Volume 44 Number 4
Executive Director's Corner
ASAer Profile: Francis S. Collins
Francis S. Collins is director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. He is scheduled to speak at this year's annual ASA meeting at Pepperdine U. in Malibu, CA. Three years after the human genome project began, the JUN/JUL 1993 issue of the ASAN reported on Collins:
ASA member Francis Collins of the U. of Michigan was described in our Apr/May ['93] issue as closing in on a gene for familial breast cancer. ... Nothing is slow about human genome research, however, and Francis Collins is right up there. His team helped hunt for the gene for Huntington's disease ... [p. 1].
Later they worked with the genes for cystic fibrosis and neurofibromatosis.
Collins grew up on a 95-acre farm and completed a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Yale U. in 1974 at age 23. Seeking a more human-oriented emphasis, he became a medical doctor and recognized the potential for the alleviation of human suffering in genetics research. He has been professor of internal medicine and human genetics at the U. of Michigan Medical School.
It was in medical school, watching patients fighting for their lives and seeing the great strength that some received from their faith, that he became curious and uneasy in walking away from his youthful religious exposure. His rejection, he realized, had not been founded on rationality but was a response to the majority view around him. In Christianity Today (Oct 2001), Collins tells of his conversion. He says:
I spoke with a Methodist minister, who pointed me to the writings of C. S. Lewis. I read his Mere Christianity, and my arguments about the irrationality of faith lay in ruins. ... After a year of battling with myself, reading the Bible to understand Christianity, and comparing it to other faiths, I concluded that this really did make a lot of sense. I developed a very strong sense of wanting to give my life to Christ and that set of principles. I did so at the age of 27 (p. 43).
In the lab, the human genome project chugged away for eight years, increasing in its gene-mapping speed. As of 2000, two billion base-pairs had been mapped, about 70% of the information-bearing (protein-making) part of the genome. It took four years to map the first billion but only four months to double the number.
Then, in 1998, the biotech industry entered the story with the founding of Celera Genomics by J. Craig Venter in Rockville, MD, a few miles from the Genome Institute. Celera's "shotgun approach" allowed a rapid speed-up of gene mapping and a race developed. By 2001, the goal of sequencing the human genome essentially was achieved.
One of the surprises resulting from the accomplishment of this feat is the paucity of human genes; over 100,000 were expected, but we have only about 31,000. Each, on average, makes about three different proteins and are more cleverly constructed than those in worms and flies. "Our genes seem to have more punch, more complexity packed into each gene, than simpler organisms do," Collins said in the CT interview.
"Knowledge is neither good nor evil; it's just knowledge. It's information. The application that we make of that knowledge takes on a moral character." Francis Collins, Christianity Today, Oct. 1, 2001, p. 42.
While the press has played up group rivalry, the major difference between NHGRI and Celera has been over whether the resulting information should be made public or not. According to Science (3MAR00, p. 2396), Collins' group has pressed for immediate and unrestricted disclosure while Celera wants its data to be restricted from redistribution by those who use it, as is typical of industrial nondisclosure agreements.
Collins favorably views the move by the Patent and Trademark Office toward a greater need to show a use in gene-related patents. More appropriate than allowing patents on gene sequences alone, or even those for which homology suggests a function, are "gene sequences for which you have biochemical, or cell biological, or genetic data describing function," Collins said in an interview with Science.
With the human genome mapped well before the original target date of 2005, and with gene sequencing methods moving toward mainstream biotech, Collins sees the need for his institute to be guided by what the biological community says the priorities ought to be and to distribute research funding to universities, where uses for it can be spun off to accomplish what his goal for his work has always been. Collins states that goal in an interview with Science & Spirit (Jan/Feb 2000, p. 15; www.science-spirit.org):
I think it is fair to say that the primary reason we are doing the genome project, the primary reason why there is such a focus on genetics in medical research right now, is a desire to harness this new approach to better understand and treat disease. So the motivation is one of trying to alleviate suffering.
Despite his high national profile, Collins engages rather than avoids the wider implications of his work, for which there are multiple dimensions. Five percent of the Genome Institute funding has gone toward examining the ethical, legal, and social considerations of genetics-related activity.
As a Christian, Collins articulates his bioethical viewpoint: "When one looks at the time that Christ spent on the earth, as short as it was, it is remarkable how much of that time he spent in acts of healing" (S&S). Collins brings this viewpoint to the beneficial applications of gene sequencing, viewing it as part of our mandate as Christians to emulate Christ in his healing role. Though new genetics knowledge may be misused - Collins takes a cautious stance in its application because so much is not yet known - he is driven by the greater benefit of his "work of discovery, which can also be a form of worship."
Collins speaks out against genetic determinism. From a medical standpoint, he recognizes a mix of factors that comprise an illness or trait, including not only the hereditary and environmental aspects, but also "the part that often gets left out: free will." (Celera's Venter also has said that the human spirit transcends our physiology.) Collins does not see the spiritual side of humanity yielding all that easily to scientific exploration, though it is highly appropriate for issues having biological foundations.
As genetics become better understood, some have speculated about guiding the course of human evolution through modification of the human genome. Collins supports the current consensus, "that we ought not to alter the human germ line unless we are absolutely convinced that it's safe to do so." (In contrast to such germ-line modification is genetic therapy, not passed on through heredity.) He considers it mistaken to assume that God's perfect will for us is biological perfection or even an absence of suffering, for through occasions that are not perfect, we are more likely to be closer to God. In a merciful way, God speaks through our imperfections, which are one of the side-effects of human genetic diversity.
"I reject completely the sort of mechanistic view of humankind as nothing more than a marionette whose every move is controlled by invisible strings made of DNA."
Collins views Christian and scientific belief as essentially harmonious. He is completely comfortable being rigorous in his scientific work as one whose life is profoundly influenced by his relationship with God.
Where does Collins stand on the creation-evolution controversy? While neo-Darwinian theory emphasizes the control of development by genes, Collins points out that DNA is not the whole story. "Free will is a very important part of who we are, and the study of the genome is not going to make that obsolete." He rejects the notion that spirituality or our sense of right and wrong will be explained by genomics. He says: "I don't believe it will explain why we have this shared urge to do the right thing, even to the extent of putting our own lives in danger to save another, which would be exactly the opposite of what evolution would suggest we should do." There is more to us than chemicals and DNA.
Collins does view "evolution" as a compelling explanation for the relatedness of living things, due in part to the relatedness of DNA sequences between humans and other organisms. "If God decided to use the mechanism of evolution to create human beings, who are we to say that was a bad way to do it?" Collins accordingly regards himself as a "theistic evolutionist" in the sense of Augustine's fifth-century view of Genesis 1. He does not find it necessary for Christians to reject compelling scientific data to prove they are Christians, nor for scientists to reject their Christianity to prove their intellectual rigor. The creation-evolution controversy, in Collins' view, is an unnecessary and misdirected effort, and saddens him in view of other challenges and battles needing to be fought.
"When a scientist discovers something that no human knew before, but God did - that is both an occasion for scientific excitement and, for a believer, also an occasion for worship."
Outside the laboratory, Collins, who stands 6 feet, 4 inches, rides a Honda Nighthawk 750 motorcycle. He sometimes sings and plays his guitar at benefit concerts for health organizations.
Collins and Celera Genomics president J. Craig Venter were recipients of the third annual Biotechnology Heritage Award for their key roles in sequencing the human genome. * David Saunders, Walter Hearn
The Editor's Last Words
The ASA/CSCA Newsletter has been edited for about the last ten years by Dennis L. Feucht. He is now passing the job to some fresh minds and eager hands. The ASA Council received two applicants for the job and decided to accept both, as co-editors.
David Fisher of Aurora, IL, and Margaret Towne of Las Vegas, NV, have complementary skill-sets. David got into sci/Xny radio script-writing while working on radio programs for Trans World Radio, transmitted from Monte Carlo through the Iron Curtain of Eastern Europe. Letters from these countries showed that for many Eastern Europeans, science had trumped Christianity. Instead of gambling on existing program topics, David set out to develop a message that took science into account, showing the harmony between the two. (ASAer Charles Thaxton has done the same with much positive effect, though on the ground rather than through the air in the Czech Republic and Eastern Europe.) David has a degree in English literature and many years of experience at writing. He attends ASA Annual Meetings and is known by attendees as the guy who tapes microphones to the podiums.
Margaret has a background as a biologist, having previously served in many academic positions, including the J. Omar Good Distinguished Visiting Professor in Evangelical Christianity at Juniata C. in Pennsylvania. With her scientific and academic background and David's writing and editing skills of sci/Xny material, the two appear to be a complementary match. The outgoing Editor wishes them God's guidance and grace in making the ASAN an effective tool in his service.
As for editorial longevity, both Feucht and the first ASAN Editor, F. Alton Everest, one of ASA's five founders, lasted for about ten years each, leaving Walter Hearn's record of over twenty years stand as the longest of the editors. That record may last a long time, for the Council has decided to rotate the job every few years. Hearn, remembered by readers from the early '90s and before as the Weary Old Editor ("WOE is me!"), was so in the habit of ASAN editing that he continued to autonomically send the succeeding editor stories and source material. For the ten years of such support, this Editor says, "Thanks, Walt, for all you've done!" And thanks, too, to the various "gatekeepers" called into a supporting role to provide source material to the Editor. Also, thanks to ASAers who have contributed articles, giving the ASAN multiple voices.
Second ASAN Editor Walt ("WOE is me!") Hearn (l) giving ASA's first newsletter editor, Alton Everest, a plaque of appreciation at ASA97 in Santa Barbara, CA.
In the '90s, ASA has continued to broaden beyond the creation-evolution issue, and the outgoing editor has recently experimented with articles on topics relating science and Christianity that have not been discussed much in ASA, such as the role of political power, money, and corruption in science-related issues.
What has emerged as major topics in the ASA in the '90s has been environmental stewardship and bioethics. While there appears to be broad agreement on the theology of creation stewardship within ASA, the role of Christians, who maintain a political interest in environmental claims, requires both scientific and theological/political discernment in relating to the existing power structures. Bioethics has only begun to be addressed. (See the genetically-modified crops article.) Its implications, including germ warfare, are enormous, and in time could easily surpass the Darwinist controversy.
Undergirding the issues du jour are the big-picture ASAers involved in the history and philosophy of science. Just as important are those exploring the theological and spiritual dimensions of sci/Xny, an activity that appeared more prominent in ASA's earlier days. Are we getting away from the Bible as an affiliation or has it instead become implicit in the widening discussion of its many applications?
While Editor, Feucht introduced a few novelties, such as copy-and-pass-along handouts or brochures, encouraged by past Council member Betty Zipf. (These can still be downloaded from the ASAN website, accessible through www.asa3.org by clicking on the Newsletter link.) The brochure contest, which was won by astrophysicist-theologian and seasoned brochure-writer Bob Newman, resulted in some submissions not yet published, and provided some new promotional material for Christianity, science, and ASA.
Differing somewhat from the folksy writing style of predecessor Hearn, Feucht's form of sublimated humor carried messages to be read between the lines. Besides the introduction of cartoons, the notable exceptions were the unofficial Newsletter parodies (the "Loseletters"), useful for "lightening up" (as John Wiester observed) some of the tenseness that tends to accumulate around chronic controversies. (They are still posted as "diversions" on the ASAN home page, thus dispelling the notion that Christians are "wooden" in character due to our commitment to what we most deeply believe.)
Second ASAN Editor Walt Hearn (l) with editor Dennis Feucht at the Hearns' Troll House in Berkeley, CA.
In leaving ASAN editing, I want to emphasize that the broad range of ASA subject-matter goes far beyond what one, or even two, editor(s) can know in any depth. Consequently, my implicit engineering viewpoint will be replaced by other particular viewpoints carrying the emphases of the new editors. It is unavoidable. My parting request to ASAers is to continue to contribute to your newsletter; send the new editors both news of what you are doing and point them to significant articles or web pages of sci/Xny content, especially in areas or with viewpoints you think are under-reported.
And remember that this is a newsletter, not the ASA journal. Coverage will tend to carry a bimonthly time-frame, not be in-depth nor comprehensive, and to some extent will be opinionated. If you have complaints, please go to the editors directly. Almost all of the complaints I received came indirectly through other people. Editors like to know where their work is deficient, and welcome constructive comments of either polarity.
Finally, a few years ago, I started a trend to publish more articles written by other ASAers, to broaden the ASAN presentation of viewpoints, understanding, and writing styles. I encourage ASAers to continue to submit succinct news-and-views articles to the new editors for publication, for the ASAN is indeed richer with multiple voices. The email addresses of the new editors are:
David Fisher: email@example.com
Margaret Towne: TowneMG@aol.com
With the developing ability to genetically modify plant and animal genomes, new bioethics questions are popping up like spring dandelions in lawns. Biotech issues now have arrived among the populace. A 2000 Harris poll found that a majority of Americans believe genetic modification is likely to upset the balance of nature. And 86% were in favor of a government requirement labeling genetically-modified (GM) food. Nearly as many chefs as ASA has members have joined biotechnology critic Jeremy Rifkin's Pure Food Campaign, insisting on the labeling of genetically modified food. Chefs consider themselves responsible, and liable, for what they serve customers.
The FDA, along with both academic and industrial biotechnologists, have wondered what the fuss is about. "All plant breeding involves genetic manipulation," explains James H. Maryanski of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
While agribusiness dismisses the chefs as "nutritional neurotics," there is some basis for concern and wisdom in a cautious approach to genetic modification. (See the story on Francis Collins for his view of the need for caution in biotech.) The chefs have a point; in the early '90s, one company developed a more nutritious soybean by inserting a gene from Brazil nuts that made methionine. The problem was that the GM bean caused the same allergic reaction in some people as does the nut, though previous animal studies concluded the nut gene was not allergenic.
A concern about genetic modification is that in altering the germ line of a species, a serious mistake could get out of control and major damage to the biosphere could result. Another concern is the reduction in naturally-occurring genetic diversity when a few, large crop-seed suppliers dominate the market. Also, sterile GM seed from these suppliers, with a terminator gene, cause farmers to become dependent on them for their annual planting seed, rather than growing their own for succeeding years. As sterile varieties proliferate, cross-breeding with non-GM plants could possibly result in the uncontrolled spread of sterility in a species.
Gene transfers between unrelated species might also have a possible link with new diseases ("Sowing Diseases, New and Old," Mae-Wan Ho, Terje Traavik, Third World Resurgence # 92; "The Biotechnology Bubble," Mae-Wan Ho, Harmut Meyer, Joe Cummins, The Ecologist 28, no. 3 [May/June 1998]). One hypothesis is that the transfer of genes between unrelated species might be a contributing factor in the emergence of at least 30 new diseases over the last two decades. This is a variation on the possibility that crib death, autism, and other twentieth-century maladies might be linked to routine infant inoculation, shielding the childhood immune system from development and causing the appearance of mutant viruses that barely existed before mass vaccination programs were established.
Offsetting these disadvantages are the prospects of a greatly increased and nutritionally enhanced world food supply. High-bulk staple crops, such as rice, corn, sorghum, and cassava, could be enhanced to produce the nutrients needed for human life. Monsanto's Golden Rice is such a product. It is rice that contains a daffodil gene which produces beta carotene, and when converted by the body to vitamin A, prevents a large fraction of childhood blindness that occurs in the developing world. Other GM products in the making are disease-resistant fava beans (a staple of Egypt) cassava that contains less cyanide, and Bt corn, which produces a natural insecticide. Another prospect is edible vaccines, produced genetically in widely-occurring plants such as bananas, and which can be distributed and eaten as food for much less cost than injections.
Although genetic engineering is similar to centuries-old crossbreeding and hybridization methods of farmers, it differs in two major ways.
First, the speed of genetic change is not incremental. With the established methods, it is possible to observe over generations of crops the effects of incremental changes. With genetic engineering, the changes are large and immediate. Years shrink to weeks. Not only is genetic change rapid, but the effect on the environment also can be, as when Bt corn pollen killed monarch butterfly caterpillars.
Second, genes from widely separated organisms in the phylogenic tree can be combined using biotech, and is not limited to the closely-related species bred by traditional methods. Bt corn, for instance, carries a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria used to ferment sausage.
Anticipated by sci-fi for decades (as in the pejorative term "Frankenfood" for GM food), these large, chimerical changes have an indeterminate range of possible future consequences that make biotechnology an unprecedented venture into unknown realms of both great promise and danger.
The Bioethics of Biotech
One of the interesting Jewish questions that arises over GM food is whether it is kosher. The Orthodox Union's rabbinical advisory board did not consider it to be a problem, although GM food ingredients still need supervision. The Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life deemed GM for plants and animals to be acceptable, though not for humans.
More significantly, the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in Bannockburn, IL (www.cbhd.org), in their Dignity newsletter (Spring 2000), questioned the ethics of transgenics: the transfer of DNA from a species inserted into another species' genome. While this technique is valuable in medical research, allowing mice instead of humans to be used to study human diseases, the question arises: When is a mouse not a mouse? The trend is to insert larger amounts of human DNA into other species. This technology is being developed, for example, to create transgenic pigs from which organs can be used for human transplantation.
One bioethical issue of transgenics involves the violation of species integrity by the breach of the species barrier. The article states: "The Bible tells us that God designed procreation so that plants, animals, and humans always reproduce after their own kind or seed." Leviticus 18:23 considers sex between a human and animal not only physical defilement but perversion or "confusion" (tebel): in violation of the divine order. If this text is correctly interpreted as a prohibition against inter-species mating, then its application to transgenics elevates the importance of the question of when God's design for natural reproduction is violated by inter-species gene transfer.
One of the complications in deciding this question is that genes coding for a given function in one species may have a significantly modified behavior in a different species. Even though a gene may code for a protein with a given function in one species, the protein behavior in another species can differ significantly. Genes are species-dependent in their overall effects. This characteristic is amplified by pleiotropy, a phenomenon in which some genes control other genes, turning them on and off.
And while we're on the subject, yet another emerging area of bioethics has to do with human-machine combinations, or cyborgs. While glasses and false teeth have been around for some time, the ability to interface neural tissue to electronics is rapidly progressing. Star Trek (Next Generation) fans will be quick to note that this theme has been explored to some extent, with the new villains of humanity, the Borg: biomachine creatures.
ASA's Bioethics Commission has published articles in its newsletter on genomics and other related issues. Harry Cook questioned the wisdom of using "Bovine Somatotropin Hormone" (vol. 2, no. 1 [Winter 2001]), which increases milk production by about 10% when injected into dairy cattle. Health Canada, which approving the use of BST, "has stated that there are potential ill effects of the hormone on the health of cattle." Cook concludes: "It's clear that the use of BST has effects on the well-being of animals, animals that are under human care."
ASAers in Action
As reported previously in the ASAN, the Darwinian Controversy has come to Ohio. And in the Akron area, ASAers have accrued some column-inches in the editorial section of the Akron Beacon Journal. What prompted the letters was an initial editorial against Intelligent Design (ID) in Ohio state schools.
Cleveland State U. electrical engineering professor Dan Simon raised a question in his letter about the hidden versus the revealed God of creation, in response to a letter by George Murphy. Simon wrote:
Murphy says that God is "hidden in natural processes." Is Rev. Murphy not familiar with Psalm 19 and similar passages? God reveals himself through natural processes.
Simon also questioned how state education could be worldview "neutral" when education requires the assumption of some worldview. Then he concluded:
At the end of Murphy's letter, he says that "churches should help their members to understand how God can be at work through evolution." I agree. This is called intelligent design, and it is both good science and good theology.
Just as the E-word (evolution) has multiple meanings, ID has at least two: the generic meaning, as intended by Simon; and also, the name of the movement headed by Berkeley law professor Phillip E. Johnson.
Published March 26, 2002, Murphy's letter argues that ID, when used as theology, is poor theology. Murphy also made a point about divine revelation in the opening of his letter:
The Beacon Journal's 18 February story accurately described Intelligent Design as the idea "that a nameless supernatural being spawned life." Christianity is not interested in such beings but in a God who, it claims, has revealed himself in the history of Israel and especially in the Israelite Jesus of Nazareth.
Murphy paralleled the hidden purpose of God in the cross of Christ to the hiddenness of his work in creation:
If God is known in the god-forsakenness of the cross, then it isn't surprising that God is hidden in natural processes such as biological evolution. By honest scientific study of these processes, viewed in the light of revelation, God's activity in the world can be better understood. There are things that science, including evolutionary theory, hasn't yet explained, but that calls for better science rather than invocation of an anonymous "God of the gaps." As the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, we find the real God not in the things we don't know but in the things we know.
Knowing both Dan and George, the Editor recommended that they meet over lunch, to get a better sense of where each is "coming from." A profitable encounter ensued. Beyond this meeting of two ASAers, there are other ASAers in the eastern Ohio (Cleveland-Akron-Canton) area. One of you in that area (and it only takes one "spark plug") might take the initiative to start an ASA Local Section, to expand the dialog.
ASA Young Scientists Network
Johnny Wei-Bing Lin (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) has been the catalyst in turning the crank on the young-scientist network within the ASA. Another young ASA scientist in the network is Steven G. Hall, prof. of biological and agricultural engineering at Louisiana State U. in Baton Rouge (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.bae.lsu.edu/shall). He attended a retreat of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRPE). Steve reports as follows:
I was honored to partake in an interesting learning and sharing experience this past week at the NRPE Young Leader's Retreat. NRPE includes four major faith traditions (Jewish, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant and evangelical) who link as "ourselves, together." See also www.nrpe.org.
I would encourage those who are not involved in creation care professionally to consider the scriptural imperatives to care for creation found throughout Scripture and to share these with other believers. To those working in environmental and ecological fields, I challenge you to apply your faith to these areas and share your observations with others in your school or workplace. Remember that "God so loved the kosmos" that he has provided the means of restoration.
Specific areas of focus can include integrating energy efficiency and a simple lifestyle into our work and home life. Planting trees or a garden, recycling, composting and becoming involved in local creation-care initiatives with other Christians or with non-Christians can be an excellent practice and witness. Let us share the restorative power of God with others in our schools, churches, workplaces and communities.
Some ASAers in the network have papers in the works. For instance, Hall has a paper on a theology of sustainable agriculture in PSCF, and he also has been working at LSU with colleague Randy Price on the development of autonomous vehicles for various environmental applications. One vehicle, designed as a boat to float on aquaculture ponds, scares predatory birds off ponds to reduce fish losses. Their work has been featured in such diverse places as Newsweek, the BBC, Paul Harvey, Popular Mechanics, and a variety of newspapers, television, and web sites. It is now a featured part of the LSU web site "highlights: LSU impacting the world," and is a way these two Christian professors are using their minds to help serve other people while caring for God's creation. Further information may be found at these sites: www.lsu.edu/highlights/202scarbot.htm and www.bae.lsu.edu/research/scarebot.htm
Eastern PA ASA Meeting
by Alan McCarrick, email@example.com
On April 6, 2002 the Eastern Pennsylvania Section of the ASA met at Messiah C. in Grantham, PA. The meeting arranged by Edward Davis and Alan McCarrick was titled "The Christian Paleontologist or 'Much Ado About Mollusks'." Paleontologists consider the history and patterns of life on earth as a whole. The results of these studies are often viewed as irreconcilable to an orthodox Christian understanding of God's creation.
David Campbell presented two lectures. Campbell has his M.S. (1995) and Ph.D. (2000) degrees in geology with a specialization in paleontology from the U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research focus is on fossil Eocene and modern mollusks, especially bivalves. He is also interested in possible evolutionary relationships based on morphological and DNA analysis. Campbell has recently completed a one-year position as visiting professor at St. Mary's C. in St. Mary's City, MD, and has just moved to the U. of Alabama for a post-doc position studying endangered freshwater mollusks, fish, and crayfish. He has previously served as a deacon in the PCA denomination, and has been involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as well as the ASA's Affiliations of Christian Geologists and Christian Biologists.
The first lecture was titled "Being a Christian and a Paleontologist." In good Reformed tradition, Campbell laid the foundation that all Christians are "called" by God to their work. Work is to be done to the glory of God and for the good of humankind. He then outlined several of the ways in which paleontologists might benefit others: searching for fossil fuels, understanding climate changes, or interaction of species. In addition, he touched the general principles that Christians are called to follow in any profession: honest and ethical behavior and concern for the benefit of others. Some of the answers apply to all Christians, but his field uniquely involves controversial issues. As a Christian, all of our world and especially the "natural" laws that govern it are God's creation. We must have a consistently theistic outlook.
His second lecture was titled "Making Sense of Evolutionary Biology." Debates do exist within the paleontologic community over cladistic versus DNA analysis methods. Those differences may be misunderstood by Christians as disagreements over evolution itself which is not the case. Cladistic methods seek to uncover lines of common descent based on common unique physical characteristics that are shared. By this method an older species is hypothesized to be ancestral to later ones because of shared features.
Campbell discussed the need for and limitations of computer methods used to identify these hypothetical lineages when working with large groups of species and large numbers of characteristics. Using current methods, scientists have a difficult time dealing with potential convergence when a characteristic may arise more than once.
Molecular or DNA analysis is a second means used to assign hypothetical lines of common descent. Common fragments of DNA or the proteins coded by them from living organisms can be compared. From these living species, a model can be created that gives the most likely ancestral affinities for those species. Campbell stated that for mollusks the methods agree quite well although the agreement is less with other families.
This meeting was attended by over forty students, faculty, and others. Although we had set aside a good amount of Q&A time, it was not enough. As usual for these meetings, several people met old friends that they had lost touch with. Meeting at Messiah C. allowed us to draw from a larger area - from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, as well as several local universities: Dickinson, Millersville, and Kutztown. We traveled to a local fossil sight for a quick lesson in Paleozoic identification.
Prepping For Pepperdine
Want to get an advance idea of some of the things Nobel laureate Charles Hard Townes is likely to say at the ASA Annual Meeting at Pepperdine? Several of his papers have been compiled and published in Making Waves (Woodbury, NY: AIP Press, 1995). Of special interest to ASA members are the chapters entitled "How and Why Did It All Begin?," "The Convergence of Science and Religion," and "Reflections on My Life as a Physicist." * David Fisher
The Center for Faith and Learning "Sharing Stories of Vocation" Conference will be held Oct. 3-5, 2002, at Pepperdine U., Malibu, CA; http://arachnid.pepperdine.edu/religiondiv/Center/Default.htm
The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Following Christ Conference will be held from Dec. 28, 2002 to Jan. 2, 2003, with the theme: "Following Christ: Study, Work, & Worship for God's World"; www.followingchrist.org
The Executive Director's Corner
by Donald W. Munro
We northerners are beginning to think about summer and hoping that it will actually come. Where is global warming when you need it? Our thoughts are turning to Malibu, CA, and Pepperdine U. where we will see many of you. Even though our desks are still cluttered with materials, most everything is in place and that is a relief. It is still not too late to sign up.
As you read this newsletter, you will learn that our present newsletter editor, Dennis Feucht, will be ending his ten-year tenure with this issue. I deeply appreciate all the work he has put into these 55 issues. The copy appeared faithfully in the office of the managing editor every two months. It is a large responsibility to find, choose, and edit what should make up our ASA newsletter. Each editor brings his or her style into the mix. Dennis, thank you so very much from all of us. We wish you Godspeed in your new endeavors and potential move. Your written words will remain as a legacy for the ASA. We also appreciate the help you have given to the new editors.
We welcome our two co-editors David Fisher and Margaret Towne. They are already tossing around ideas and meshing their work. At present, they will be taking turns as primary editor for a given edition. This summer they will be attending our annual meeting and plotting their strategy. Both have substantial writing experience and an enthusiasm for science/faith issues. We are thankful that God has provided these two with their varied backgrounds to fill this crucial post. It is important that the ASA membership help to keep them supplied with the news. Please set aside one evening per year to let them know what is occurring in your life to further the cause of science/faith integration.
Recently ASA experienced its worst computer virus attack ever. Many people told us that their e-mails kicked back so we did miss correspondence during the ten working days that we were down. We are slowly recovering and hopefully programs are in place that will not allow it to happen again.
It is now time to congratulate those who have been members of ASA since 1967. Congratulations to the following who are celebrating thirty-five years in ASA: Mel Albright, Stanley E. Anderson, Cliff R. Benzel, Norman F. Brockmeier, John B. Coulter III, Frank J. Fishman, Joseph Moutz IV, David L. Newquist, James M. Peck, David A. Rogers, Norman E. Shank, Melvin J. Swanson, Charles B. Thaxton, and Donald O. Van Ostenburg. What memories do these members bring to the ASA table? I would love to hear them, and our fledgling newsletter editors might just find some copy for a future newsletter.
Let me give you the third installment of the results of the questionnaire on science, faith, and creation issues that Jack Haas and I gave to Christians at Congress in Boston last January. This part covers perhaps one of the toughest questions with which Christians have to deal: Who were Adam and Eve? and Where did Cain and Abel get their wives? Most (64 of 71) agreed that Adam and Eve were the first created humans. Four thought they might have been organisms that God transformed into humans with a soul and three stated that they did not know. No one chose the opinion that Adam and Eve might have been people that God put in the garden from among others to represent us. On this question, we also gave them a chance to state if they preferred some other idea but none took that option. On the second question, 34 of 71 thought that Cain and Abel married their sisters while 12 thought their wives were from among other people on the earth and 25 admitted they did not know. You can see the ambivalence here that 64 said that Adam and Eve were the first created humans while at the same time the majority of people felt that the wives of Cain and Abel came from among other people or they did not know from where they came. This is a small segment of the Christian population but indicates that many are still seeking answers to vexing questions. This is fodder for the educational arms of the ASA.
In my recent letter to ASAers, you may have noticed much to my joy that we expect sixteen young scientists to present their research at Pepperdine U., Aug. 2-5. I also am pleased that two Christian colleges gave many of their graduating science students an ASA membership for one year. That is a small investment ($20) but at the same time perhaps could be a milestone in their lives. It definitely was in mine. What about the Christian graduate or undergraduate students in science in the secular university and other Christian colleges? Do you as a teacher, researcher, industrial leader or retiree see such a membership as a future investment in their spiritual growth and in the development of future leaders for the ASA? Selah!
Your continued donations are much appreciated. We have several members who contribute faithfully every month. It is so wonderful to be able to count on that. For others your annual or semi-annual donations are likewise appreciated. Please remember us during these summer months when thoughts turn to vacation. This office continues to function and the needs never stop. Thanks so much for whatever you can do by check, credit card, or stock gifts.