaited and ultimate cure for people with diabetes, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, organ failure, and spinal cord injuries. What are stem cells? Where can we get them? What do we know they can do as opposed to what we suspect they might be able to do? Should these potential cures be perceived as hype or genuine hope? What are the ethical and public policy issues raised by embryonic stem cells and what alternatives might there be? This seminar will explore these questions towards an understanding how Christians might respond to the dilemmas posed by these issues.

Friday, February 22, 2002, 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Cheryl Hoogewind, Calvin Ecosystem Preserve Manager, Calvin College.

Title:   "Sharing the Life and History of a Wetland Across the Generations"
What do senior citizens, elementary students, and a created urban wetland have in common? Young and old people can explore together the wetland's cultural and natural history. I have been involved in a grant-funded project to create a wetland education curriculum for a new retirement community as an outreach to area schoolchildren. The program focuses on a 7-acre wetland, created when the retirement community site was developed. The program is intentionally inter- generational and emphasizes the functional importance of created wetlands in watershed and wildlife management. The project has caught the attention of area educators and won an award from the Michigan Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Attendees will participate in a simulation of the importance of wetlands to migrating birds.

Friday, March 22, 2002, 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Mary Molewyk Doornbos, Mary E. Flikkema & Barbara Timmerman, Nursing Department, Calvin College.

Title:  "Transforming Care: Toward A Reformed Christian Perspective on Nursing"
How does a Reformed Christian worldview form our conceptualization of nursing practice? Does the current emphasis on evidence-based practice preclude the idea of nursing as a vocation as well as a profession? The tension between nursing as a science, based only in theoretical knowledge, and the spiritual nature of nursing as Christian service will be examined. A brief summary of a spiritual history in nursing will be discussed from the pre-Christian era through the present day. Practices and attitudes of caregivers throughout history have been informed by spiritual belief systems. What meaning does this historical perspective have for the contemporary practice of nursing? Five metaparadigm concepts of nursing will be examined and related to present day practice in the profession of nursing: caring, person, health, environment and nursing. The definition of those metaparadigm concepts influences the nurse's ethical stance and affects ethical decision making in today's complex health care system. Finally, a holistic perspective of nursing and the Christian mandate will be related to the principles of health promotion and health protection within the discipline of nursing.

Friday, April 5, 2002, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Prof. David Van Baak, Physics & Astronomy Department, Calvin College.  Calvin Lecturer 2001-2002.

Title:  "Cosmology and the Role of Presuppositions in Science"
Of all the fields of human knowledge, mathematics and the natural science are those that are most often assumed to be universal, value-free, obligatory, and independent of pre-suppositions and prejudices. In these fields, if any, one may hope that all scholars will necessarily be constrained by reason and evidence to reach a consistent set of conclusions. While vast amounts of the content of the sciences do indeed reveal this kind of convergence, there are interesting areas in which consensus is not achieved, and may never be achieved. In this lecture, I will explore those places in the natural sciences where essential disagreements persist, and illustrate in the field of cosmology the reasons for the disagreements. In particular, I will describe the role of presuppositions, and extra-scientific assumptions, in motivating theories about the character and origin of the universe. This talk is intended for a general audience of persons interested in science.

Friday, April 12, 2002, 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Jared Knoll, Biotechnology major, Calvin College.

Title: "The Biotech Century: Brave New World, or Just a Better One?"
In his book "The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Remaking the World," Jeremy Rifkin argues that the applications of biotechnology are likely to make the world of our children and grandchildren fundamentally different from ours. With such chapter titles as "A Eugenic Civilization," "Patenting Life," and "Reinventing Nature," it is clear that Rifkin does not think this will be a change for the better. Through his books and lectures, Rifkin, along with numerous other anti-biotech groups, is attempting to persuade the general public to agree with him. In contrast to the warnings of Rifkin and others, however, stand biotechnology's potential benefits. If these benefits are possible, then if Rifkin is successful in convincing the public that biotech is to something be feared he will have persuaded them to oppose an increase in their quality of life. The argument for the use of biotechnology (and technology in general) can be framed in terms of a "presumptive case." Additionally, when the benefits of biotech are thought of as applicable not only to oneself but to all people, the argument for continuing its development takes on the spiritual dimension of service and love for one's neighbor. Lest Rifkin and other activist groups succeed in their goal of convincing the public that biotechnology is inherently wrong, those most knowledgeable about it need to be vocal in the general public debate. People with knowledge of biotechnology have a responsibility to let average Americans know that by continuing with biotechnology, we are not necessarily dooming our children to a "Brave New World."

Friday, April 19, 2002, 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
James Turner, Mathematics Dept, Calvin College.

Title: "Where does mathematics come from? A Christian perspective."
In trying to understand where our ability to do mathematics comes from, a dilemma arises when coming to terms with both its subjective nature, in that it can be constructed and explored by individuals, and its "unreasonable effectiveness" in its applications. In attempting to address this paradox, philosophical positions, ranging from constructivism to Platonism, have all been declared to fall short of producing a resolution. In this talk, I will describe how the horns of this dilemma have hung up these various philosophical positions and indicate how the failure to provide such a resolution has been at root a result of a certain degree of commitment to naturalism. Finally, I will describe a rudimentary Christian perspective which has the potential of producing a resolution by going between the horns.

Friday, September 27, 2002, 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Deborah Haarsma, Physics & Astronomy Dept, Calvin College.

Title: "The Skies Proclaim the Work of His Hands:  What modern astronomy is telling us about the attributes of God."
Astronomical discoveries in recent decades have greatly expanded our understanding of planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe.  For people of all worldviews, these discoveries evoke amazement and wonder.  How can scientists of different worldviews share the same scientific methods and results, and yet disagree about God's existence and role in the universe?  For Christians, who understand science as the study of God's creation, these discoveries illustrate God's beauty, power, faithfulness, creativity, immensity, and love.  This talk will be presented to Christian school teachers on October 11, 2002, at the NWCSI-CTABC Convention (Northwest Christian Schools International and Christian Teachers Association of British Columbia).

Friday, October 11, 2002, 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Stephen Matheson, Biology Department, Calvin College.

Title: "Asa Gray: Darwin's Defender or Darwin's Fool?"
Asa Gray (1810-1888) was already considered the finest American botanist (and perhaps biologist) of his time when, in 1860, he paused from his voluminous taxonomic work to launch a "defense" of Charles Darwin and his Origin of Species. A congregationalist Calvinist, Gray argued strenuously against various theological (and scientific) criticisms of Darwin and his theory. In addition, throughout the rest of his life, he engaged Darwin in a personal discussion of the implications of common descent with regard to the concepts of design and purpose. Reflection on Gray's ideas, and on his approach to the doubts and fears of his friend and colleague, is challenging and instructive.

Friday, November 22, 2002, 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Steve Wykstra, Philosophy Department, Calvin College.

Title: "Anomalous Suspension Revisited: Worldview Shaping, Realist Historiography of Science, and the Boyle-Huygens Debate"
In the early 1660's, Christian Huygens visited London, read Boyle's newly-published "New Experiments touching the Spring of Air," and returned to Holland to build his own vacuum pump. He quickly 'discovered' a new phenomenon of "anomalous suspension." Basically, he purged water of air by keeping in an evacuated receiver several days; he then used the purged water to create a water-barometer; and he placed this under a bell jar which he evacuated. According to the reigning hypothesis, the water-level should drop (since it is air pressure that holds the water or mercury up in the inverted tube). Huygens found it didn't drop: it remained anomalously "suspended." Huygens's reports caused consternation back in London, where Hooke and other tried for a year to replicate his results. It was the "cold fusion" of the 1660's. When Huygens returned to London to help them, Hooke and his cohorts were finally able to duplicate the phenomenon. They never did figure it out, and in 1670's, Huygen's made it a linchpin of his aether-theoretic research programme. The controversy over anomalous suspension neatly illustrates the interplay between experiment, hypotheses, research programs, and (perhaps) religious worldviews. It is also at the core of a 1985 book by Simon Shapin and Steven Schaffer's: "Leviathan and the Air-pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life." This book is pivotal to the anti-realist sociological interpretations of science that rose to prominence in the 1980's. In my talk, I will give a fuller account of the episode, Shapin and Schaffer's use of it, and a progress report on my work so far working through the primary literature on anomalous suspension. If anyone would like homework, email me and I will ICM the relevant chapter of Shapin and Schaffer's book. I haven't tried to do the experiment yet, but by next Friday, who knows?

Friday, December 6, 2002, 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Karen J. Vander Laan, Nursing Department, Calvin College.

Title: "Teaching Virtues: Using 4MAT Lesson Design to Integrate Knowledge, Skills & Virtues"
This interactive presentation will discuss using a learning cycle to design instruction and assessment that helps students acquire knowledge, skills, and virtues. The 4MAT System® will be introduced with an emphasis on how content can be taught as a study of a virtue. Assessment strategies for all octants of the learning cycle will be discussed. Participants will experience a 4MAT learning cycle first-hand as we discuss the challenges of teaching and assessing virtues.