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Seminar Series: Christian Perspectives in Science (2015)


About the Series
This seminar series explores interactions between Christian faith and scholarship in the natural and applied sciences. A schedule of recent seminars is given below. Seminar topics vary over a range of interdisciplinary issues, drawing insights from religion, philosophy, astronomy, geology, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, physics, engineering, nursing, mathematics, computer science, psychology, sociology, history, and other departments and programs.
Time and place
Seminars are typically held several Fridays per semester, 3:30-4:45 p.m., at Calvin College in Science Building room 110, unless otherwise noted. See Calvin's Visitor Resources for maps and directions to theScience Building. Faculty, students, staff and off-campus visitors are welcome.If you would like to receive regular email announcements for each week's seminar, or if you have other questions or comments, contact Loren Haarsma.
Leading a seminar
If you are interested in leading a seminar, contact Loren Haarsma. You don't have to write an entirely new lecture in order to lead a seminar. You could also:
—present a lecture you have given elsewhere or an article you have recently published;
—present a preliminary draft of a lecture or an article on which you are working, to get some feedback;
—lead a discussion about how to teach Christian perspectives on a certain topic in the classroom.
Other science-and-religion seminar series in the Grand Rapids area:
Grand Dialogue in Science and Religion
Human Origins Seminar Series, Calvin College

Archives

2001 | 2002 | 2003 |2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007| 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 |2014 |current


Schedule for Spring 2015

February 6, 2015, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010

"The Rise of Deluge Geology: Calvin Tossed by Waves"

Ralph Stearley, Geology, Geography, and Environmental Sciences Department, Calvin College.

Abstract
During the past century, a “warfare paradigm” for the relationship of science and faith has been aggressively promoted by some Christians and some prominent materialist scientists. Often, the geologic record including the record of the history of life has been a focal point for tragic-comedic pronouncements. It is generally recognized that a principal component of misinformation undergirding this warfare mentality was simplistic and/or malicious historiography accomplished during the late nineteenth century, regarding the historical relationship between science and Christianity. During the past generation, historians of science have debunked the warfare metaphor. Yet, since 1960, a large number of evangelical Christians have somehow succumbed to the parallel claims that mainstream geologists are untrustworthy and that Noah’s Flood is responsible for much if not most of the global stratigraphic record (“Deluge Geology”). Calvin College science faculty have grappled with the technical and cultural issues surrounding the history of Earth and life for over 70 years. This presentation will explore how our current cultural scene has emerged, with twin foci: a) the rise of modern Deluge Geology, and b) the effort that Calvin scientists, theologically sited within a Reformed sense of God’s rule over nature, have exerted to defuse the warfare metaphor.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording (recording stops after 67 minutes, missing final 25 minutes), handout, power_point_slides, full_audio_recording_(lower_quality).
Co-sponsors
Calvin College Geology, Geography, and Environmental Studies Department.

February 13, 2015, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010

"Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!": Evolution's Big Three Challenges to Theism

Jeffrey Schloss, Professor of Biology at Westmont College; Director, Center for Faith, Ethics & Life Sciences; Senior Scholar at BioLogos.

Abstract
The "creation - evolution debate" is of course not a single controversy at all, but entails disagreements about numerous issues, including the adequacy of scientific evidence for key proposals of evolution like common descent, the teaching (if any) of scriptures on issues like earth's age and a primordial human pair, and - the focus of this talk - the general implications of evolution for biblical theism. Three issues have commanded particular attention from the time of Darwin until the present: the question of design and divine purpose in nature, the issue of human "animality" and its implications for moral responsibility, and the way in which evolution is seen to exacerbate the problem of natural evil. Although these issues are both complex and legitimately important, their assessment is often dominated by polarized pronouncements that the findings of science are both clear and utterly noxious in their implications for belief in a wise and moral Creator, or that they present no serious challenge. This talk will describe and assess new findings in evolutionary theory that make the first extreme unfounded, but do not fully justify the second. It will argue that, rightly understood, evolution can be seen as concordant with but not demonstrative of theism, and is beset by the ambiguity that has always attended Christian reflection on the natural world. Seeing concord does not just provoke, but requires theistic belief.
Co-sponsors
The BioLogos Foundation.
 

February 27, 2015, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Light of the World: Uncovering the Unexpected Through Science and Scripture"

Kathryn Applegate, BioLogos Program Director.

Abstract
In John 8:12 and 9:5, Jesus calls himself the light of the world. Light and darkness–seeing and not seeing–are apt images for how we come to understand who Jesus is as well as for how we do science. In both cases, we need eyes to see something new, a way to look beyond the existing paradigm to a more coherent view of reality. This was true for first-century Jews awaiting a political savior in a Roman-occupied land; this is true for scientists today who study the workings of the world God has made. So often who God is and what he has done, whether in our lives, in Scripture, or in the created order itself, are not what we would have expected. We will consider several examples from both Scripture and science where the unexpected sheds new light on the character of God. Reflecting on the unexpected can be especially helpful for those who are new to thinking about how evolution could accord with the God of the Bible.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides.

April 23 (Thursday), 2015, 3:30 p.m. in Commons Annex Lecture Hall

"Confronting our Brainhood and Substantive Alienation"

Carl Gillett, Professor of Philosophy, Northern Illinois University.

Abstract
Scientific, and wider, discussions now routinely feature the claim that neuroscientific advances make it plausible that we are brains that have what I term ‘rich’ psychological properties like remembering breakfast, fearing cancer etc. Call this the ‘Expansive Brain’ view. However, such discussions are rarely clear about the nature of this type of claim or offer detailed arguments in its support. In contrast, philosophical discussions of what we are feature precise frameworks and arguments. But virtually no philosophers accept any version of the Brain view, instead endorsing either psychological or Animalist views. Philosophical discussions cannot thus be accused of neuromania – far from it. Philosophical debates about what we are still largely use the method of cases and rarely use empirical evidence from the neurosciences or elsewhere. In this paper, I seek to bring these two debates together and I defend a number of inter-locking conclusions. First, I look at work in cognitive neuroscience and argue that the neurosciences are plausibly taken to posit rich psychological properties like episodic remembering. Second, building on this result, I show that cognitive neuroscience plausibly defends the existence of what I term ‘expansive brains,’ that is brains that instantiate rich psychology. Third, using recent philosophical work, I illustrate how neuroscientific evidence can be brought to bear on the issue of what we are, hence showing that we can finally avoid the method of cases and establishing you are plausibly an expansive brain. Lastly, I outline the wide range of recent scientific evidence about our neurocognitive natures that explains both why we are so resistant to the Expansive Brain view and why we are also so deeply inclined to the mistaken views that we are minds or animals.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides, handout.
Co-sponsors
Calvin College Philosophy Department.
 

April 24, 2015, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010

"Fundamentalism vs. Mutualism: Understanding our Ongoing Debates over Reduction and Emergence"

Carl Gillett, Professor of Philosophy, Northern Illinois University.

Abstract
I contend that our theoretical frameworks for debates over ‘reduction’ and ‘emergence’ are badly lagging, often even obscuring, the exciting, ongoing debates in the sciences. To support this point, I outline what I take to be more adequate frameworks that reconstruct the debates at the ‘local’ level of concrete scientific cases. I show how the arguments and position of scientific reductionists flow from compositional explanations in the sciences and lead them to what I term ‘Fundamentalism’ which only accepts components as determinative, but still accepts a macro-world and higher sciences to study it. Reconstructing the claims of self-identified scientific emergentists, I outline what I term ‘Mutualism’ built around mutually determinative parts and wholes, highlight why it shows the most common argument for scientific reductionism is invalid, and how it frames one of the live views in the sciences. I then provide a valid argument for scientific reductionism in cases of compositional explanation and highlight its high evidential demands. I consequently detail two live views for scientific reductionists in what I term ‘Simple’ and ‘Conditioned Fundamentalism’. Most importantly, I highlight the issues between the live Mutualist and Fundamentalist views in concrete ‘local’ cases, illustrate why these disputes are empirically resolvable, and outline why, as yet, none of these competing views about ‘reduction’ and ‘emergence’ has (as yet) been established in a concrete scientific case.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides.
Co-sponsors
Calvin College Philosophy Department.
 

May 8, 2015, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Stress in Early Childhood: impact on the brain and implications for interventions"

Emily Helder, Psychology Department, Calvin College.

Abstract
Professor Helder will examine the impact of early stressful experiences such as abuse/neglect, orphanage stays, and poverty on neuroanatomical development. The influences of such stress on cognition, behavior, and emotions will be discussed. Additionally, the talk will also address intervention and educational approaches with these children.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides.
Co-sponsors
Psychology_Department; Education_Program; Science_Education_Group; Neuroscience_and_Education_Group.


Schedule for Fall 2015

To be determined