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Seminar Series: Christian Perspectives in Science (2009)

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Schedule for 2009

February 27, 2009

"A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists: Musings on Why God is Good and Faith Isn't Evil"

 

David Myers,  Professor of Psychology, Hope College

Abstract
Recent "new atheist" best-sellers share a common assertion: that religion—all religions—are "dangerous" (as well as false). With his new book, which this talk will summarize, Dr. Myers aims to bridge the skeptical/believer dichotomy and to suggest how faith can be reasonable, science-affirming, healthy, hopeful, and humane.
Recordings and related resources
Presentation Slides, audio recording

April 3, 2009

"C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud: Two Contrasting Worldviews"

 

Eric Achtyes, M.D., Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

Abstract
It is possible but unlikely that C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud ever met face to face. Yet these two men have stood out as eloquent advocates for the spiritual and materialist worldviews, respectively. Both were rigorous thinkers and academicians, as well as prolific writers. Each has attempted to answer the most difficult religious and philosophical questions from his own unique perspective. Each left a legacy of scholarship that informs our contemporary culture and thinking. During the first half of the lecture, we will examine how the life experiences of these two men helped shape their different worldviews. In the second half of the lecture, we will focus on their approach to the problem of pain and suffering using an open discussion format. This lecture is based on a course developed and taught for over thirty years to Harvard students by Dr. Armand Nicholi, Jr, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Useful readings prior to the lecture include: "The Future of an Illusion" by Sigmund Freud, "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis, and "The Question of God" by Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.
Recordings and related resources
Presentation Slides, audio recording

April 17, 2009

"Science on Sunday: Integrating Science into the Life of the Congregation"

 

Scott Hoezee (Calvin Theological Seminary) and Deb Haarsma (Calvin College Physics & Astronomy Dept.)

Abstract
Calvin Seminary has received a grant from the Templeton Foundation to develop resources and continuation education for pastors on science issues. The project will encourage pastors to become more scientifically literate, more appreciative of science's contribution to the life of faith, and so more able to include science and scientific knowledge in a variety of ministry practices. Those ministry practices could include sermons, music and worship aids, curricula for children and small groups, outdoor activities and service projects, etc. After an overview of the project, there will be plenty of time to brainstorm. Please bring your ideas and resources—what do you wish your pastor knew about your field? What activities and ideas would you like to see in your local congregation?

May 1, 2009

"Why is there no controversy surrounding theistic embryology? Dissecting critical responses to theistic evolution."

 

Steve Matheson, Biology Department, Calvin College

Abstract
Those who simultaneously express Christian belief and affirm evolutionary theory are said to espouse a position called "theistic evolution." The view holds the peculiar distinction of being reviled by both hard-line creationists (who call it "appeasement") and prominent atheist commentators (who deride it as fallacious). I argue that these critics typically fail to articulate objections that are specific to the view. Most creationist critics of theistic evolution object to one or both of these characteristics of the view: 1) its reliance on naturalistic explanation, a feature common to all scientific theorizing; or 2) its embrace of "random" causal events, a feature common to myriad scientific explanations. Most atheist critics of theistic evolution object to its openness to supernatural explanation, a feature of religious belief in general. Such criticisms, valid or not, fail to address anything specific to theistic evolution. In other words, attacks on theistic evolution are usually attacks on theism or attacks on evolution, but rarely represent specific criticisms of the theistic evolution position. To better understand the controversy surrounding theistic evolution, I propose that critiques of the position be considered in light of a lesser-known position we may (with tongue in cheek) call "theistic embryology." Theistic embryology describes the thinking of those who simultaneously express Christian belief and affirm basic theories in human developmental biology. Although the logic is indistinguishable from that of theistic evolution, the view is uncontroversial and the term "theistic embryology" is practically non-existent. I suggest that critiques of theistic evolution be subjected to the "theistic embryology test." Most critiques that claim to identify weaknesses in theistic evolution make arguments that are equally damaging to "theistic embryology" and so fail the test. Critiques that fail this whimsical test are likely to be arguments against belief, or against naturalistic explanation, and should be considered as such.
Recordings and related resources
Presentation Slides, audio recording

September 11, 2009

"Wrestling with Darwin"

 

Karl Giberson, Eastern Nazarene College, President of Biologos Foundation

Abstract
Karl Giberson was raised in a fundamentalist parsonage and entered college in 1975 intending to become a creation scientist and join the fight against evolution. While studying science at college he became convinced that evolution was true and, with much struggle and angst, abandoned his childhood belief in creationism. Karl's personal story mirrors that of America in the decades since Darwinism came ashore and challenged the country's traditional creation story. This is the story of both Karl's personal struggle to make peace with evolution and that of a deeply religious country, as it engages the same struggle.
Recordings and related resources
Presentation Slides, audio recording

September 25, 2009 & October 2, 2009

"Test of Faith" video and discussion

 

Deborah Haarsma, Physics and Astronomy Department, Calvin College

Abstract

The Faraday Institute in the United Kingdom has just released a new DVD on science and faith, entitled "Test of Faith." The script is well-written and includes interviews with several top experts on a range of topics. The production values are high, including some creative special effects. It comes with a study guide for use by small groups. Come for a showing and consider how you might use "Test of Faith" in Calvin courses or at local churches. To allow time for discussion, half the video will be shown at each session:

Sept 25: apologetics, cosmology, environment

Oct 2: evolution, neuroscience, bioethics


October 16, 2009

"Why Newton was not an Empiricist"

 

Steve Wykstra, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College

C. J. Majeski, philosophy student, Calvin College

Abstract
Isaac "I feign no hypotheses" Newton is often billed as an hard-nosed empiricist. But did Newton really think that it is only by observation and experiment that we can ascertain the truth of any propositions about physical reality (at least, any of the sort that a physicist needs to trouble herself about)? In Friday talks in previous years, we've considered Newton's arguments in "De Grav" ("On Gravity and the Equilibrium of Fluids), focusing on Newton's analysis of the nature of matter and of action-at-a-distance forces. In this talk, we will turn to how, in De Grav, Newton reasons about space and time. Newton develops his ideas by attacking the arguments Descartes gives in Principles of Philosophy. There, Descartes champions a "relational" conception of motion: as Descartes sees it, the kinematic description of the motion of an observable body must always be relative to some other observable body (we can't observe it's motion relative to "space," after all). Newton's response to Descarte's relational kinematics bring him to his own view that real motion is within -- and relative to -- a "container" conception of "absolute space" and "absolute time," the same view as he later champions in the General Scholium of the Principia. By considering his reasoning closely, we hope to get some fresh insight into three things: into whether Newton was really an empiricist, into how science works, and into, perhaps (dare we hope?), the nature of space and time themselves.
Recordings and related resources
audio recording

November 6, 2009

"The Seven Temptations of Neuroethics"

 

Bill Struthers, Psychology Department, Wheaton College

Abstract
Whether defined as the neural basis of morality and ethics or as the subfield of biomedical ethics that deals with advances in the neurosciences, there is considerable concern among Evangelical Christians about Neuroethics. There are a number of potential areas in Neuroethics that will prove to be points of contention and they can be understood as the Seven Temptations. Each will be addressed with specific attention given to Evangelical responses to how the scientific, medical and public policy communities view these issues. An overview of the importance of addressing these temptations within the social, political, and theological arenas will be presented.
Recordings and related resources
Presentation Slides, audio recording