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Seminar Series: Christian Perspectives in Science (2003)


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Schedule for 2003


Friday, March 7, 2003, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Speaker: Loren Haarsma, Physics & Astronomy Department, Calvin College.

Title: "Creation or Curse? Entropy, Earthquakes, Mosquitoes and Malaria"
     In Reformed theology, the effects of the Fall are pervasive, affecting all of creation. So it is tempting for us to blame everything which annoys or hurts us on the Fall. When we study creation scientifically, however, we find that many of the things which can annoy or hurt us -- from tiny viruses to the second law of thermodynamics -- play an important, natural, and perhaps even inevitable part in the functioning of God's complex and amazing creation. We shouldn't be hasty to blame something on the Fall which was part of God's good design. We'll explore this topic in a range of areas from the laws of physics to biology to human behavioral dispositions.

Friday, March 28, 2003, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Speaker: Douglas Kindschi, Dean of Science & Professor of Mathematics, Grand Valley State University

Title: "What Can Mathematics Contribute to the Science-Religion Discussion?"
     The Science-Religion literature has grown dramatically in the past few decades, producing hundreds of books and even more articles. Very little, however, has been said about Mathematics' contribution to this discussion. One significant exception is the book by Bradley and Howell, Mathematics in Postmodern Age: A Christian Perspective. While on a "mini-sabbatical" at Calvin College, I have been reading and working on this topic, and I would like to share some preliminary thoughts. In particular, I will present the quests in Mathematics for definition, truth, foundation and certainty, and how these issues might inform the science-religion discussion.

Friday, April 11, 2003, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Speaker: Gayle E. Ermer, Engineering Department, Calvin College.

Title: "Teaching Professional Ethics in Engineering and the Sciences"
     Professional occupations in technology, mathematics, and the sciences provide opportunities for Christians to pursue their vocation, the calling to serve God and others by reforming his creation. As Christian educators, we are concerned with ensuring that our graduates have the skills and dispositions necessary to make ethical choices as they pursue the ideals of their disciplines. Secular professional societies and educators are becoming increasingly concerned with promoting ethical standards as well. What is meant by professional ethics? How are professional ethics and Christian faith related? How can these concepts be taught? Some suggestions for integrating the study of ethics into professional programs and courses will be presented, along with examples from the field of engineering.

Friday, April 25, 2003, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Speaker: Egbert Schuurman, Professor, Department of Christian Philosophy, Technological Universities of Delft and Eindhoven and the Agricultural University of Wageningen

Title: "Deliverance from the Technological Worldview: Redirection in the Ethics of Technology"
     The overwhelming uncritical attitude toward technology can have potentially disastrous effects. An "ethics of technology" is required. Such an ethics must concern itself with humanity's good and responsible conduct in and through technology. Generally speaking, since modern times there has been a mentality of technological control. All questions relating to spiritual reflection and religious problems are ruled out. Motives, values and norms are derived from a technological worldview. This "technological ethics" is the cause of many threats and problems. It is characterized by a cosmological deficit and an ethical deficit. It is only possible to overcome these deficits by a reorientation in culture and in ethics. The Enlightenment ought to be enlightened. The cosmology of reality as God's creation, and the commandments of love, give a possibility for the redirection of an ethics of technology. A responsible cultural and technological development summons a representation of culture that depicts earth as a garden tended by humans. Technology must be developed within the perspective of the earth as one large garden-city. In an ethics of responsibility, attention is given to the central motive of love, contrasted with the central motive of power of the technological worldview. For a justified, responsible technology, the ethical challenge is finding not only true motives, but also true environment values, technological values and social values. At the end of the lecture, attention is paid to the consequences for the practice of this ethical-philosophical view and to the differences from those views which are currently held.

Friday, September 26, 2003, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Speaker: Kenneth Piers, Chemistry Department, Calvin College.

Title: "The End of Oil"
     The economies of the US and the entire developed world depend heavily on the availability of the exceedingly convenient, useful, and relatively inexpensive resource we know simply as "oil." Since, as far as we know, oil is a resource that is nonrenewable within historic time scales, its supply is limited. Therefore, since demand for oil continues to increase, we can expect that at some time in the future, world oil production will reach a peak and then begin a decline. How long will it be before world oil production reaches its peak? Is there reason for concern? This seminar will explore some of the issues surrounding the debate about these questions.

Friday, October 10, 2003, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Speaker: Ralph Stearley, Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies Department, Calvin College.

Title: "George McCready Price and the Foundation of Flood Geology"
     George McCready Price is credited with launching the 20th-century "flood geology" movement.  His long publishing career spanned over 50 years.  From the start (Illogical Geology, 1906), his publications claimed that biostratigraphers were guilty of attempting to erect a "cosmogony" from limited observations combined with a priori assumptions.  In Q.E.D., Or New Light on the Doctrine of Creation (1917) Price compared the activities of geologists to those of librarians, sorting the various strata according to a completely artificial system, likened to a card index.  Price based this critique on faulty spatial reasoning.  Price also reasoned that all fossil assemblages were preserved discrete contemporaneous ecological assemblages.  For example, coal-bearing units typically assigned to the Carboniferous, Cretaceous and Tertiary periods were originally synchronic, representing assorted ecozones present prior to the great flood of Noah.  Unfortunately, Price accomplished most of his geological research by reading reports and textbooks authored by others.  Lacking significant field experience, Price interpreted all sedimentary structures and textures as the result of a near-instantaneous occurrence; the sorting and shuffling of fossil assemblages he felt must have occurred during a single event.  If Price could compare the systematic labors of biostratigraphers to those of librarians, then his own method resembled that of a blackjack dealer.  Price's stratigraphic arguments would be repeated, with amplification, in influential recent-creationist works such as The Genesis Flood (1961) by Morris and Whitcomb.

Friday, October 24, 2003, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Speaker: Paul Moes, Psychology Department, Calvin College.

Title: "Rational, Emotional, and Moral Brains: Implications for Teaching and Learning"
     Research in cognitive neuroscience has demonstrated that our brains function by using "semi-independent" modules to process and respond to our world.  Only recently has attention been focused on the role of emotional processing modules in influencing conscious cognitive processes.  This presentation will review recent research findings, as well as some of the presenter's own research on emotional processing in the left and right hemispheres.  Implications of these findings for teaching and learning at Calvin College will also be discussed..

Friday, November 7, 2003, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.
Speaker: Scott Hoezee, Minister of Preaching and Administration, Calvin Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Title: "Science on Sunday: A Pastor's Perspective"
     By the time the average seminarian becomes ordained, the chances are good that this freshly minted pastor will know less about science than most college graduates.  Although it may have changed, not long ago at Calvin College the moment a student declared that he or she would be pursuing a pre-seminary track, nearly all core curriculum science requirements vanished.  This dearth of scientific knowledge is not much helped at the seminary level, either, as most theological schools likewise do not address science in depth.  The result is that pastors feel ill-equipped to handle science, don't know much about it to begin with, and so their engagement with this broad and ever-expanding field of inquiry is limited to pop stereotypes that "all science boils down to evolution (which, as everyone ostensibly knows, is the enemy of the faith)."  However, I believe that this lack of scientific engagement constitutes a dreadful mistake for pastors.  Not only is science a part of daily life in the 21st century, there is also so much that can be gained from science in terms of understanding our Creator's cosmos, being properly curious about the world, and so using scientific knowledge as reasons for doxology.  In this talk I wish to suggest some of the reasons why I believe this is the case and proffer some suggestions as to how preachers can integrate science into their work, seeking from those who attend this meeting still other ideas for how pastors could fruitfully weave science and scientific knowledge into the worship life of the church.