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Seminar Series: Christian Perspectives in Science (2006)


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Schedule for 2006


Wednesday, February 8, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Meeter Center Lecture Hall.

Speaker:Arie Leegwater, Chemistry & Biochemistry Department, Calvin College; Association of Reformed Institutions of Higher Education (ARIHE) lecturer, 2005-2006.

Title:Science and Religion: Nature as Interpreted Book
     Reading the book of nature is a common 16th century metaphor used by divines to describe scientific practice.  How valid is this description?  What funds this hermeneutical interpretation of scientific practice?  This lecture will contrast various perceived interrelations of science and religion.  Historians of science have described this relationship as one of conflict, competition, cooperation and dialogue, continuity and intimacy.  If we consider religion to be the central pivot of human existence, which gives life as a whole its ultimate orientation, how might we best view the relationship of science and religion?  Are there historical examples that aid us in this effort?

Co-sponsored byCalvin Center for Christian Scholarship and Seminars in Christian Scholarship

Friday, March 3, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.

Speaker:Daniel C. Harlow, Religion Department, Calvin College.

Title:Creation in Genesis 1: Genre, Purpose, Truth
     Does Genesis intend to teach factual or scientific truths about creation? Or does it intend to affirm theological truths about God, the world, and the human race? Or does it intend to do both? Christians have always disagreed on these issues and doubtless always will. This presentation argues that the framework in Genesis 1, six days of divine labor plus a seventh day of divine rest, does not represent a historical or temporal framework indicating how God created and how long God took to create. It is rather an analogical framework that aims to depict the created status of everything in the Israelite cosmos. It pictures the formation of the three realms of creation as understood in Israelite cosmology – heavens above, earth beneath, and waters under the earth – and the symmetrical filling of those three realms with creatures suitable to each. In its brief and highly stylized account, Genesis 1 reflects the ancient Israelite cosmology. Its conception of the physical universe is not timelessly valid but culturally relative. The timeless truth of Genesis rather lies in its theological affirmations concerning the sovereignty of God, the goodness of creation, and the purpose of humanity in the divine plan.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in the Commons Lecture Hall.

Speaker:Arie Leegwater, Chemistry & Biochemistry Department, Calvin College; Association of Reformed Institutions of Higher Education (ARIHE) lecturer, 2005-2006.

Title:Putting Science in its Place: The Culture of Scientific Practice
     A sociological reading of scientific practice is presently in vogue. When scientific practice is shaped by local conditions it is no longer considered to be a (the) universal undertaking, but is rather a provincial practice in which site, region and circulation matter. Science does not transcend particularities; it discloses them. For all the rhetoric that scientific practice is independent of class, politics, gender, race, religion, and much else besides, the history of science belies the fact. The social reading of science, advanced during the past few decades, is in sharp contrast to earlier ways of viewing science as an intellectual enterprise which weaves a universal network of binding theories. Such social analysis has become common coin and has elicited sharp rejoinders reflected in the "science wars." But does a social analysis of science and a focus on human interests probe deeply enough? Does such an analysis do justice to the "pre-understandings" required before observations are made, or to the "commitments" of scientists? Can a scientist find meaning in equations, observations, and technical terms by starting from an interpretive, or hermeneutic, framework?

Co-sponsored by Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship and Seminars in Christian Scholarship.

Friday, March 10, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.

Speaker:Ronald A. Buelow, Professor of Mathematics, Bethany Lutheran College

Title:Thinking God's Thoughts after Him
     Man has long copied the designs that God has placed into the universe.  He has placed these designs in us, in the many creatures of His creation, and in the elements and substances that are part of His marvelous creation. This multimedia presentation shows how design and mathematics are created by God, with man discovering it small piece by small piece.

Friday, April 21, 2006.

Speaker:Joseph Rouse, Professor of Philosophy, Wesleyan University.

Title: A New Image of Science and NAture

Sponsored by Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship and Metanexus Local Society Initiative of Calvin College

(This lecture was not part of the Christian Perspectives in Science Seminar series, but should be of interest to many attenders of CPiS seminars.)

Thursday, April 27, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.

Speaker:Randy Isaac, Executive Director, American Scientific Affiliation

Title:  Science: A Misused Weapon in a Religious War
     If science and Christian faith are in ultimate harmony, why is there so much conflict today in our school boards, churches, classrooms, and courtrooms? The metaphor of war has been used since the late 19th century to describe the severity of the conflict.  The real war is not between science and Christianity but between different religious perspectives, with pseudo-science as the weapon of choice.  Evolutionism, creationism, and the Intelligent Design movement are key combatants in this religious war between metaphysical naturalism and theism. By understanding these forces, we can derive a better perspective of the relationship between science and our Christian faith.

Friday, May 5, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.

Speaker:Judith A. Baker, Nursing Department, Calvin College.

Title:Spiritual Care in Nursing:  Christ Has No Hands But Ours
     As long as nursing has existed, nurses have understood the link between the spirit and the needs of the mind and body.  Even today, in our high-tech healthcare environment, this need is apparent and, in fact, awareness of it has increased.  As we educate nursing students and practice nursing, it is imperative that we understand what the spirit is and how we could and should care for the needs of the spirit.  In nursing we do that through a process which involves assessment, diagnosis, planning, interventions and evaluation. In recent years we have seen a burgeoning of research on topics related to spirituality.  Often these are based on vague or varied definitions of spirituality which leads to questionable comparative results.  Prayer is an activity that is being widely studied, and the results have been cause for both encouragement and dismay.  Making prayer just another tool in the arsenal of healthcare raises questions we need to address.

Friday, September 15, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.

Speaker:Jaap Klapwijk, Free University in Amsterdam.

Title:Is There a Purpose in the Living World?  Some Thoughts about Creation and Emergent Evolution
     I feel it is objectionable to say that God created through evolution, but we can say that God created a world that is characterized by evolution.  In such an evolutionary world, full of chance variations and natural selection, is there place for a purpose?  Evolution implies an element of continuity and of discontinuity.  To understand this, the notion of emergent evolution is helpful. In an evolutionary development there is not just a continuous line.  Phenomena with an element of discontinuity and irreducible newness can emerge.  Life, for instance, is a phenomenon that emerges at a new organizational level: a biotic level.  But in the living world we can also speak of a vegetative, a sensitive and a mental level.  These levels are idionomous, i.e. each is governed by special laws that, in some way, represent God's creation ordinances.  Evolution is not without chance and randomness.  But in so far as it is embedded in a hierarchy of organizational levels and oriented to divine laws it is directional, and we might speak of purpose in the living world.


Friday, September 29, 2006, 3:45 p.m. in Bunker Interpretive Center Discovery Place.

Speaker:Cheryl Hoogewind, Calvin Ecosystem Preserve Manager, Calvin College.

Title: Outdoor Experiences for the Young and Young at Heart
When was the last time you spent an hour or more outdoors enjoying God's creation?  People are spending more and more time indoors keeping busy with computers, televisions, Xboxes, video games, Ipods, and many other kinds of technology.   We are over-scheduling our lives with organized sports, music lessons, and school activities of all kinds.  Richard Louv poses some interesting questions in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.  What is happening to our children and ourselves because we are not spending time in nature?  What is capturing our attention?  There are simple ways to give children outdoor experiences in their own backyards and to encourage wonder and creativity.  In this seminar, I will share my ideas and give suggestions about how we can avoid "nature-deficit disorder."

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Thurday, October 12, 2006.

Speaker: Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., Executive Director, Evangelical Environmental Network.

Title: Evangelicals and Climate Change

Sponsored by Calvin College Geology, Geography, and Environmental StudiesDepartment

(This lecture was not part of the Christian Perspectives in Science Seminar series, but should be of interest to many attenders of CPiS seminars.)

Friday, October 27, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.

Speaker:John Cooper, Professor of Philosophical Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary.

Title:Human Origins:  Scientific Theories and Christian Theologies
     This presentation attempts a general mapping of the various positions on creation and evolution held by Christians.  It identifies three main readings of Genesis 1-3 (literal-historical-theological, literary-historical-theological, and literary-theological), three main theological paradigms of redemptive-history (Augustinian, Neo-platonic, and Modernist), and four theories of human origins (recent creation, progressive creation, biological evolution, anthropological evolution).  The presentation then explores the implications, convergences, and tensions among these positions.  This is the overview I present to students at Calvin Seminary before locating the position taken by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church.  Dialogue and criticism are welcome.


Friday, November 3, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.

Speaker:Jim Bradley, Mathematics & Statistics Department, Calvin College.

Title:What is a Number?  Augustine's Philosophy of Mathematics
     In De Libero Arbitrio, Augustine of Hippo presents an argument for the existence of God. Because the argument depends in an essential way on mathematics, Augustine expands at some length on its nature. This talk will examine the implications of his views for the four classical questions of the philosophy of mathematics: In what sense are mathematical assertions true?  What is the nature of mathematical objects, for example, numbers?  Since such objects seem immaterial but we are material beings, how do we acquire knowledge of them?  How do we account for the astonishing effectiveness of mathematics in describing the physical world?  Also, Augustine's views on mathematics have implications for many other questions.  If there is time, this talk will address two in particular: How are we to understand God's freedom? And how are we to understand the nature of logic?

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Friday, November 10, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010.

Speaker:Dr. Jan Peter Verhave, Visiting Research Fellow, Van Raalte Institute, Hope College.

Title:The Realm of Ghosts:  Sickness and Death in the Early Holland Colony
     While at the Van Raalte Institute, Dr. Jan Peter Verhave is doing research on the state of health of the early Dutch immigrants and their vulnerability to certain diseases, as derived from reports on their physical well-being in letters to family and friends in the Netherlands.  Particularly during the first few years the settlers suffered a lot, and the poor living conditions triggered some fatal diseases. Epidemic diseases came, as well as the naturalization trial: the Michigan ague.  Dr. Verhave is a microbiologist at the Radboud University Medical Centre of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and is an authority on the history of malaria and tropical diseases.  In addition, he has an interest in religious and social matters of nineteenth century Netherlands and has dug up a collection of letters to immigrants in Iowa, which recently appeared in Iowa Letters (2004). He has published a book and significant articles on church history and on the issue of religion and vaccination.


Friday, November 17, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.

Speaker:Edward B. Davis, Professor of the History of Science, Messiah College.

Title:Intelligent Design on Trial
     Dr. Davis, who attended the Dover trial and who has published several articles about science and religion in modern America, will provide an overview of the "intelligent design" issue.  He will explain some of the main ideas associated with intelligent design, discuss the political and educational goals and strategies of the intelligent design movement, and comment on the recent Dover School District trial.

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Friday, December 1, 2006, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.

Speakers:Larry Molnar and Loren Haarsma, Physics & Astronomy Department, Calvin College.

Title:The Search for Extraterrestrial Life
     As of now, there is no evidence of life beyond earth.  But within the last decade, astronomers have discovered over a hundred planets in other solar systems, and they are on the verge of being technically capable of detecting earth-like planets (if any exist) in nearby star systems.  In this talk, we will review the current status of the search for extra-solar planets, as well as the search for life beyond earth in our own solar system.  We'll also review current hypotheses, both scientific and theological, for how life first arose on earth.  Then we'll turn to the question:  If extraterrestrial life - even single-celled life – was discovered, what would be some of the scientific and theological consequences?

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