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Seminar Series: Christian Perspectives in Science (2017-2018)

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 | 2015 |2016 |current




Schedule for Fall 2018

September 21, 2018 (Friday), 2:00 p.m. in North Hall room 078

"Science, Faith and the Dialog of Cultures: Islamic Perspectives"

Dr. Bruno Guiderdoni, Director of Research at the Institute of Astrophysics of Lyon


(This talk is not part of the seminar series, but may be of intersted to those who follow this series.)
About the speaker:
Dr. Guiderdoni is Director of Research at the Institute of Astrophysics of Lyon, a member of the Center National de la Recherche Scientifique. His main field of research is the formation of galaxies and their evolution. He has published more than 100 articles and has organized several international conferences on these issues. He is director of the Lyon Observatory. He is also one of the leading experts on Islam in France and has published 50 documents on Islamic theology and its mystics. He was in charge of a French television program called “Knowing Islam” (“Connaître l'Islam”) from 1993 to 1999, and is now the director of the Islamic Institute of Advanced Studies (Institut des Hautes Études Islamiques).
Sponsored by:
The Kauffman Institute; Calvin College Science Division


September 24, 2018 (Monday), 7:00 p.m. at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church

"Common Ground in Science and Faith: A Theologian and a Scientist in Dialogue"

Dr. Richard Mouw, theologian and past president of Fuller Seminary,


Dr. Praveen Sethupathy, geneticist at Cornell University


(This talk is not part of the seminar series, but may be of intersted to those who follow this series. The event is free, but registration is required)
Abstract:
Do science and Christian faith have something to offer to each other and to the world around us? Or are these pursuits locked in separate worlds, achieving an uneasy truce at best? Join us for a thought-provoking evening featuring respected theologian Richard Mouw and Cornell geneticist Praveen Sethupathy. Together they will give a fresh perspective on the possibilities of finding common ground in a renewed dialogue between science and faith..
Sponsored by:
BioLogos


September 25, 2018 (Tuesday), 3:45 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Augustine’s beginning: transitioning from organism to mechanism and the idea of a natural world"

Dr. Stanley P. Rosenberg, Executive Director, SCIO: Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford


Abstract:
A key development in the shaping of early modern science was the conceptualization of nature in mechanistic terms rather than treating it as an organism, possessing a structure that was organized and predictable. The change was not so revolutionary, however, as it was an idea that began evolving much earlier and was deeply embedded in the theology of Augustine. In his largest commentary on Genesis, “de Genesi ad litteram,” Augustine decisively set aside the vision of the cosmos that saw all particular phenomena as a result of the particular will of the gods or a God and rejected the enchanted world which dominated Near Eastern, Greek, and Roman cosmologies. A profound revolution in his thought evolved which had major implications for the development of the West and its attitudes towards nature and the natural world (notably shaping early modern sciences and the tradition of thought leading up to the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century developments). The commentary signals a sea change that might be described as a Christianization of the cosmos, as it more thoroughly implemented the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo; it desacralized and demystified nature, making it into a contingent, objective, rational structure subject to coherent and intelligible reason.
About the speaker:
Stan Rosenberg founded and directs Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford (SCIO) and its undergraduate visiting student programmes, The Scholars Semester in Oxford and The Oxford Summer Programme. He is a member of Wycliffe Hall and the University of Oxford’s Theology and Religion Faculty, teaching early Christian history and doctrine. In addition, he is an associate member of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion and a member of the Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity. His research and teaching interests focus on Augustine’s works (the commentaries on Genesis and the sermons, in particular), early Christian cosmology and its relationship to Greco-Roman science, culture, and philosophy, and the interplay between intellectual and popular thought during this period; he is also involved in contemporary discussions on the relationship between science and religion. Rosenberg has directed multiple Science and Religion projects in Oxford gathering multinational teams of scholars, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, the Blankemeyer Foundation, and the BioLogos Foundation, and is the general editor of the recently published book, Finding Ourselves after Darwin: Conversations on the Image of God, Original Sin, and the Problem of Evil (Baker, 2018) which includes his article, ‘Can Nature be “Red in Tooth and Claw” in the Thought of Augustine?’ He is on the advisory council of the BioLogos Foundation, the editorial board of the journal, Religions, and the international advisory council of the Museum of the Bible, advising on both science and the Bible, and early Christianity.
Additional Q&A time with the speaker for students:
After the talk, students may remain for pizza and Q&A conversation with Stan Rosenberg. Q&A organized by the Science and Religion Forum and sponsored by a grant given by Bridging the Two Cultures of Science and the Humanities II, a project run by Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford, the UK subsidiary of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, with funding by Templeton Religion Trust and The Blankemeyer Foundation.
Co-sponsors:
Calvin College Physics & Astronomy Department; Calvin College Science and Religion Forum (ScARF)
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides.


September 28, 2018 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Covenant Fine Arts Center Recital Hall

"A Critical Appraisal of the Evangelical Pro-Life Movement"

Dr. Jonathan Dudley, M.D., Instructor, Molecular Genetic Pathology, Stanford University


Abstract:
As evangelicals went to the polls in 2016, many embraced a utilitarian ethic: the end of combating abortion justified the means of elevating an unusually controversial candidate to a position of immense power. This logic results largely from a widespread belief that full moral life begins at conception, but Dudley will argue that belief itself is poorly supported by historic Christianity, the Bible, and modern science. While historic Christianity has featured consistent opposition to abortion, the form of that opposition has varied significantly, with most theologians stating that full moral life begins at some point later than conception. The claim that the Bible teaches life begins at conception, meanwhile, is based on exegesis that was not widespread among Christians until the 1980s. In advocating for their goals, pro-life organizations have made inaccurate claims about medical science and pursued policies that increase the abortion rate. Dudley will conclude by advocating an alternative approach to political engagement that doesn’t require subordinating other convictions, and that has a stronger claim to represent historic Christianity by pursuing anti-abortion policies that are based on scientific evidence.
About the speaker:
Jonathan Dudley is the author of “Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics,” published by Random House. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University Divinity School, where he studied evangelical Christian political activism, and holds a medical doctorate from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His writing and political activism have been featured in the New York Times and he has appeared on CNN's Newsroom with Kyra Phillips.
Co-sponsors:
History Department; Political Science Department; Biology Department; the Sexuality Series
Recordings and related resources
video_recording

October 3, 2018 (Wednesday), 3:30 p.m. in Covenant Fine Arts Center Recital Hall

"The Liberal Origins (and Conservative Trajectory) of the Pro-Life Movement: A Political and Theological History of the American Campaign against Abortion"

Dr. Daniel Williams, Professor, Department of History, University of West Georgia


Abstract:
Today American pro-life organizations are usually strong allies of conservative Republicans, but the movement originated as a liberal human rights cause in the mid-20th century, and many of its early leaders were New Deal Democrats who favored an expanded social welfare state to assist women facing crisis pregnancies. This talk will examine the pro-life movement’s early grounding in Catholic social theology, and will examine why this theology of human dignity found a home in the Democratic Party for several decades. The talk will then examine how the pro-life movement responded to changes in American liberalism in the 1970s that eventually strained the link between Catholic social teaching and the Democratic Party, and it will explain why the movement eventually allied with the Republican Party. Evangelical Protestants played a critical role in the political reorientation of the Catholic-inspired pro-life movement. The talk will examine why evangelicals belatedly joined the pro-life campaign and how their view of abortion and politics differed from those of their Catholic allies. The talk will conclude by examining what this history means for Christian practice today, and what tools the history of Christian theology might offer for approaching the issue of abortion policy in contemporary American politics.
About the speaker:
Dr. Daniel K. Williams is Associate Professor of History at the University of West Georgia. His research focuses on the intersection between politics and religion in modern America. He is the author of “God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right” (Oxford University Press, 2010) and “Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade” (Oxford University Press, 2016). He is currently writing a study of cultural conflict in the 1976 presidential election, which is under contract with the University Press of Kansas for publication in the American Presidential Elections series.
Co-sponsors:
History Department; Political Science Department; Biology Department; the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics; the Sexuality Series
Recordings and related resources
video_recording.

October 4, 2018 (Thursday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"A History of Conflict: Protestantism and the Origins of the ‘Conflict Thesis’"

Dr. James Ungureanu, Honorary Fellow, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Abstract:
The conflict thesis is typically traced to the popular historical narratives of John W. Draper’s “History of Conflict between Religion and Science” (1874) and Andrew D. White’s two-volume “History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom” (1896). I argue, however, that Draper and White, contrary to conventional views, did not posit a conflict between “science and religion.” Rather, they envisioned the conflict as one between conservative and liberal theological traditions. This conflict predated Draper and White. Such narratives of theological conflict appeared in Protestant historiography as early as the sixteenth century, among liberal Anglicans in particular. In time, however, such polemics were transformed from Protestant anti-Catholic sentiment to an intra-Protestant self-critique. Nourished in this religious context, by the mid-nineteenth century narratives of conflict between “science and religion” were largely deployed between contending theological schools of thought. However, these narratives were later appropriated by secularists, freethinkers, and atheists as weapons against all religion. I contend that the origins, development, and popularization of the conflict thesis was one of the many unintended consequences of Protestant thought.
About the speaker:
Dr. James Ungureanu is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of History of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an Honorary Post-Thesis Fellow in Religious Studies in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of Queensland. He studies history of science and religion; intellectual history; history of philosophy; western civilization; world history; history of Christianity; world religions; religious studies; and nineteenth-century religious thought. (https://uq.academia.edu/jamescungureanu). He has a forthcoming book, “Science, Religion and the Protestant Tradition: The Origins of Conflict” (University of Pittsburgh Press, in Bernard Lightman’s series “Science and Culture in the Nineteenth Century, Fall 2019).
Co-sponsors:
History Department
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides.

October 26, 2018 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Current Neuroscience and the Subject Integration Theory"

Eric LaRock, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Oakland University; Affiliate Faculty, Center for Consciousness Science, University of Michigan


Abstract:
Current neuroscience seems to be converging upon several properties required for consciousness: (1) that local and global connections are required for integrating information contents, (2) that events in frontal regions are required for accessing and manipulating information contents, (3) that events in the thalamus and proximal structures, including the insula, are required for enabling specific information contents, and (4) that the common mechanism of the aforementioned (1-3) neurobiological properties is the synchronous activations of neurons (see Dehaene 2014; Engel & Fries 2016; Singer 2017). As Patricia Churchland observes: “The linkages, it is thought, may consist in synchrony in the activities of populations of neurons” (2013, p. 247). While neuronal synchrony might be necessary in some important sense (e.g., when it comes to matters of predictive coding), it is not sufficient for consciousness, including its integration. Recent data strongly indicates that when an animal is rendered unconscious by means of anesthesia, neuronal synchrony is not only present but actually shows signs of strengthening (see Bola et al 2017). Further, Semir Zeki suggests that connections between V4 and V5 probably do not exist on grounds of neuroanatomical, lesion-based, neuropsychological, and chronoarchitectonic mapping evidence. There is now widespread agreement (a) that V4 and V5 “have distinct, and characteristic, anatomical inputs, despite the many anatomical opportunities for them to interact” and (b) that a lesion in one of those processing sites “does not invade and disable the perceptual territory of the other,” which underscores the functional autonomy of those processing sites (Zeki 2003, p. 214; Zeki 2015). The neuropsychological evidence has shown (c) that damage to V4 does not impact V5, and vice versa. Perhaps most significantly, it can now be shown (d) that the chronoarchitectonic mapping evidence puts pressure on claims (1) and (4) above: when human subjects are exposed to complex visual scenes, “the time courses of activity in human V4 and V5 are significantly uncorrelated, from which we can infer that there are no direct anatomical links between them.” In fact, the time courses between V4 and V5 (and other visual processing sites) can be as great as 80 milliseconds (Zeki 2003, p. 216; Zeki 2015). In sum, the current evidence reveals an asynchronous relation between processing sites, an observable datum that cuts directly against the purported common neurobiological mechanism of consciousness (LaRock 2018). Zeki ultimately concludes that the only entity that counts as truly unitary is the subject that “sits at the apex” of the processing hierarchy (2003, p. 217; see also Zeki 2015). Unfortunately, Zeki does not develop this suggestion into a testable theory. To bridge this theoretical gulf, I propose a new theory called the Subject Integration Theory (SIT), whereby the subject plays a (top-down) role of integrating information contents across cortices of its brain, and develop the testability of SIT in light of recent advances in neuroanesthesia.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording not available, slides not available.

November 9, 2018 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: The Scientific Enterprise in a Polanyian Framework"

John Hess, Ph.D., Middlesex University


Abstract:
I consider here the structure, functions, and purpose of modern natural science within the frame of Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowing (TTK). Since its birth, modern natural science is de facto epistemic authority of the liberal and post-liberal order. Hence, misrepresentation of how science achieves new knowledge distorts science, knowledge in general and falsifies our outlook. I place TTK in an emergent Enlightenment reform tradition which seeks to overcome the epistemic difficulties of modern objectivism and post-modern subjectivism and/or relativism. By reference to actual practice of science, TTK gives a truer understanding of knowing by disclosing the tacit nature of all knowledge. Its triadic structure derives from a thorough consideration of scientific discovery. TTK presupposes the fiduciary, tacit, and social roots of all knowledge but overcomes their constraints by the creative exercise of tacit knowing in the pursuit of truth of which discovery is the realization. TTK re-forges the bond between the independence of thought and the obligation to transcendent reality (or truth) which animates science. Science, in Polanyi’s purview, is the pursuit of truth for its own sake. Hence, science divides: pure science is driven by discovery and the ideal of truth while applied science (or technology) by invention and pragmatic or human ends; TTK focuses on pure science. While TTK re-establishes more adequate grounds for and justification of the scientific enterprise, Polanyi admits its quest does not totally sate the human need for a purpose that bears on eternity. Here, TTK re-opens the door to its religious solution.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, paper.

November 30, 2018 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Discerning a Christian Approach to AI"

Derek Schuurman, Computer Science Department, Calvin College


Abstract:
AI techniques employing "deep learning" have recently achieved remarkable strides in tackling difficult problems and spurring applications in many new areas. Responses to these developments have ranged from existential fear to unbridled optimism. These discussions open up a plethora of ethical considerations and ontological questions about what it means to be human. The approach one takes to questions rising in AI is largely shaped by our philosophical presuppositions and our worldview. As Christians who care about God’s world, we must do more than wax eloquently about the issues or critique them from the sidelines. Christians need to actively join this conversation bringing insights from Scripture and from Christian philosophy and theology to inform a responsible approach that contributes to the common good. In particular, as we wrestle with these new developments, we must remember what Scripture teaches about what it means to be human, the meaning of work, and the kind of world God would have us unfold.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, text of paper presented.



Schedule for Spring 2018

March 2, 2018 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Beyond the Free Will Defense: natural evil, theodicy, and sacrificial love"

Loren Haarsma, Physics & Astronmy Department, Calvin College



Abstract
Atheists sometimes point to features of the natural world as arguments against Theism (e.g. age and immensity of the universe, hiddenness of divine action, randomness, suffering caused by natural events and moral evil, evolution, the neuroscience of belief). In response, numerous Christians have developed “free will” or “soul-making” accounts. A recent book by Christian Barrigar (“Freedom All the Way Up”, Friesen Press) affirms these accounts but advocates a shift of emphasis, arguing for free will as only a necessary pre-condition for God’s ultimate purpose of creating beings capable of understanding and living in relationships of self-sacrificial love towards each other and God. Self-sacrificial love is especially central to God’s Trinitarian nature and revealed in Christ’s redeeming work. This “agape” account for these features of the world can be appealing to many Christians and powerfully inviting for non-Christians. It also has some implications regarding the subtlety of divine action in the natural world, and the (perhaps) inevitability of human sin, which some Christians might find theologically troubling, and are worth further discussion.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides.


March 9, 2018 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Growing Faith in the Field of Geology"

C. Renee Sparks, GEO Department, Calvin College



Abstract
Field opportunities are abundant in geology: We travel to Montana to teach Big Sky Geology or journey to Hawaii to study volcanoes. We traverse Scotland to study the development of geological sciences within the context of Earth history.  These places are awe-inspiring in their landscapes, let alone the tectonic forces, chemical reactions, and time necessary to produce them. How can we help our students use these awe-inspiring experiences to grow in their Christian faith?  God is revealing His character through His Good Creation and of course, His character is revealed in Scripture as well. Teaching at Calvin College, we have the privilege of recognizing both and sharing that with our students. In this presentation, we will consider passages in Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Gospels to see how Scripture complements what we see manifested in Creation as geology. It is important to recognize that growing in the faith not only occurs because of knowledge and understanding. We will also explore opportunities for growth in the field through purposeful prayer, intentional fellowship around the dinner tables, and reserved time for praise and worship.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides.


April 6, 2018 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"The Challenge of Transhumanism"

Paul Harper (Physics), Derek Schuurman (Computer Science), and Jim Bradley (Mathematics, emeritus), Calvin College



Abstract
Transhumanism is a movement that seeks to better human existence by employing various technological enhancements, some of which exist now while some are being sought. Among these are genetic modifications, forms of artificial intelligence, life extension, and brain uploading to computers. This seminar will examine these and other such technologies from a Christian perspective. It will discuss theological aspects as well as ethical and policy issues.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording unavailable due to technical glitch, slides.


 


Schedule for Fall 2017

October 6, 2017 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"The Faith of a Scientist"

Henry F. Schaefer III, Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Computational Chemistry at the University of Georgia



Bio:
Henry F. Schaefer III received his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from MIT and Stanford, respectively, both in Chemical Physics. He served as a professor at University of California, Berkeley, for 18 years. He is currently Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. Thomson-Reuters shows Professor Schaefer to be one of the most highly cited physical scientists in the world. He is the recipient of 30 honorary degrees. Professor Schaefer has also given lectures on the interface between science and the Christian faith at more than 200 universities.
Co-sponsors:
Calvin Chemistry and Biochemistry Department
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides.

October 13, 2017 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Do we really live in a non-deterministic world?"

James Bradley, emeritus professor of Mathematics, Calvin College



Abstract
Most of classic Christian theology denied the reality of chance, asserting rather that God controls all that happens. Furthermore, prior to the mid-19th century, scientists generally saw the physical world as deterministic. However, since that time, evolutionary biology and quantum physics have led a shift toward the view that the natural world is non-deterministic. But such a view has been problematic for Christian theology, especially for the Reformed tradition. In this talk, I will attempt to clarify what scientists mean by chance and how that differs from popular views. I will also argue (without using quantum mechanics) that the physical world really is non-deterministic. And I will conclude by engaging in some shameless speculations about why God might have made it that way.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides.


October 27, 2017 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Science and Faith: A Global Conversation"

Wayne Bornholdt, Director of Acquisitions at the Theological Book Network



Abstract
"There is one question that troubled me when I was in college: can science and faith be brought on the same boat?" -Adrianus Yosia, a student at South East Asia Bible Seminary in Indonesia.
As conversations and interactions between science and faith continue to grow and deepen in the US, there are similar conversations going on in the Majority world involving varying faith traditions and convictions. How are Christians and other people of faith engaging issues of science and religion? What answers do institutions and individuals have for Adrianus and others who are asking these difficult questions? The Theological Book Network has been listening to and observing these conversations and asking questions about how best to address them with the appropriate theological resources. Many important insights have been learned through this exercise. Wayne Bornholdt will share examples of the multiple conversations on science and faith that the Network has had over many years.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording.


December 1, 2017 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Patristics, Genomics, and Finding God in the Cell"

Clay Carlson, Associate Professor of Biology, Trinity Christian College



Abstract
Christians who confront what genomic science and evolution are telling us about human origins face the same existential crisis that has disturbed Christians for 2000 years the veracity of truth learned from studying the world that seems at first to contradict scripture. The Patristics, the ancient Church Fathers who wrote during the first centuries of Christianity, faced similar struggles as they wrestled with their understanding of how the world seemed to function, Platonism, and the claims of scripture. Today we can learn from their examples and, with reverence and humility, interpret genomic science of human origins through the lens of the biblical narrative. Even as we are persuaded to modify dearly held interpretations of scripture, we can be comforted by scientific observations that seem to be letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides.




Schedule for Spring 2017

February 6, 2017 (Monday), 7:00 p.m. in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall

"The Lost World of Adam and Eve"

John Walton, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College



Abstract
Dr. Walton will evaluate Genesis 2 relative to human origins. Based on a close reading of the Hebrew text and correlation with what is known from the ancient Near East, conclusions will be drawn concerning what the biblical claims are and how they help us navigate the modern conversations between science and faith.
Sponsored by:
Science and Religion Forum at Calvin College.

March 10, 2017 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010

"Managing Stormwater for Quantity and Quality"

William Byl, Kent County Drain Commissioner, retired



Abstract
Stormwater pollution is one of the greatest threats to Great Lakes water quality. Bill Byl (Calvin '74) recently retired Kent County Drain Commissioner, will explain the causes and potential solutions to the problem from both a technical and political perspective. He will also identify two projects that affect the Calvin campus and how Calvin students and alumni are contributing to the solutions.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides, video_recording.


April 7, 2017 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building basement room 010

"You Look Like a Movie: Why science still needs its critics"

Matthew Walhout, Professor of Physics and Dean for Research and Scholarship, Calvin College



Abstract
Institutions of modern science have always aimed to serve human wellbeing, and no one can deny that they have delivered countless social goods. But should scientists themselves expect to make decisions about what social goods are and how they should be pursued? During the Cold War era, moral questions were generally considered to be outside the scope of science. Science fiction and noir films of that era explored various frightful human consequences to which amoral science might lead. Now, in the 21st century, we can see that some of the underlying fears were justified. This talk will revisit Cold War science and cinema, in order to suggest why we should expect—and even welcome—a renewed debate about the roles that scientists should play in society.
The presentation is intended to appeal both to STEM students and to general audiences with interests in history, philosophy, political science, sociology, and/or film studies.
Recordings and related resources
video_recording.

April 28, 2017 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"The remarkable tale of the whale: fossils, DNA, isotopes, and the many facets of cetacean evolution"

Ryan Bebej, Biology Department, Calvin College



Abstract
Cetaceans (including modern whales, dolphins, and porpoises) have become one of the most frequently cited examples of macroevolution. The fossil record documenting their transition from terrestrial ancestors has exploded in recent decades, providing a series of transitional fossils that demonstrates how the earliest cetaceans adapted to life in water. But the fossils are only part of the story. Lines of evidence from other fields (including comparative anatomy, development, genetics, biogeography, and stable isotope analysis) provide additional details about the evolution of cetaceans. While these varied disciplines highlight distinct facets of this remarkable transition, together they create a compelling and remarkable case of large-scale evolutionary change.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides.


May 5, 2017 (Friday), 3:30 p.m. in Science Building room 110

"Thinking About Human Creation Through the Complementary Lenses of Faith and Science"

Cara Wall-Scheffler, Biology Department, Seattle Pacific University



Abstract
In this lecture I review some key aspects of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral that complement the scientific method. Then I discuss the human fossil record, beginning with early evidence for bipedalism and continuing through to Homo sapiens.
Recordings and related resources
audio_recording, slides.