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Seminar Series: Christian Perspectives in Science (2007)

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Schedule for 2007

Friday, February 2, 2007, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010.


Speaker:Alan Padgett, Professor of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary; Crosson Fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Religion at Notre Dame University, 2006-2007.


Title:Epiphany for a Small Planet:  Christology, Astronomy, and Mutuality
     Does the new picture of the vast cosmos we learn from science change our theology?  What difference would alien intelligent life make to our Christology?  After presenting a "mutuality" model for the relationship between theology and natural sciences (as developed in my 2003 book) I will explore these questions, using astrobiology and Christology as my example of mutuality.

audio_recording, power_point_slides


Friday, February 9, 2007, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.


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


Title:  De ordine creationis: a theological approach to the nature of mathematical reasoning
     In the history of ideas, our view of the world as structured mathematically can be traced back to the 17th century rationalists, particularly to Descartes and his relocation of certainty as grounded in the divine mind to certainty as grounded in the personal cogito.  In this talk, we will speculate on what the nature of mathematical reasoning would be once the ground of certainty is returned to the divine mind.  Here we will follow the thought of the two contemporary 13th century giants of theology: Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010.


Speaker:Charles Adams, Dean of the Natural Sciences and Professor of Engineering, Dordt College;  Association of Reformed Institutions of Higher Education (ARIHE) Lecturer, 2006-2008.


Title:Naturalism, Nanotechnology, and Our "Post-human" Future: A Reformed Perspective
     Advances in technology at the end of the twentieth century have provoked some scholars to predict a future where humans and computers merge to evolve an immortal, post-human "life form" that is free and capable of defining its own "nature."  Others react against such "brave new world" scenarios with horror at the prospect of "losing our essential humanity."  What does it mean to be human?  What are the limitations and the potential of technology with respect to shaping our humanity?  This lecture will begin to offer answers to those questions by contrasting a Reformed Christian worldview with the worldviews of naturalism and by suggesting how elements of naturalistic worldviews have too often corrupted Christian worldviews on science and technology.

audio_recording, power_point_slides

Co-sponsored by Calvin College Engineering Department, Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, and Seminars in Christian Scholarship.


Friday, February 23, 2007, 3:30 p.m. in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall.


Speaker:Charles Adams, Dean of the Natural Sciences and Professor of Engineering, Dordt College;  Association of Reformed Institutions of Higher Education (ARIHE) Lecturer, 2006-2008.


Title:Teaching "Technical Courses" from a Christian Perspective:  A Reformed Approach to Pedagogy
     Christian education in the Reformed tradition claims to bring a distinctive worldview to bear on every subject in the curriculum.  Yet Christian teachers struggle to "teach Christianly" in areas such as the natural sciences, mathematics, and technology.  How does a Christian teacher avoid the near hypocritical practice of simply "sprinkling" prayer or a few Bible verses onto an otherwise secularist curriculum or lesson plan in order to call it "Christian?"  This lecture will suggest how teaching (mathematics, natural science, or any subject that might be called "technical") from a Christian perspective ought to and can be distinguished from the kind of teaching that occurs in a secular environment.

audio_recording, power_point_slides

Co-sponsored by Calvin College Engineering Department, Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, and Seminars in Christian Scholarship.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007.


Speaker: Brian Leftow, Professor, Oxford University.


Title: Scripture, God, and Time

Sponsored by Calvin College Philosophy Department, 2007 Jellema Lectures

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


Tuesday, March 27, 2008.


Speaker: Brian Leftow, Professor, Oxford University.


Title: Creation ex Nihilo

Sponsored by Calvin College Philosophy Department, 2007 Jellema Lectures

(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, September 21, 2007, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.


Speaker:Ronald Larson, Chair and George Granger Brown Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan.


Title:Revisiting the "God of the gaps"
     Antipathy to "God of the gaps" arguments, when taken to its extreme conclusion, leads to passiveness in the face of aggressive, naturalistic, science seeking to claim for itself alone all truth, including that traditionally the province of theology or philosophy.  Such pretensions must be resisted for the sake of science as much as for the sake of theology, and this resistance must not shrink from calling attention to "gaps" or failures of science to explain credibly all that it sometimes claims as its own.  This talk will explore the issues surrounding several chasms in modern scientific explanations, including the fine tuning of natural laws, the origin of life, of human consciousness, of morality, and of human spiritual experience.

audio_recording, power_point_slides


Friday, September 28, 2007, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.


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


Title:A Classical Christian Emergent Anthropology
     I'll argue that biblical anthropology presents a holistic or integral view of soul and body, but one in which persons can exist temporarily without earthly bodies.  I'll then present a version of this anthropology – the generically Thomist view that that soul is the subsistent form (organizing, empowering principle) of the material body that constitutes humans as one spiritual-physical substance (not two-substance dualism) – a living organism with human capacities.  But by God's supernatural power, the soul can exist apart from the body between death and resurrection.  (It is not naturally immortal.)  I modify Thomism by opting for a traducian rather than a creationist view of the soul: the union of sperm and egg is not merely biological but produces a new spiritual-physical individual.  The soul does not "emerge" and develop from mere physical stuff by metaphysical magic (as in physicalism), but because the person-spiritual capacities are potentially present from conception.

handout, audio_recording.


Friday, October 12, 2007, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 010.


Speaker:Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma, Physics and Astronomy Department, Calvin College.


Title:Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolution
     FaithAlive Resources, the publishing ministry of the Christian Reformed Church, asked us to write a book "for the person in the pew" on issues of origins.  In this short seminar, we'll give an overview of the contents of the book and our writing approach, as well as answer audience questions.  The book begins with chapters on God's governance of natural processes, doing science as part of a Christian worldview, and interpretation of scripture.  Other chapters review the scientific, theological, and worldview issues around the age of the Earth, the Big Bang, biological evolution, and intelligent design. The book ends with two chapters on several scientific and theological issues around human origins.  A book reception will follow at 4:15 p.m. in DeVries Hall Atrium.

audio_recording, power_point_slides


Friday, October 26, 2007, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.


Speaker:Janel Curry, Dean of Research and Professor of Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies, Calvin College.


Title:Christianity and Climate Change:  Understanding the Range of Responses
     Since Lynn White's famous article on the relationship between Christianity and ecological destruction, many environmental activists have accused this faith community of inaction (or worse – actions that are ecologically destructive), when it comes to environmental protection and health.  However, recent concerns over climate change have led several scientific and environmental organizations to begin to build bridges with the range of Christian traditions – mainline protestant, evangelical, and Catholic – recognizing that all must be part of the solution to global climate change.  This talk helps get beyond the stereotypes of the relationship between Christians and the environment.  A framework is presented for comparing Christian traditions in terms of their attitudes toward environmental issues and policies, along with a discussion of the implications for climate change policy.

audio_recording, power_point_slides


Friday, November 30, 2007, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110.


Speaker:Matthew C. Halteman, Philosophy Department, Calvin College.


Title:Animal Welfare and Global Sustainability:  Compassionate Eating as Care of Creation
     The two-fold purpose of this presentation is (1) to demonstrate the value of questions concerning the just and compassionate treatment of animals ("the animal question") for provoking a more holistic understanding of the wide spectrum of issues organized under the general heading of "creation care"; and (2) to highlight the moral and spiritual significance that the act of eating takes on in light of these important but often hidden connections between animal welfare and global sustainability.      The animal question may at first appear far removed from the most pressing problems of our age. But a closer look reveals that our seemingly trivial daily decisions concerning the use of animals (especially the billions of animals raised for food in confined animal feeding operations or "factory farms") have serious consequences not just for the animals, but for the food, commerce, and education systems of developing countries, the dignity of the human workforce that brings animal products to market, the integrity of rural communities here and abroad, the health of an increasingly obese and diseased human population, the viability of the healthcare systems that treat these ills, the sustainability of the world's natural resources, and even the hastening of global climate change. The ways in which we currently use animals, it turns out, have profound implications for all facets of creation—human, animal, and environmental.       As this evidence of the unintended consequences of industrial livestock production continues to mount, it is becoming increasingly clear that, far from being a trivial matter of personal preference, eating is an activity that has deep moral and spiritual significance. Surprising as it may sound, the simple question of what to eat can prompt us daily to answer God's call to care for creation—to bear witness to the marginalization of the poor, the exploitation of the oppressed, the suffering of the innocent, and the degradation of the natural world, and to participate in the reconciliation of these ills through intentional acts of love, justice, mercy, and good stewardship.

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