Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Seminar Series: Christian Perspectives in Science (2008-2009)

Schedule

October 3, 2008

"Should Christians be Structural Realists?"

Elise M. Crull, University of Notre Dame, graduate student in History and Philosophy of Science.
Abstract
There is much ado in philosophy of science these days concerning structural realism—a position about scientific theories that purports to be the "best of both worlds" by dodging major bullets on both sides of the realism debate. In this talk, I investigate whether or not Christians have different and/or stronger reasons for adopting such a position. I argue that despite the initial appeal of structural realism, it admits of objections that cannot be surmounted even with the aid of arguments from Christianity. Nevertheless, I suggest that a more nuanced version of structural realism in the vein of Poincaré might yet provide a tantalizing option for a faith-informed analysis of what science claims to be and do.
Sponsor
Co-sponsored by Calvin Philosophy Department)
Recordings and related resources
powerpoint slides
introduction (.wma)
audio recording (.wma) (lecture begins 35 seconds into file)

October 17, 2008

"Interactions between Science and Philosophy: Newton on Space and Body"

C.J. Majeski, Calvin College philosophy major (with Steve Wykstra, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College)
Abstract
This talk will present some results of Carey James (C.J.) Majeski's summer research project under Professor S. Wykstra, funded by a McGregor fellowship. One aim of the project was to develop a Reader, usable in several contexts, containing readings by scientists and philosophers that will facilitate reflection on historic interactions between science and philosophy. In this talk, C.J. will first describe some aspects of the collaborative research experience, with some reflections on how Christian faith and academic research interact. He will then introduce and present for group discussion a key selection from an important paper by Isaac Newton ("On Gravity and the Equilibrium of Fluids"). In the selected passage, we will see a strong philosophical side of Newton's thought, in which his theological commitments seem to actively inform—in some surprising ways—the conceptual foundations of his physics, both in his treatment of the concept of space and of material body. C.J.'s presentation of the Newton passage will function as a paradigm example of the summer research work. Professor Wykstra will join in the group discussion.
Recordings and related resources
audio recording (.wma)

November 14, 2008

"The Bible, Rocks and Time" Is that like "rock, paper, scissors"? An interview with Davis Young and Ralph Stearley.
Ralph Stearley, Calvin College Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies department.
Davis Young, Calvin College Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies department, emeritus.
Abstract
The Bible, Rocks and Time was funded in part by the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship. Davis Young, emeritus geology professor, and Ralph Stearley, geology professor, will be interviewed by Calvin professor of English and director of the CCCS Susan Felch, and will speak on a wide range of topics related to the book, including its possible impact in science classrooms and among the general public.
Sponsors
Co-sponsored by Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship
Co-sponsored by Calvin GGES Department
Recordings and related resources
audio recording (.mp3)

November 21, 2008

"Potential for Research at Christian College Science Departments Targeted to Benefit the Poor"

Martin Price, Senior Agricultural Scientist, former CEO, and Founder, at the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO), an organization to help those working internationally with the poor be more effective, especially in the area of agriculture.
Abstract
As a young Assistant Professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Geneva College, Dr. Price wanted to involve his students in research that would help the exceptionally poor in developing countries. The problem was that he didn't know what the questions were that would lead to research that would benefit the poor. After post-doctoral research in agriculture and now 27 years directing the agricultural work of ECHO, he will share some examples of such research that has been done and suggest ways that Calvin College science departments could involve their students in pro-poor research. He will also share some thoughts for students who would like their graduate research to benefit the poor. ECHO, the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization, is a Christian non-profit organization that helps individuals and organizations working with rural small-holder farmers and urban gardeners in Third World countries. It is based on a subtropical farm in SW Florida that serves for both training and operation of a seed bank for underutilized tropical plants.
Co-sponsor
Co-sponsored by Calvin Biology Department
Recordings and related resources
powerpoint slides
audio recording (.wma) (lecture begins 4:40 into audio file; audio quality moderate/poor)

*Events with an asterix are not part of the CPiS seminar series, but should be of interest to many attenders of CPiS seminars.

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
powerpoint slides
audio recording (.wma)

March 14, 2009* (Grand Valley State Univ.)

"WHY DO PEOPLE BELIEVE IN GODS?"*
Brian Malley, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan
Keynote lecture of the Grand Dialogue in Science and Religion Annual Conference


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
powerpoint slides
audio recording (.wma)

April 17, 2009

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

Scott Hoezee, Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching, Calvin Theological Seminary; and 
Deb Haarsma, Physics and Astronomy Department, Calvin College
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
powerpoint slides
audio recording (.wma)