Volume 44 Number 1
Executive Director's Corner
Eastern PA ASA Meeting on Stem Cell Research
by Alan McCarrick
On Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001, the Eastern Pennsylvania section of the ASA hosted a meeting on "Human Stem Cell Research and Christian Ethics." We met on the campus of Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania academic home of Bob Newman. It was our third semi-annual meeting. Our speakers came with advanced academic work in both medical and theological studies.
The first speaker, Bartholomew Votta, is a senior investigator of musculo-skeletal diseases at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, specializing in anabolic agents that promote bone and cartilage formation. Votta is also a speaker and a board member of the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute (IBRI). He spoke on the technical issues of embryonic and adult stem cells identification and culture, the potential medical benefits and current areas of technical difficulties.
Our second speaker is a name that may be familiar to many "older" ASA members, Lewis Bird. He served as the Eastern Regional Director of the Christian Medical & Dental Society from 1964 until 1996 and as the editor of its bioethics newsletter. Bird has written extensively on biomedical ethics and family issues. He addressed the variety of ethical and moral issues of using stem cells and the range of Christian responses to them.
Votta's talk was a solid hour of intense introduction to the details of both embryonic and adult stem cell biology. Stem cells have the potential to replace damaged tissues in humans where no natural regeneration occurs. Stem cells are unique in that they will propagate almost indefinitely in vitro. Embryonic pluripotent cells are harvested from the blastocyst cell mass before implantation. These cells are not capable of becoming an embryo, but the embryo is destroyed in the process. In contrast, adult stem cells are found in virtually all adult tissue types. Their origin and function are still mysterious (especially considering the many adult human tissues that do not naturally regenerate). Both types of stem cells can with some difficulty be made to multiply without differentiation.
Adult stem cells could ideally provide the needed advantage without the potential of host rejection, but they suffer from two drawbacks. They are usually only multipotent; that is, they differentiate into only a few types of tissue. Some work is being done to show that the range of possible cell types from adult stem cells is larger than previously thought. In addition, the rare adult stem cells have to be separated from non-stem cells. This is usually difficult work, but more efficient processes based on fluorescent labeling are being developed.
Bird introduced the audience to the history of Christian thought on the issue of embryo destruction. In a more casual presentation, he showed that Christians have sought to honor two moral goals: the sanctity of human life and the mandate to alleviate suffering. Both goals are biblical, yet they conflict. His broad view is that (1) we live in a fallen world; therefore (2) we will face moral dilemmas, and (3) there will often be more than one possible answer.
The simple answer that the fertilized egg deserves full protection has not always been the only Christian position. The fact that the majority of fertilized eggs never naturally implant, and that the early zygote may split into twins and possibly recombine makes the situation fuzzy. Bird also suggested that as most have accepted the notion of "brain death," might there not be, at least in principle, a point of "brain birth" where the fetus should then be fully protected. These issues were not answered, but given as issues for thought.
Alan McCarrick is a chemical engineer with the US Navy and science instructor at The Christian Academy in Brookhaven, PA.
Dembski Meets Kauffman
William Dembski, a leading proponent of the Intelligent Design (ID) approach to biological development, encountered the leading proponent of self-organization theory, Santa Fe Institute's Stuart Kauffman, in a meeting formatted as a debate. Preceding the appearance of Dembski's new book, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence, on Nov. 13, 2001, the two-hour public encounter at the U. of New Mexico in Albuquerque (UNM) was attended by about 500 to 600 people. The event was sponsored by the department of psychology and UNM's interdisciplinary program known as the Center for Advanced Studies.
Although Kauffman and Dembski diverge on some significant issues, there was also considerable agreement. In Dembski's initial encounter with Kauffman before the debate, Kauffman made it clear right off that he thought the whole issue of design detection was completely legitimate and that programs like SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) could not even get off the ground without it. (In marked contrast, two weeks earlier at the New York Academy of Sciences, Massimo Pigliucci claimed in debate with Dembski that the debate itself should have no place in the academy). Moreover, Kauffman made clear his fundamental agreement on this point to the audience right at the start of his presentation.
Kauffman had read a preprint of the first four chapters of No Free Lunch and indicated how much he appreciated Dembski's careful evaluation of his work in his latest book, Investigations. However, he disagreed with Dembski's application of design-theoretic tools to biology and that he thought the answer lay in self-organization. Kauffman also made it clear that he had no patience for the sort of censorship of ideas from some elements of the scientific community, and values dissent within science.
Dembski spoke first, presenting an overview of his methods for design detection in The Design Inference. He then sketched how he saw these methods applying to biology and why he thought they provided in-principle objections to undirected natural causes, including Kauffman's self-organizational processes, generating the key item that his methods detect, namely, specified complexity. Dembski put it this way:
The only way for self-organizational, Darwinian, and other naturalistic methods to generate specified complexity is by in essence dissolving the actual complexity (or improbability). What seems highly improbable is therefore no longer improbable once one knows the right naturalistic process. ... there are good reasons to think that no such reduction of complexity or improbability would be possible in the case of systems like the bacterial flagellum.
In chapter five of No Free Lunch, Dembski gives a method for computing the probabilities of discrete combinatorial objects like the bacterial flagellum.
Kauffman spoke next, stating openly at the start of his 25-minute presentation that Dembski's design detection project is legitimate, but was quick to add, however, that he saw it as not properly applying to biology. To argue for the sufficiency of natural processes to produce biological complexity, he focused on self-organization processes that can generate complexity without design. He started with examples outside biology, like Benard cell convection and random graphs, as an intuition pump. He then focused on some of his research on autocatalytic sets.
One of the questions remaining in the aftermath of the encounter was whether the sort of complexity Kauffman was referring to was not the same as specified complexity. His systems were those that had many degrees of freedom in the antecedent conditions but then, through some natural process, converged to a very restrictive behavior. The systems Dembski was looking at had all the degrees of freedom in the consequent outcomes and seemed not to allow for any reduction of possibilities in the antecedent conditions. For example, a given DNA sequence that exhibits specified complexity sets in a space of other possible such sequences, none of which are privileged on the basis of natural laws. (Fellow IDer Steve Meyer makes this argument in detail.)
In his presentation, Kauffman wanted to emphasize the efficacy of natural processes to generate biological complexity and thus added that it be done "without shenanigans." Having said it, he stopped, and out of respect for the issues on the table, corrected himself and said, "rather, without design." Although not important in itself, it is suggestive that ID is slowly going from an "unthinkable option" to an "implausible but not completely crazy option." That's progress for IDers.
The 30-minute discussion that followed was friendly. Kauffman asked Dembski how he made sense of biological specification at the level of the whole organism. He replied that this was a difficult problem at that level of analysis, but that more tractable levels of analysis existed, such as molecular machines and individual enzymes. Dembski also indicated that independently-given biological specifications were not a problem for some systems at that level. For instance, outboard propellers driven by rotary motors had been invented by humans before they were discovered in the bacterial flagellum.
The rest of this dialogue time was largely devoted to ideas in Kauffman's book. He said that for his project to succeed, the probabilities of getting certain functional polymers had to be between one in a million and one in a trillion or so (basically, the sorts of numbers that SELEX experiments can handle). This seemed to Dembski a huge advance for ID, for in essence it was saying that the sort of probabilistic considerations ID has been putting forward are essential to assessing the validity of the self-organization approach. However the numbers come out, it tends to put ID in a privileged position of laying the ground rules for whatever program will be successful for a general biology course. Dembski did not press this point, though he did mention in the final Q&A that he thought that in the next five to seven years, the specified complexity of certain biological systems would be definitely nailed down, and that the improbability problem would come to be seen as irremovable.
The Q&A was respectful, though nothing fundamentally new came up during it. Dembski was asked about the problem of bad and evil design, and the problem of derived intentionality (what if our intelligence is simply an emergent property of brain states). The problem of evil, Dembski pointed out, is separate from the problem of design. Regarding derived intentionality, even if our intelligence is the expression of a program running on "wetware," the design problem of where that program and wetware came from remains. After the encounter, the participants went out to a terrific Italian restaurant.
Kauffman likes to grapple with ideas no-holds-barred. Dembski concluded from the event that, although he remains convinced that the future of a general biology is with ID, he also believes IDers have a lot to learn from the Santa Fe people.
David Keller, a physical chemist at UNM, moderated the event. He said he thought Harold Delaney, the organizer and a psychologist at UNM, summed it up quite well afterward: "The most important message of the evening was that an ID guy came and was respected." Keller noted that the level of discussion (both during the debate and at dinner afterward) was very high, very stimulating, and free of the usual dodges and tricks. He thought that attitude transmitted itself to the audience and helped suppress sneering questions. The New Mexicans for Science and Reason, (NMSR) the local skeptics group, was in the audience but was largely silent.
The tone of the event was in marked contrast to that of the previous evening, when Dembski talked at the Continuing Education building at UNM. He laid out some of the new ideas he is presenting in his forthcoming book and also gave a simplified description of the design filter and irreducible complexity. In attendance were members of the local skeptics group. During Dembski's presentation, members of this group asked about how irreducible complexity could be extrapolated to explain a bird's wing. The point was that maybe there was not a complete set of intermediates available to explain a bacterial flagellum, but that there was one preserved in the fossil record to show the evolution of a bird's wing. There were other questions such as "who designed the designer" by a guy who was clearly agitated during the entire lecture. Many in this audience were not happy about Dembski's lecture. The next day, the NMSR people were still there in numbers, but they were completely silent during the Q&A. The audience, in contrast, was not grumbling and was politely listening to both sides. The questions were very even for the most part and dealt mostly with the theories themselves. * Bill Dembski, David and Rebecca Keller
ASAers In Action
Lin Forms Young Scientists Network
Johnny Lin, at the U. of Colorado, and a few others have recently started a young scientists network to encourage communication and connections, and in particular to help identify fellow Christian young scientists who would not mind being periodically contacted for advice, help, or encouragement.
The way it works is: send Lin, at firstname.lastname@example.org, the following info: name, institution, position, field of study (and a <10-word summary of specialty), city and state of residence, and email address. Once a month or so, he will email an updated list of the above information, as well as any news/questions folks would like to share with everyone else (similar to how alumni associations send out updates). You are also free to email (periodically) the specific people they'd like to contact for help and encouragement. Lin's website is at: http://cires.colorado.edu/~johnny
Toronchuk Wins Prize
The winner of the Metanexus subscriber drawing is psychologist and biologist Judith Toronchuk, of Trinity Western U. in Langley, BC. Judy won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Science and the Spiritual Quest (SSQ) Boston Conference: The Quest for Knowledge, Truth, and Values in Science & Religion at Harvard U. Her research interests are in neural mechanisms of auditory function, but she is also actively interested in the neuroscience of religious experience. She researched single-unit recordings from the mammalian auditory system using species-specific vocalizations for her doctoral research at McGill U. and for several years after at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, the U. of Munich, and the U. of British Columbia (UBC). She has also spent a year as visiting fellow at Regent C., a graduate school of theology associated with UBC.
For over twenty years she has been active in the ASA, is on the executive council of CSCA, and is involved in planning the CSCA's 2001-2002 lecture series "Science & Faith in the New Millennium."
Judy says: "I joined the Metanexus listserv because of the unique perspective it provides at the interface of science and faith. It is extremely important to me, not only for my own interest, but also for interaction with others, to remain aware of the ongoing dialog in these exciting fields." A six-hour portion of the SSQ Conference was broadcast nationally.
Wiens' Returnable Spacecraft Aloft
In August, NASA launched three instruments on a space mission that Roger Wiens has been working on for eleven years. The "Genesis" mission is designed to collect solar wind in large collectors for a period of two years and return them to earth. The robotic spacecraft is flying to a location a million miles sunward of the earth, where it is to open its collection arrays. The solar wind ions will embed themselves in high-purity materials, including silicon, germanium, and diamond wafers, during the 2-year collection. Lord willing, the spacecraft will re-enter the earth's atmosphere and be picked up by helicopter in September 2004, becoming the first spacecraft ever to return from beyond the orbit of the moon.
The mission was named "Genesis" because analysis of the solar wind ions is expected to yield compositional information about the Sun which could answer important questions about how the solar system was created. Roger, Gwen, and family traveled to Florida to see the launch, but because it was delayed, they ended up watching it on NASA TV instead. Wiens worked at Caltech for seven years to prove the feasibility of this mission, then moved to Los Alamos and ended up in charge of building the three main instruments over the last four years.
This past year he has also been busy with a paper on radiometric dating for Hugh Ross' Facts For Faith magazine [www.reasons.org], and with revising the radiometric dating paper on the ASA website.
Book on Aging by Moberg
Sociologist David O. Moberg of Marquette U. has edited a book that applies all the more to us the longer we put off reading it. Aging And Spirituality: Spiritual Dimensions of Aging Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy has sixteen chapters; six are by Moberg and ten by other authors. Published by Haworth Pastoral Press, Binghamton, NY in 2001, the book has 249 pages, and retails for $49.95 in hardcover and $24.95 in paperback.
With the aging of the North American population and the popularity of "spirituality," the subject of the book is doubly relevant to our culture today. Although it is not explicitly an "evangelical book," its contents are very supportive of evangelical Christianity, David writes.
Van Dellen in Detroit Press
Ken Van Dellen retired from 34 years of teaching geology and environmental science at Macomb Community C. in 1999, but his career as an ASAer is revving up. (You might remember Ken from his picture in the SEP/OCT 2001 ASAN with his hybrid car.) His commentary in the Detroit Free Press titled "Local comment: Consider the future in energy decisions. Our short-term choices will have long-term repercussions" was published July 26, 2001.
And what did Ken say? "Many decisions would be easier if we could see into the future, including decisions about energy policy." Ken cautioned diligence in energy planning because "it is impossible to make abrupt changes in where we get energy and how we use it." World oil production projections argue against the production of gas-guzzling vehicles, Ken wrote, interjecting that "Exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or elsewhere is not going to increase the amount of oil that exists in the world, and any new discoveries are likely to be rather insignificant compared to the rate of consumption. The atmosphere's tolerance for pollution is not going to increase, either."
Then Ken related the topic to his personal decision: "I believe that if gas prices get very high, the owners of gas-guzzlers will switch to more efficient vehicles. That choice may not be a Toyota Prius hybrid, like I drive, but it might be something that gets 25 m.p.g. instead of 15." Ken wondered aloud whether the Detroit automakers, in following present market demand, would again lose market share to foreign companies that make more efficient vehicles. With a future glut of SUVs going cheap, Ken offers the possible scenario of the less affluent owning them and having to choose between fuel and food. The point is,
Whether we're talking about cars, power plants, appliances or anything else that converts energy, the thinking of economists, politicians and businesspeople needs to be less short term and more long term. Even if efficient and environmentally friendly new technology were invented tomorrow for transportation, electrical generation and appliances, we could not afford to just junk the old and buy the new. There is always a phase-out, phase-in period.
Ken's point is that ways must be found to use energy more efficiently. "In the United States, we use about twice as much energy per person as people in several other developed countries. About 43 percent of the energy we use is unnecessarily wasted because of inefficiencies. That's like dumping 43 barrels of oil out [of] every hundred into the ocean."
And what is Ken's view of this situation? "Is that dumb or what?" he concludes. Reducing energy waste is an obvious way to lessen the adverse impact on the future energy scenario. Ken is thinking about science as a Christian from a larger viewpoint that involves the world around us, and is getting the word out.
Web Links and Updates
… ASA members & friends: put your website links on the ASA website.
To add your link, or to read what's there, click on: http://22.214.171.124:591/ register/default.htm John Burgeson reports that Bill Yates got this going and Terry Gray did the "heavy lifting."
… Read the ASA Newsletter (ASAN) on the Web from the ASA web site at www.asa3.org, by clicking on Newsletter. The ASAN appears on-line before paper copies arrive in the mail, with color pictures, and in digital form.
… Update your links to the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, IIR and ICSA, which moved from www.JISonline.org to a more compact web domain at: www.JIS3.org The JIS web contains 45 web pages, including a Call for Papers for JIS XIV 2002 on "Re-Inventing Liberal Arts Education: Interdisciplinary Perspectives," Books for Review, Free Sample Article, Abstracts of all Articles published since 1989, Cumulative Index, and much more. JIS published journal vol. XIII on "Civil Society and Religion in the Third Millennium" on 22 August 2001. JIS editor is Oskar Gruenwald, at og@JIS3.org
… Access Research Network (ARN) announced the RealScience-4-Kids curriculum developed by ARN in partnership with author Rebecca Keller. It is a hands-on science curriculum covering chemistry, biology, and physics for elementary and junior high students. Although the curriculum is particularly targeted at the home-school market, it was also designed to be used in public and private schools. For the full announcement see: http://www.arn.org/ announce/announce1001no18.htm For further information on the curriculum, go to: www.realscience-4-kids.org or www.arn.org
Science, Christianity, and Openness in Society
Both science and Christianity encourage openness of data and deeds to the scrutiny of others. Publication is the norm, and requires detailed research exposure. In science, things are often not as they might seem; faulty theories with some evidential support are common, though eventually replaced with better theories. When all data and arguments are laid on the table, the cause of truth moves forward.
The other area of life where appearances can often be deceiving is in human organization, especially among the ruling powers. Once the intellectual authority of science was established, it then functioned relatively free of the power structure. But in the 20th century, the usefulness of science, in its application as technology, became critical in advancing the interests of nation-states and those in power behind the scenes. Today much scientific research is conducted under the auspices of government grants and funding, and the scientific community has become entangled in the world-system.
The consequences from a Christian viewpoint leave much to be investigated. While ASA has examined in detail for over a half-century the relationship of science and the biblical worldview, the role of the third vertex of the triangle- the world-system - and its influence on the sci/Xny relationship has not been pursued much in ASA, nor elsewhere. Perhaps this is because many ASAers prefer the faithful and revealed character of God's upholding of creation, studied scientifically, to the perfidious behavior of those who work under the cover of secrecy, because their deeds are often evil.
ASA84 offered an exception. Keynote speaker, sociologist and former CIA analyst Herbert Schlossberg, touched upon the resurgence of utopianism, the humanistic eschatological vision underlying the New World Order, which gained much ground among the Anglo-American Establishment last century.
More recently, at ASA96, keynoter Robert Linthicum of World Vision spoke of the emerging features of global organization in the context of the city. The political dimension has been in, under, and around ASA discussion, but usually not at its focus. To gain an understanding of the relationships between science, Christianity, and politics, ASA's political-studies scholars might play a part. ASAers can also access the literature leading to a more accurate view of political history than what is dispensed by those who manage popular opinion, an area of study where appearances can be deceiving.
Sociologist G. William Domhoff of U.C. Santa Cruz has made a career of studying the Anglo-American power structure. He is now on the fourth edition of his book, Who Rules America: Power & Politics (McGraw-Hill, 2002). It presents the organization of the ruling class in America, and the institutions through which their power is projected: foundations, think-tanks, policy discussion groups, public relations/affairs organizations, political leaders, and the mass media. Domhoff provides background information on how the power elite operate, lists names of organizations, traces connections, and discusses factions. This book is also useful in gaining a better understanding of how science and religion relate to the biblical world-system. When James says "Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?" (James 2:5), Domhoff would agree, tracing American political power to its corporate and banking roots.
Thirty-five years ago, Bill Clinton's political-science mentor, Georgetown U. history prof. Carroll Quigley, author of Tragedy and Hope (1966), described this political end-game:
... the powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.
Writing years before Quigley's book was published, in the third novel of his "space trilogy," That Hideous Strength (1945), C. S. Lewis outlines what Quigley reports.
In his short book, Conspiracy: A Biblical View (online at http://reformed-theology.org), former Stanford U. historian and economist Gary North contrasts the open tradition of freedom in Christianity and science to that of coercively-oriented or secretive groups:
Jesus presented His whole message publicly. He spoke in parables, of course, but these only illustrated general principles. The parables did not establish some sort of secret conspiracy. He gave His disciples no program of secret initiation, no recruiting system based on something other than profession of faith in Christ and service to others. He told His opponents that they would be wasting their time to go hunting for secret messages or hidden codes in His public proclamations. Every principle in His message came from the Old Testament, which was a public document in Israel.
The contrast between the openness of scientific and Christian communities and the secretiveness of the power elite creates tension when the two interact, as they increasingly have been. When those with political goals fund scientific research, one is led to wonder, and sometimes investigate, the extent to which the money trail coincides with an influence trail.
ASAers are increasing somewhat in such awareness. It is not only professional-ethics watchers, such as nuclear engineer Joe Carson, who has blown the whistle on the U.S. Dept. of Energy several times for misconduct. The extensive, top-down effort of the UN Environment Program, for example, and its influence through U.S. federal, state, and local initiatives, has resulted in political effects intersecting with environmental science and creation stewardship. Some members of ASA's technology affiliation, CEST, are aware of this confluence of science and political power, and have been studying it.
Similarly, political involvement in biotechnology, cloning, agricultural genetics, spy and weapons technology, no less state-based science education, create plenty of contact between science, politics, and Christians. In each, politics plays a significant role that cannot be ignored in a comprehensive picture of the relationship between science and Christianity.
Astrology as Science?
Most of us regard astrology as pseudo-science or at least as discredited ancient science, superceded by astronomy. But it is making a bit of a comeback, aided by the popularity of New Age views. One UK scientist at the U. of Plymouth is promoting a scientific approach to astrology. Percy Seymour holds doctorates in astronomy and astrophysics, and has studied galactic magnetic fields. (His book is Cosmic Magnetism.) Other of his five books include The Scientific Basis of Astrology, Astrology: The Evidence of Science, and The Paranormal: Beyond Sensory Science.
Seymour is interviewed on the connection between
science and the astrological thesis that one's time of birth has a deterministic
effect on one's resultant life at: www.millenngroup.com/repository/solar/percyseymour1.html
His magnetics studies combine with his astrological interest, melding scientific terminology with New Age lingo. He says:
Perhaps at different stages of development we pick up different magnetic tunes from out of the solar symphony, which later become part of our earliest memories. These preprogrammed magnetic memories may be evoked later in life when similar magnetic tunes are repeated. And this may even help us through certain exciting or challenging phases in life. The idea of my own resonances evolving with cosmic fields of energy is very inspiring. It makes me wonder about our solar system in turn being influenced by the magnetic fields of other star systems.
As Western civilization departs from the biblical worldview out of which science developed, some Christian philosophers of science have expressed concern about the dual fates of science and Christianity. Walter Thorson, for instance, has written and spoken extensively (including ASA80 plenary lectures at Taylor U., Upland, IN) on science's spiritual roots in the biblical view of the world. In a pagan context, scientific activity is separated from its presuppositional foundations.
Seymour further illustrates the slide of science backward into paganistic thought. He says:
... Modern physicists' viewpoint of the subatomic, deepest level of reality is not dissimilar from that of the mystics of old. I think concepts presented by Fritjof Capra in his book, The Tao of Physics, are essentially correct. And I see my theory in a similar light. We're actually attempting to quantify and rephrase in scientific terms ideas that have been around for a long time.
Capra, another "new-age physicist," has attempted to fuse science with Eastern religion.
Astrology-as-science is certainly "far out" but is the kind of avant garde topic (along with other manifestations of New Age "science," such as the Gaia hypothesis about the ecosphere) that ASAers should be prepared to address if it takes hold in either scientific or popular circles.
Notre Dame Conference
A conference on "Ecology, Theology, and Judeo-Christian Environmental Ethics" will be held at the U. of Notre Dame from Feb. 21-24, 2002. The goal of the conference is to identify where ecology, history, philosophy, and theology intersect, and to explore how that intersection might affect and shape environmental ethics and environmental policy.
See the website, www.nd.edu/~ecoltheo for a complete conference description, a schedule of events, and the names of confirmed speakers. For details, contact Mary Hendriksen at Mary.M.Hendriksen.email@example.com
Pray for Charles Thaxton
Reported by his wife Carole, Charles Thaxton was hospitalized with pneumonia. Under examination, a CT scan revealed an extensive tumor. Biopsy confirmed a large malignant tumor similar to the original sarcoma in his leg - a metastasis of the original cancer. Carole writes: "Charles and I are reeling but ready, knowing that God has long-ago prepared a route for us to follow. Pray that we'd maximize the opportunity whether he's delivered or not." * Mark Hartwig
by Don Munro
Welcome to 2002 and all its potential! We do not know what a new year will hold but we do know who holds the future. Many of us will pray for peace and justice in the world on New Year's eve. There are so many complicated problems across this earth that we hardly know where to begin but lighting our own little corner of science and faith is a place to start. I pray that we will be bold with God's words to those around us.
We are excited to announce the names of twelve members who are celebrating fifty, yes, fifty years of membership in ASA during 2002. They joined ASA in 1952. We send each of them our warmest greetings. They are Raymond H. Brand, Dewey K. Carpenter, Paul D. Drechsel, Wayne Frair, Herbert L. Hergert, Winston M. Laughlin, Norman L. Lofgren, Donald E. McDowell, John M. Osepchuk, Stanley M. Parmerter, William D. Pletcher, and James G. Widmer. We wish them many more years of activity in the ASA. Perhaps some of them would like to write a few paragraphs about their early ASA remembrances for a future newsletter. We will also give special recognition to any of them who come to the Pepperdine U. meeting this summer.
ASA Council met the first weekend of December in a concentrated session on a record-breaking warm Saturday. With a packed agenda, we hardly saw the light of day.
One important decision was to continue to strongly encourage young scientists to attend their first ASA annual meeting by providing scholarships. We have restricted funds which were donated for this purpose and the promise of more funds if we use them up. Council wants to extend this to all persons under 30 whether a graduate student, a postdoctoral student, a young faculty member, or someone starting in industrial or research science. The requirements are to join the ASA at the student or member level as appropriate, send in an abstract for a paper presentation by March 1, 2002, and find a way to get to the meeting at Pepperdine U. The scholarship will cover registration fees as well as room and board for the meeting. I want to encourage all of our members to broadcast this opportunity to young scientists who would benefit from attending our meeting. ASA will send them meeting materials. We had a great experience with this program last summer at Kansas State U.
The post annual meeting trip is now planned for 2002, and I hope you will be as excited about it as I am. Space is limited to the first 42 people, so you need to act quickly once you get the notice in the mail in the near future. The bus will leave from Pepperdine U. the afternoon of August 5 and return to Pepperdine the evening of August 11. An expert on the history of the old California Missions will travel with us. Besides visiting at least six missions, we will spend time in Monterey and its aquarium, travel down the Big Sur, visit Pebble Beach, spend a couple of nights in Yosemite National Park, and visit Sequoia National Park. The average price is around $1,125 per person in a double room, more for singles and less for triples. Our fellowship on these trips is worth the price alone but included are all hotel rooms, six breakfasts and three dinners as well as all travel expenses and admissions to scheduled attractions. I hope this whets your appetite. The California people say that it is a great trip.
We received some very good news from the John Templeton Foundation. They tentatively approved a two-year grant for the continuation of the Templeton/ASA Lecture Series. This grant will fund another 150 lectures. Some of you who teach in major universities may be called upon to act as local coordinators. The grant's final approval depends on some strategic planning to increase the impact of the program by setting up web-based files to aid local coordinators and university development departments. I will be working on that. This brings up the fact that one of the strong needs of the ASA is help in setting up web-based files and in furthering the usefulness of our own web site. Are any of you with these types of computer skills looking for ways to serve in the kingdom?
We have set a goal to make available on our web site the articles from 53 years of ASA journals, but much tedious ground work is needed to fully bring that about. The "fun" thing about web sites is that they are never complete; new ideas keep coming along. If you have suggestions for our web site, please pass them along to us.
As we leave 2001, I am again so thankful to all of you who donated to the ministry of the ASA, either for the general fund or a special project. This was a very quiet year for gifts to the endowment, which is probably connected to the slow economy. As I write this letter, it appears that once again through the Lord's help and your faithfulness we will prevail slightly in the black. We ask for your prayer and financial support over this next, unknown year. May all of us draw closer to our Lord Jesus Christ and may our faith be strong enough to see us through any hard times.