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Seminar Series: Christian Perspectives in Science (2014)


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 |current


Schedule for Fall 2014

September 19, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Planning for Big Data"

Patrick Bailey, Computer Science Department, Calvin College.

Abstract
It's the new oil. It's the next wave. But, just what is "Big Data?" How do you know what to do with it? Planning a big data project can be expensive and time consuming. There is a rich set of tools available for working with data, but none will provide an answer if the process didn't start with a good question. This talk provides an overview of the planning process and considerations to develop good questions.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides.

October 3, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Food x Faith: Consumptive Choices Could Solve TWO Big Global Problems AND Save Money"

David Dornbos, Biology Department, Calvin College.

Abstract
While “Creation Care” is trendy in some elements of “the church,” it certainly does not seem to be mainstream nor is it driving sweeping changes in behaviors of Christian lifestyle. And whether we sense it or not, admit it or not from where we sit, global food security has already been undermined by environmental degradation. So as global human population swells toward 9 billion, it seems as though we may need to choose between food security and environmental health, intensifying industrial agriculture or developing a new food system model. Do these need to be choices? Could consumptive choices, changes in our dietary aesthetic, save us money through lower healthcare costs and protect environmental integrity at local and global scales?
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides.

October 10, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Evolution and Christian Ethics: Mapping the Terrain"

Criag Boyd, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University.

Abstract
In this talk, I look at what I think are four ways in which scientists and ethicists have considered normative ethics in light of evolutionary theory. I have tentatively labelled them the conformers, the resisters, the maximizers, and the transformers. The first two accept the idea of evolution as a basically “selfish” process. The latter two see it as ambivalent. The conformers think that the “ought” of ethics should be determined by the “is” of evolutionary biology. The resisters think that we should somehow try to “fight back” against the power of the selfish genes. The maximizers think that since evolution is ambivalent there are resources within the human person that can enable her, when properly cultivated, to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Finally, the transformers see the need for a normative account of ethics that moves the agent beyond the impulses and drives of nature itself. For the transformer, a “something more” is needed and can come in the form of the normative power of reason. It is within this camp that I think Christian ethics can come to peace with evolutionary biology.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides.

October 30 (Thursday), 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010 (note the room)

Topic: Faith and Wisdom in Science

Tom McLeish, Professor of Physics, Durham University.

Abstract
To be announced.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides.

November 7, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

Topic: To Be Announced

Rob Barrett, Director of Forums and Scholarship, Colossian Forum.

Abstract
To be announced.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides, Colossian_Forum_website.


Schedule for Spring 2014

February 21, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Randomness, Divine Providence, and Anxiety"

Jim Bradley, Mathematics Department (emeritus), Calvin College.

Abstract
Scientists often assert that some aspect of the natural world evidences randomness. However, for many people – not just scientists – the existence of randomness in nature seems inconsistent with the existence of a divine being who is omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign, and who acts with providential care. This presentation will offer a response to this theological anxiety about randomness. It will argue that much of the apparent conflict arises from misunderstandings of randomness and that, rightly understood, randomness can be seen as originating in the divine nature; it will also provide a speculative but plausible explanation of the divine use of randomness in evolution.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides.

March 7, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

showing of "Looking for the Missing Link between Faith and Reason"

Leo Hagedorn, the writer and producer, a middle school science teacher in Traverse City, MI, will introduce the movie.

Abstract
"If you don't believe in Young Earth creationism you don’t belong in this church!" The sermon that day was an ultimatum. I needed to find out for myself if I had to choose between faith and science, or was there a link that was missed along the way? This movie, Looking for the Missing Link between Faith and Reason, asks you to weigh the evidence and draw your own conclusion to what you believe. It features interviews with Francis Collins, Brian Mclaren, Rob Bell, Ed Dobson, Ken Ham, Nancey Murphy, Ken Miller, and Deborah and Loren Haarsma. Students: if you’re wrestling with this issue, here’s a chance to follow the steps a fellow believer took to investigate. Professors and students: here’s a chance to see if this is a movie you might recommend for adult education or a study group at your church.
Recordings and related resources
web_page_for_the_movie

March 14, 2014, 1:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010 (note the time -- and a second seminar later in the day)

"Modern genomics and human evolution"

Dennis Venema, Biology Department, Trinity Western University.

Abstract
In recent years the rapidly expanding field of comparative genomics has thrown much light on human origins. This evidence confirms our evolutionary history as a species nested within the great apes, demonstrates that our speciation took place as a population, and reveals that our speciation was prolonged and complex, with genetic exchange between our lineage and closely-related hominins. Recent advances in paleogenomics – the sequencing of DNA from long-extinct species – as well as deeper investigation of our own genetic diversity will serve to refine our understanding of our evolutionary past in the near future. I will describe these scientific findings and speak briefly about their theological significance in this Biology department seminar; I will explore the theological questions in greater depth at a Christian Perspectives in Science seminar later in the day.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides
Co-sponsors
Calvin College Biology Department

March 14, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010 (note the time -- and another seminar earlier in the day)

"Christianity and evolution: lessons from the past, prospects for the future"

Dennis Venema, Biology Department, Trinity Western University.

Abstract
Evangelical Christianity has a long history of interaction with prevailing scientific issues. While recent advances in comparative genomics have greatly improved our scientific understanding of human origins, evangelicals are only beginning to grapple with the implications of these discoveries for long-held theological views. Do humans descend from a historical Adam and Eve? Is original sin inherited biologically? What does it mean to be created in the image of God? This seminar will explore the theological issues arising out of recent genomics evidence, and draw on lessons from our history that may be helpful for the present discussion.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, power_point_slides
Co-sponsors
Calvin College Biology Department

Seminar series related event:

April 3, 2014, noon in the Calvin College Chapel

"Why the Church Needs to Talk About Evolution"

Deborah Haarsma, President of BioLogos.org.

Abstract
For some Christians, the word "evolution" is dangerous and atheistic, pulling people away from God and the Bible. But other Christians see evolution as a scientific description of how God created the abundant variety of life on earth. Congregations that consider evolution are better equipped to evangelize scientists, disciple young people, and impact our science-minded society.

This is part of the Calvin Academy of Lifelong Learning Noontime Series.
Web site for noontime series.
Recordings and related resources
video_recording

April 4, 2014, 12:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010 (note the time -- and a second seminar later in the day)

"Evolutionary Evils and the Goodness of God: The Darwinian Problem of Animal Suffering" -- Part 1

John Schneider, Religion Department emeritus, Calvin College.

Abstract
Scientific discovery of a “Darwinian World” generates a new form of the old problem of God and natural evils. This “Darwinian Problem” arises from the unveiling of previously unimagined amounts, kinds, and distributions of apparently random, morally purposeless suffering by animals in the concurrent systems of nature and also during an unfathomably long span of pre-human time. We must wonder whether such systems, which inscribe such horrific suffering into the conditions of existence for so many animals, could be the design of the omnipotent and loving God of Christian theism. I maintain that prevailing God-justifying explanations are unconvincing. Contrary to Neo-Cartesian theory, many animals do suffer in ways that should matter to us morally. Further, “lapsarian” appeals to a world-ruinous Fall fail on both scientific and analytical grounds. Still further, “Only Way” appeals to the inevitability of such natural evils in any comparably “regular” physical world violate our intuition of divine omnipotence. Finally, “Skeptical Theism”—appeal to the epistemic likelihood on theism of our not knowing the God-justifying explanation—violates our intuition of divine love. Rather than concede the argument, or retreat into “fideism,” I propose renovation of ancient aesthetic theodicy along non-lapsarian lines. Taking off from the framework of Irenaeus (d. c. 200) rather than the familiar lapsarian theodicy of Augustine (354-430), and using the book of Job and Romans (especially 8-11), I propose that “God the Artist” deliberately integrated natural evils into the world, with the God-justifying goal of “defeating” them in and through the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection of Christ. The cosmic glory of a world brought about via the “defeat” of evils (rightly understood) is much greater in goodness for all creatures and things than any world brought about without them. (Part 2 of this seminar was given on May 9 -- see below.)
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording; power_point_slides; (Part 2 of this seminar was given on May 9 -- see below.)

April 4, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010 (note the time -- and another seminar earlier in the day)

"Seeking Adam: Questions from Genetics"

David Wilcox, Biology Department emeritus, Eastern University.

Abstract
As the science of genetics has developed, an increasing number of data points indicate difficulties in the traditional theological understanding of human origins. This paper focus on three such areas. First, timing, place and movement during the beginnings of human history, including the possibility of an early bottleneck. Second, recent evidence on the timing and extent of interbreeding with the Neanderthals, with an evaluation of the likely impact of such interbreeding on human function. Third, an evaluation of genetic evidences which indicates that human uniqueness should be viewed as product of dramatic functional alterations in the genetic control of neural development. And finally, along the way, a consideration of the possibilities for theological integration which these points raise.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording; power_point_slides

Seminar series related event:

April 14, 2014, 9:45 a.m. in Loosemore Auditorium, Grand Valley State University, 401 Fulton St. West, Grand Rapids

"Religion and Science: Where the Conflict Really Lies"

Alvin Planginta, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, University of Notre Dame.

This is the keynote lecture of the Grand Dialogue in Science and Religion Annual Conference.
Web site for the conference, including a link for registration.

May 2, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010

"Evolution, sin, and redemption: Multiple ways to harmonize human evolution and the doctrine of original sin."

Loren Haarsma, Physics Department, Calvin College.

Abstract
As archeology and genetics help us learn more about human origins and evolution, the issues which generate the greatest theological concern usually cluster around the historicity of Adam and Eve and original sin. In the last few decades, Christian scholars have proposed several competing scenarios for harmonizing the doctrine of original sin with recent discoveries about human origins. These scenarios share a central theological core affirming God’s goodness and justice, sin as a rebellion of God’s revealed will, and the centrality of atonement through Christ. These scenarios disagree in their proposed answers to some long-standing theological questions such as: How intellectually and morally advanced were the first humans who sinned? Was a state of fully developed moral righteousness a state that humans might have grown into through obedience over time, or was it an actual state that some humans lived in? Does sinful disobedience require an explicit command to have been violated, or does violating the promptings of conscience count as well? Was human sin unavoidable? Did human disobedience damage human nature all in a single disobedient act (or pair of acts), or was it through accumulation of many disobedient acts over a longer period of time? How is humanity’s sinful nature passed to each generation? In this seminar we’ll discuss these different scenarios for human origins and original sin, and examine the competing theological challenges facing each.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording; handout.

May 9, 2014, 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010

"Part 2 of: Evolutionary Evils and the Goodness of God: The Darwinian Problem of Animal Suffering"

John Schneider, Religion Department emeritus, Calvin College.

Abstract
This is a continuation of the seminar which John Schneider gave on April 4. If you didn't attend on April 4, you are encouraged to look at the presentation_slides and listen to the audio_file. Scientific discovery of a “Darwinian World” generates a new form of the old problem of God and natural evils. This “Darwinian Problem” arises from the unveiling of previously unimagined amounts, kinds, and distributions of apparently random, morally purposeless suffering by animals in the concurrent systems of nature and also during an unfathomably long span of pre-human time. We must wonder whether such systems, which inscribe such horrific suffering into the conditions of existence for so many animals, could be the design of the omnipotent and loving God of Christian theism. I maintain that prevailing God-justifying explanations are unconvincing. Contrary to Neo-Cartesian theory, many animals do suffer in ways that should matter to us morally. Further, “lapsarian” appeals to a world-ruinous Fall fail on both scientific and analytical grounds. Still further, “Only Way” appeals to the inevitability of such natural evils in any comparably “regular” physical world violate our intuition of divine omnipotence. Finally, “Skeptical Theism”—appeal to the epistemic likelihood on theism of our not knowing the God-justifying explanation—violates our intuition of divine love. Rather than concede the argument, or retreat into “fideism,” I propose renovation of ancient aesthetic theodicy along non-lapsarian lines. Taking off from the framework of Irenaeus (d. c. 200) rather than the familiar lapsarian theodicy of Augustine (354-430), and using the book of Job and Romans (especially 8-11), I propose that “God the Artist” deliberately integrated natural evils into the world, with the God-justifying goal of “defeating” them in and through the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection of Christ. The cosmic glory of a world brought about via the “defeat” of evils (rightly understood) is much greater in goodness for all creatures and things than any world brought about without them.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording; power_point_slides