Nobelist William Phillips Addresses ASA99
This year, the 54th ASA Annual Meeting was held at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas to discuss science/religion issues. This year, for the first time in ASA history, the plenary speaker was a Nobel Laureate. William Phillips of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (formerly NBS) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, won the prize in 1997 for his contribution to low-temperature physics.
How the Prize Was Won
In his Friday-night talk, "Almost Absolute Zero: The Story of Laser Cooling and Trapping," Bill told of his work that unexpectedly won him the Nobel Prize. In a hot gas (such as the air outside the JBU auditorium), the atoms and molecules move more quickly than in a cooler gas. Using a variety of presentation media, including a demonstration in which balloons and flowers were cooled in a bucket of liquid nitrogen, Bill conveyed the notion that the world of low temperatures is strange. In his affable and good-natured style of delivery, Bill continued to present his talk as he blew up and tied balloons, inserting them into the LN2 bucket, which appeared to be able to hold only about two balloons. After inserting a half dozen of them, the audience could not help but wonder where they were going! As he pulled them out later with tongs, the air in the balloons had liquified due to cooling and the balloons collapsed.
Bill's work has resulted in cooling of more than a hundred-million times that of LN2, which boils at a fourth of room temperature on an absolute (Kelvin) temperature scale (at 77 ƒ K). But his work was motivated by a seemingly unrelated interest, the desire at the nation's standards lab to make more accurate atomic clocks for measuring time. Spinning atoms have their own built-in magnetic-resonant frequencies that can be used as a time standard. The identical atoms of a given element (Cesium in this case) form a stream emitted from a source, where the local laboratory clock is synchronized to them. They continue to travel a meter or so in several milliseconds, and their timing is then compared to the lab clock. Any discrepancy in timing between the beam of atoms and the lab clock is used to adjust the lab clock. Accuracies on the order of one part in 100 trillion (10-14) can be achieved. Such clocks have practical applications in the Global Positioning System and as frequency references for the electronics industry.
But we are greedy, Bill said, and we want better accuracy. More transit time is needed for the beam of atoms. The travel distance could be increased before comparison, but complications such as gravity bending and unwieldy equipment size suggest that if the atomic stream could be made to travel more slowly instead, there would be more time between synchronization and comparison. This led to the search for methods of slowing streams of atoms.
Bill's presentation, well-suited for both a popular and general technical audience, proceeded to laser cooling. At its resonance frequency, an atom will absorb light and experience a force from it. Furthermore, when atoms move, they "see" light shift in frequency due to the Doppler effect, the same effect that makes the high-pitched whine of an oncoming car shift to a lower tone as it passes. The same effect happens with light; an atom moving toward a laser beam will "see" the color of the beam shifted toward the blue end of the spectrum. By using a laser with a light frequency (or color) somewhat above an atom's resonant frequency, movement of the atom into the beam will Doppler-shift the color to the frequency where the atom will "feel" the force of the beam. With a 3-dimensional configuration of lasers, atoms can be trapped by multiple laser beams.
While other scientists had been working on laser cooling, Bill's group measured the temperature of trapped atoms as six times lower than the predicted value from Doppler theory, though it was already a tiny fraction of a degree from absolute zero. "We were astounded!!" flashed Bill's viewgraph. He said it is unusual for experiments to work out better than theory, violating Murphy's Law. The better-than-possible results of 40 m K were at first questioned. But the other two recipients of the Prize worked out an explanation ("Sisyphus cooling"). Bill explained in "A Brief History of Temperature" a phenomenon predicted by Einstein (called Bose-Einstein condensation) has been used to subsequently reduce the record temperature to 10 nK (10 billionths above absolute zero), with plans for experiments in space to reach 1 pK (one-trillionth degree).
Back to atomic clocks: with all the success of laser cooling, now atoms can be made to move so slow, they fall under gravity and the original atomic-clock scheme does not work. Instead of a horizontal beam between clock source and comparison point, the atoms are instead shot up vertically like a fountain, and compared when they come down.
Nobel Laureate as Christian
After winning the Prize, Bill mentioned God in response before the mainstream media press. This labeled him as the "religious Nobelist," and led to subsequent press inquiry. Bill showed video clips of additional comments he had made on Swedish and Brazilian television, and in his second talk on receiving the Prize as a Christian, he credited a book well-known in ASA circles, The Fourth Day, by Howard Van Till. It so happened that one of Bill's students was teaching at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, which brought Bill to the campus a week before before receiving the prize announcement. While there, he obtained several copies of Howard's book, and read some of it. This led to his thinking about the relationship of science and Christian faith, and unintentionally helped to prepare him to make better comments about his worldview before the public, he said.
Bill also showed some clips of his church in the DC area, a multiracial church with a choir that Bill sings in. Several other physicists belong to it too.
In addition were video clips of the Nobel ceremony, with its Swedish royalty and formal protocol. The clip shows, with humorous comment from Bill, the three physics recipients nervously not knowing what to do with their hands. Bill blew his wife a kiss after bowing to the Swedish audience when he received the prize, which the queen of Sweden told him she thought was sweet. But "This was considered enough of a breach of protocol that it was in the papers the next day," Bill said, grinning, as the ASA audience roared.
Bill told of one of the many letters he had received after winning the Prize. One that stuck with him was from the daughter of a former Nobel laureate. She related how her father told her that she meant more to him than the prize, and Bill emphasized that the love of family and friends mean more than the trappings of professional life.
Bill explained to a Swedish audience how he does not see a conflict between science and Christianity. Religion tells us how to relate to each other and science shows us how God constructed the universe. Bill acknowledged his responses as reflecting his quick study of Van Till's book, which, he said, helped to organize his thinking about their relationship.
On another occasion, Bill was invited to a White House event featuring Stephen Hawking. At first he turned it down because he had a schedule conflict with his doctor that took a long time to set up. But they called him again, and he then realized that he doesn't get too many invitations from the White House, so he reconsidered and rescheduled the medical appointment.
The video clip shows the Clintons, Hawking, and Phillips nearby, answering the question: "Why does the universe obey any laws at all?" Bill referred to fine-tuning and anthropic ideas before offering a theological response, which he said, did not differ that much from them. Francis Collins, head of the human genome project, also answered a question at the same event, and when the head of NIH later observed Bill and Francis talking with each other, he mused that he was not surprised to see "you God guys" conversing.
Bill also talked about the ethics of doing science. When a competing team failed to cite his group's work in their paper, one of Bill's students suggested they do the same. But Bill said: that's not what we will do; we will highlight their work in our paper. He emphasized the importance of setting a good example among fellow scientists.
ASA99 "The Best Yet"
Thanks to the organizing work of engineering manager Fred Hickernell (shown at left) and JBU professor Richard Ruble, ASA99 was a great success. Despite the many presentations, the schedule allowed time for attendees to chat with each other, a key activity at ASA Annual Meetings. About 188 gathered for the event, a good turnout considering the relatively remote location of JBU in northwest Arkansas, about 50 miles due east of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
As part of ASA's fellowship of Christians in science, Meetings provide an opportunity for ASAers to worship together. At the Saturday devotions, ASA president-emeritus Sarah Miles told us that knowledge is not an end in itself, and that science and technology should instill in us a great awe of the Creator. How we do our work must be consistent with our Creator. Solomon's stated purposes for knowledge should guide our use of it; to gain knowledge is to act differently.
Richard Ruble taught the Sunday lesson using a mnemonic: LAMP. Each letter stands, respectively, for: letter, aroma, mirror, and pot. Furthermore, LAMP itself indicates the fifth item. These items are New Testament metaphors for how we are perceived by the world as Christians.
Larry and Susan Martin led singing. Larry is a physicist from the Chicago area who has tickled the ivories at past ASA Meetings.
ASA99 featured symposia on Intelligent Design and "The Christian Environmental Professional," put on by the Global Resources and Environment Commission. Some of the leading IDers presented papers, including Charles Thaxton, Bill Dembski, and Paul Nelson.
Jim Beard and Joe Sheldon each gave papers on the Eden Conservancy and Jaguar Preserve at Blue Hole in Belize. Formerly British Honduras, Belize is south of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and east of northern Guatemala. With a population of about 240,000 and the size of Massachusetts, Belize is home to the jaguar, an endangered species in Central America. While surveying the territory for species present, Joe's students came upon an illegal logging operation which was reported to the government. Those carrying out the operation were apprehended. The damage will take years to recover from, Joe said in his talk.
Jim is with Target Earth (www.targetearth.org), a Christian group involved in the Jaguar Creek project since 1995, situated on a 10-acre site. The goal is to preserve the rainforest setting, and the 10,000 ft2 facilities provide living and laboratory space to carry out research. Several ASAers are involved. Student interns of GR&E commission chairman John Wood have been down there. Jim, an engineer, has designed and installed the solar electric system. The 112 85 W solar photovoltaic modules provide up to 50 kW at 24 V dc. Three days storage is provided by 48 batteries and a 6.3 kW propane generator. The $100,000 installation is economic relative to the $25,000 per mile cost of attaching to the Belize electric power grid. In addition, energy-saving devices include a 20 ft3 Sunfrost refrigerator, 8 ft3 propane-powered freezer, and tankless (on-demand) hot-water heaters. The site averages 25 gallons of water per person per day, several times less than the average American rate.
ASA Future Directions Discussed at ASA99
Near the end of ASA99, a "town hall" meeting was called to report questionnaire data from ASAers and discuss directions. ASA President Joseph Sheldon led the reporting panel and discussion. Joe stated that ASA growth depends on funding, ASAers are, on average, rather old, and that we should consider ASA in our wills. ASA currently has $50,000 in the endowment fund, too little to begin drawing from.
ASA director Don Munro pointed out that over half of the ASA membership have never attended an ASA Meeting. ASA2000 will be in New England, near ASA headquarters, at Gordon College. Plan to join us and eat some lobster. Don summarized feedback from ASAers on Annual Meetings.
What ASAers like about Meetings is that they are stimulating, old friends are there, and they provide for a creative exchange of ideas. What is not liked about them is the time of year, the cost, the cliquishness of some of those old friends, paper quality, dorm rooms, and esoterica. ASAers are calling for more cutting-edge topics, young people, poster sessions, topical workshops and a theme focus.
Sarah Miles noted that ASA is a very diverse group, yet a common call is that ASAers want to be helped to educate the church. The most frequent request is for more on evangelism, real-world problems, fellowship at professional meetings, less on origins and more on scientific research, mentoring for young scientists, basic ASA data on the Web, and short-term mission projects.
Despite downside comments, 97 out of 155 respondents rated the meeting above center on a good-bad scale. If you have not yet attended your first ASA Meeting, and especially if you live in the eastern U.S., seriously consider attending ASA2000 in Massachusetts during the first week of next August.
Gordon College, Wenham, MA
August 4-7, 2000
"Young scientist" Jennifer Wiseman reported to the Council that many young ASAers are doing research and would like practical information on balancing scientific, family, and church life, on choosing a research field, role models, how to reach fellow church members, and how to "network" with others. Loren and Deborah Haarsma's class on the Web was noted as useful, the Young Scientist column in PSCF is liked, "hot" topics in science are of interest, and the ASA could "plug into" graduate Christian groups such as IVCF and CLM. Jennifer pointed out that for those in such groups, upon graduation, the ASA can serve as a post-grad Christian fellowship. She also encouraged email networks of young scientists in a given field and encouraged giving ASA papers.
Our new PSCF (ASA journal) Editor is Roman Miller, a biologist at Eastern Mennonite College, nestled in the Shenandoah Valley at Harrisonburg, Virginia. He reported the median rating of the journal by 488 ASAers on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is good) as 4. A third of the readership want more articles of a general, practical nature. Roman wants to reduce the turn-around time on journal papers to less than a year, wants an active review board, more rigorous review, a greater diversity of articles, plans to have theme issues, and does not intend to introduce any major changes at first. The present backlog of papers will be assimilated, and with greater selectivity, future backlog reduced.
Some ASAers got up early to meet in the cafeteria, awaiting Don Munro's appearance on local TV news. The news interviewer put a positive spin on the event, as Don answered some basic questions about ASA and how science and Christianity relate.
One father/son pair of Christians in science at ASA99 was Chris (left) and Jed (right) Macosko. Chris is a chemical engineer and U. of Minnesota professor of materials science. His son, Jed, is a biochemist who recently finished his doctorate at U.C. Berkeley and is now at Wheaton C. Chris's wife, Kathleen, also attended. Chris and Jed discussed their mutual involvement in teaching courses on science and religion.
The Macoskos were not the only father/son pair at ASA99. Jonathan and his father, Kenell Touryan, gave a joint paper on "Renewable Energy for Sustainable Rural Village Power." Ken is a manager and Chief Technology Analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO, jointly operated for the U.S. DOE by the Midwest Research Institute, Batelle, and Bechtel. Jonathan was able to work for the summer at NREL.
Howard Van Till's ideas about sci/rel were reflected in keynoter Phillips's presentation. They were also more directly expressed in Howard's talk. He rejects the warfare model of sci/rel, and the popular dichotomy of episodic creationism versus evolutionary naturalism. Within Christianity, Howard said, the basic disagreement is about what kind of creation the universe is, not that it is created.
Howard paid particular attention to definitions of key words he uses to discuss origins issues. Formational economy is one such expression, about which he says: "Every creaturely capability can be celebrated by the Christian as a gift of being from his Creator." The key question is: Is creation sufficiently equipped to bring about the existing structure? His answer is "yes." There is no need, he stated, for God to supplement development through divine action.
Howard identified two problems. The first is the theological interpretation of Genesis versus episodic interpretation. And second, the more capable the creation is, the more it needs a Creator as explanation for these capabilities. There are "no gaps in creation's formational economy." What bothers Howard is that other approaches to the evolution issue by Christians has conceded evolution to naturalists. We shouldn't do that, he argues.
"Science needs to be more empirical and personal." Walter Hearn, ASA99
Another paper emphasizing the creation as having been given the capability of unfolding into the present complexity was a critique of Michael Behe's irreducible complexity argument by Terry Gray. Behe and Gray have been interacting for some time. They offered opposing positions in a symposium at ASA94 in St. Paul, MN. After citing commentary by World magazine's previous editor, Joel Belz, offering effusive praise for Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box, Terry covered the other extreme, Peter Atkins's review calling Behe silly, lazy, ignorant and intellectually abominable. (For a wide-ranging critique, see "Behe's empty box" at: www.spacelab.net/~catalj/box.)
Terry, also a biochemist, finds Behe's biochemistry accurate and well-written but also finds irreducible complexity (the notion that some things cannot develop incrementally) a tautology. Behe and Gray debated whether hemoglobin is irreducibly complex at ASA94. This year, Terry cited an American Scientist article (MAR/APR 99), arguing that gene duplication and subsequent diversification explain hemoglobin development. Contra Behe, Terry also claims that science is not silent on molecular evolution: "Behe doesn't count things [in the literature] that he ought to count." Other instances of blood clotting and flagella were also discussed.
Judge Rules for Carson
ASA engineer, and Dept. of Energy whistleblower Joseph Carson (firstname.lastname@example.org) has succeeded in his effort to bring justice to bear on DOE safety issues and to retain his job. The DOE had attempted a lateral arabesque, to move him away from Oak Ridge, TN where he would not be able to observe the kind of events he had previously brought to public attention. The Knoxville News-Sentinel (May 1, 1999, page C1: also at website address: www.knoxnews.com/business/18162.shtml) reported that "An administrative judge has ruled in favor of Oak Ridge whistle-blower Joe Carson and told the U.S. Department of Energy to return Carson's responsibilities as a safety inspector." The judge "also ruled that DOE should retract a letter admonishing Carson for his behavior and cancel an assignment that would have transferred Carson to DOE headquarters against his wishes."
"How sweet it is," Carson responded. "Seven years coming and I finally get adjudication, not only vindicating me but also the technical issues that have propelled me here for so long." In his safety-review role, Carson reported on numerous safety issues and occasionally challenged DOE's investigation reports, citing information gaps and deficiencies. On April 30, one of the managers castigated in the decision retired, on very short notice. Joe's response is one of thankfulness, commending his family and attorney. Joe says:
I hope this situation leads to open recognition of the shams that DOE's employee concern and safety oversight programs are. These situations are hell for DOE and DOE contractor employees who risk so much for the simple reason that they put duty before self-interest - just as any safety professional, federal employee and/or God-fearing American should. In DOE, such people are treated as sport, their careers destroyed by sworn federal employees or highly paid DOE contractor employees who engage in the same careful planning and who display as much remorse as the killers in the massacre at the high school in Colorado last week. Now the rest of the world has no further excuse for not knowing the dismal facts about trying to be a trustworthy safety professional in DOE and how those dismal realities explain so much about what is so wrong in the Department of Energy.
Joe's website "A Call for Accountability, Competency, and Ethics in DOE" details this seven year-long matter, at: http://www.mindspring.com/~jpcarson
Christian Geneticists To Meet at ASHG Conference
Geneticists Elving Anderson and Bill Oetting have organized a meeting during the American Society of Human Genetics conference this October. To the Christian Fellowship of Human Geneticists, Dr. Ted Peters will give an open lecture on "Genetic Determinism and Human Freedom: Are We Playing God?" on Friday, October 22 at 7:30 pm in the Argent Hotel, San Francisco, CA. Peters is author of "Playing God" (and other books on genetics) and is Prof. of Systematic Theology at the Pacific Lutheran Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.
This event will occur during the American Society of Human Genetics and represents the first meeting of the Fellowship, organized by the Oetting and Anderson at the University of Minnesota. For more information, email: email@example.com
Bill and Paul's Excellent Adventure in Boston
by Paul Nelson
MIT, April 7, 1999
[Ed. note: Jack Haas and Don Munro also attended these MIT lectures, given by Paul Nelson and Bill Dembski.]
We spoke in Room 2-190, a medium-sized classroom with approximately one-half inch of chalk dust on every exposed surface, near the math department (where Bill was a postdoc several years ago). The turnout was reasonably good - about 70 people, in a room seating 100 - given that at exactly the same time there was a debate on the existence of God at Harvard, and at MIT, the prominent skeptic and author Michael Shermer was giving a very well-advertised talk in another building on campus. (More on Shermer below.) Bill led off, with an overview of the history and logic of the design inference, stressing that design inferences are an essential aspect of basic human rationality, and that the joint criteria of specification and complexity/small probability satisfy what we need to detect intelligent design reliably. Bill used several examples to illustrate the power of the specification/complexity criteria, and then passed the baton to me.
I focused on evidence in biology best explained by design, looking in particular at the phenomena of the necessary minimal complexity of life and the limits on variation imposed by the hierarchical logic of animal development. Briefly, minimal complexity asks, "How simple can you be and still be alive? and can this lower threshold of function be explained by chance and necessity?" To illustrate the limits of variation, I discussed a model of the causal structure of development advanced by the UK evolutionary geneticist Wallace Arthur, and looked quickly at the nematode C. elegans as an illustration. I claimed that, in a real sense, the very last thing organisms want to do is to evolve as neo-Darwinism requires. Then the floor was opened for questions.
The questions ranged from the philosophical ("Who designed the designer?") to quibbles about how I had construed the point of classical mutagenesis experiments in Drosophila. I'd call the audience mildly skeptical but curious, with several people wanting to know how the ID project connected with theology, and vice versa. One questioner, who looked to be a postdoc or perhaps junior faculty, wondered how far the ID group wanted to challenge evolution. "You've taken one puzzle [i.e., the origin of life] that happened billions of years in the past, and another on which we're just beginning research [i.e., macroevolution], as your examples, but how about the overall successes of evolutionary biology in such areas as phylogeny, biogeography, etc?" I replied that of course design theorists need to take evolution seriously - my own dissertation, for instance, addresses common descent at length - but that with design on the table as a live possibility, many "conclusions" of evolution would be open to doubt. (Later, Bill and I discussed between us the utter irrelevance of how long ago life is supposed to have arisen. The argument that "life arose billions of years ago, and therefore it's hard to understand how it arose" means either (a) natural regularities were somehow different in the past, which, if true, destroys the possibility of any historical science, or (b) it's hard to understand how life arose naturally, which was more or less our point, albeit expressed differently. The questioner's argument however seemed to be that time as mere duration was somehow conspiring against the abiogenesis researcher to hide the evidence needed to sort out the natural origin of life. But evidence in principle beyond one's reach has no bearing one way or another. End of digression.)
Anyway, after about 40 minutes of Q & A, Bill and I had to run, to meet Michael Shermer outside his lecture hall (where he drew 250+ listeners; darn!). We had previously arranged via e-mail to meet Shermer, who was in New England to promote his book Why People Believe Weird Things and an upcoming book on God and skepticism. Shermer, the head of the skeptics organization based near Caltech, was also scheduled to be the guest on David Brudnoy's AM talk show that night, so we all trooped across the river to the Back Bay, and up into Brudnoy's apartment, where his studio - connected by an ISDN line to the radio station - was located. The Bruins hockey game was still being broadcast, so Bill and I chatted for a while with Shermer about mutual friends, publishing ventures, and design: Shermer had been reading The Design Inference on the plane to Boston. The producer then took Shermer into the studio in the next room, and Bill and I listened to the call-in show (being broadcast in the room where we were sitting) with an 8-second delay. We then went out to a local pub, where we picked up our discussion.
Shermer told us that he had commissioned a professional poll for his new book, asking why people believe in God. The results, which are properly Shermer's to report, were absolutely fascinating. I can say here only that intelligent design figured centrally in most people's convictions about God's existence. Shermer's new book should be available in a few months from W.H. Freeman; unfortunately, I don't know the working title. (He has another book just now available on Holocaust revisionism.) Although both Bill and I had corresponded with Shermer previously, it was good to get to know him personally.
Tufts University, Thursday, April 8
Following a lunch with some of the MIT Christian faculty, including the cognitive scientist Rosalind (Roz) Picard, Bill and I drove up to Tufts in Somerville. Daniel Dennett, a professor of philosophy at Tufts, had invited the UK science writer Elaine Morgan to speak on her "aquatic ape" hypothesis, in a lecture series he runs featuring "iconoclasts" in science (Dennett's term; among the other iconoclasts, all women, were Susan Blackmore and Lynn Margulis). We dropped into the lecture hall - the same room where Bill and I would be speaking later that evening - to hear Morgan, who fit perfectly my image of a woolen-garbed, respectable, feisty older Englishwoman, finish describing her unconventional ideas and her interactions with the paleoanthropology establishment. She played 20 minutes or so of an upcoming Discovery Channel program on her work, including dismissive rebuttals from authorities in the field along with defenses from her friends like the anthropologist Philip Tobias.
The Q & A following her talk was notable for an unbelievably long and increasingly hostile mini-lecture delivered by a visiting faculty person, who later stormed out of the room when it became clear his statements had failed instantly to discredit Morgan in the eyes of the rest of the audience.
As the event wrapped up, Bill and I introduced ourselves to Dennett and Morgan. She smiled and said, "I've seen announcements of your talk chalked on the sidewalks," and Dennett told us he had announced our lectures at the beginning of Morgan's own, by saying, "If your taste for iconoclasm is greater even than mine, show up in this same room this evening," and that although he couldn't himself attend (he was taking Morgan to dinner), he was a firm believer in having our ideas aired.
As 7:30 pm rolled around, the room (which seated approximately 250) began to fill up. I'd estimate we had 200 in the audience, with a mix of undergrads, grad students, faculty, and visitors from off-campus. We gave the same talks as the previous evening, and then commenced the Q & A.
While most of the MIT questioners had been skeptically curious, most of the Tufts questioners were skeptically confrontational. The first question, for instance, from someone who identified himself as a high school science teacher, asked why the National Academy of Sciences and the AAAS was opposed to what Bill and I were doing - i.e., along the lines of "When exactly did you stop beating your wife?" I confess to some impatience with questions of this sort. I responded by asking the questioner if he telephoned the National Academy to learn what he ought to think on any open question before he made up his mind.
He also asked about how he was going to teach students "the mechanism of design," and Bill replied that in many cases, no one knows the precise mechanism of design, yet that doesn't stop us from inferring that something was designed - all of this was lost, however, on the teacher, whom I fear wanted to slot our arguments into familiar categories. Bill and I resisted, which only made him try to hammer the pegs in harder to get them to fit. (I've since learned the identity of the teacher, and will be taking up his worries with him one-on-one in e-mail.)
Other questions included whether it was possible to assign probabilities to biological events, whether cumulative selection explained the origin of the eye, and shouted comments (from a Tufts biology professor, I later learned) that similarities between the frog and human genome proved their common ancestry. When the moderator finally called a halt to one of the liveliest Q & A sessions Bill and I have ever had as joint presenters, half a dozen hands were still waving in the air, and a large percentage of the audience was still in the seats. Many of these people then came down to the stage to continue the discussion, including several undergrads who wanted more details about what ID involved. (Jody Chang, the event organizer, told me that almost none of the audience was familiar to her as members of InterVarsity or other such groups, meaning that the pre-lecture publicity at Tufts had apparently drawn in many students with no prior commitment to the ID position.)
All in all, it was a productive and fun, if occasionally noisy, ID adventure.
What ASAers Do
Norman Gendron is manager of metallography at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. He has been doing metallography for 59 years, and in his lifetime has mounted and polished hundreds of things for his own and interest and to show others under x1 to x1000 magnification, including a wasp nest and elephant tusk. Norman says: "We are presently researching in my department a great number of different composites. If we could make a composite similar in design to the elephant tusk, we'd be millionaires overnight. º the nanofibers are in both directions, to give strength in all directions, yet the matrix is rather soft compared to metals." Human tooth enamel is similarly intricate.
Norman reflects: "All this is just an unbelievable design. If you really think about it with an open mind, you can't come to any other conclusion."
Gordon Mills sent in "the excellent review of Walt Hearn's book by Barbara Pursey." It was sent to all members of the Dubuque, IA-based Presbyterian Assoc. of Science, Technology, and Christian Faith (PASTCF) in their newsletter, Sci-Tech. Gordon is taking care of his wife, Mary Jane, who is in a skilled nursing unit with Parkinson's/Alzheimer's complex in Atlantic Beach, FL. He writes: "I have been involved with a support group and with several individuals who have helped me to cope with my situation. I am doing well and will lead a Bible study group here tomorrow morning." Gordon had a newspaper column printed last week on "Design Theory in in Accord with Scientific Evidence" in the Florida Times-Union.
In June, a press release from PASTCF secretary-treasurer Derek Pursey (firstname.lastname@example.org) announced: "ASA Member Honored by Presbyterian Group." That ASAer is Douglas Frank, who, the release says, "exemplifies the practice of science as a Christian vocation." Frank is president of Adam Instrument Company, which produces instruments for chemical, physical, engineering and medical research. Frank views himself as "someone who helps to reconcile the apparent conflict between religion and science that has historically damaged the credibility of the church." PASTCF is associated with the PCUSA, with the purpose of promoting dialog between the science and faith communities. * Derek Pursey
Burgess shale scientist Paul Chien is seen smiling on the front page of Bridging the Gap (Spring/Summer 1999, Vol. 10, No. 1), a periodical of the Genesis Int'l Research Assoc. (www.gira.org). Paul has been speaking on "The Burgess Shale of China" and relating it to the Burgess shale at Field, BC. At Field, a multi-million dollar Shale Museum & Learning Center is being built, showing the story of how and where animal life began on Earth. The shale story is of origins interest because it contains the Cambrian explosion, the sudden appearance of over fifty animal phyla, preserved in the fossil record.
ASA Founder Dies
One of the original five ASAers has passed on to his reward. Irving Cowperthwaite died of cancer on May 27, 1999 at age 94. Irving was formerly the chief engineer at Thompson Steel Co. in Mattapan, MA. Born in Worcester, Irving earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry at MIT and doctorate ant Columbia U. He taught chemistry at Columbia from 1930-37, then joined Thompson Steel. He retired in 1969.
Irving A. Cowperthwaite 1904-1999
by F. Alton Everest
sole survivor of the five founders
It is with sorrow and with great respect that we note that Irving Cowperthwaite is dead but it is with joy that he is now with the Lord he loved and served. Irving was one of the five who met in 1941 and organized the American Scientific Affiliation. While the attention of the nation was on war and preparation for war, this tiny band, each in some branch of science, had aspirations of helping the local church to understand the new language of science and especially to help young people meet the spiritual challenges to their faith that science seemed to be making.
Some of the first five fell by the wayside very soon. Irving was one who faithfully took up his responsibility and became an important early member of the ASA. He served as Secretary/Treasurer for the years 1942 and 1943, and was on the Executive Council, which directed all ASA affairs for those very formative years. He was faithful in contributing to and attending all the early conventions.
Irving received the BS degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in chemistry in 1926. About that time Prof. D.A. MacInnes left MIT for Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research and he took Cowperthwaite with him. For the next four years Irving was a research chemist at Rockefeller Institute in New York City while pursuing a full graduate Ph.D. program at Columbia University.
In 1937 Irving left Columbia University to become Chief Engineer and Metallurgist at Thompson Wire Company in Boston. He retired from Thompson in 1969 with an impressive list of scientific papers to his credit.
Irving married Fae Irene Poore, a graduate student at Teachers College, in 1931 whom he had met at Calvary Baptist Church of New York City. An interesting twist: Will H. Houghton was pastor of Calvary at that time. It was in Dr. Houghton's Board Room at Moody Bible Institute that ASA "first saw the light of day."