American Scientific Affiliation & Canadian Scientific & Christian Affiliation
Volume 52, Number 2 MAR/APR 2010
The ASA’s 65th Annual Meeting will be held at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, DC, July 30–Aug. 2. The theme is “Science, Faith, and Public Policy” with the Scripture “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b). Susan Daniels is the Program Chair, and Paul Arveson is the Local Arrangements Chair.
Founded in 1887 by the US Catholic bishops, CUA is the national university of the Roman Catholic Church in the USA. On May 24, 1888, the cornerstone of Caldwell Hall was laid with President Grover Cleveland and members of Congress and the US Cabinet in attendance. The university opened on Nov. 13, 1889, as a graduate research center and in 1904 began offering undergraduate education. Its president, the Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, says, “It all began as a dream—a vision, really—that there could be in the United States a great Catholic center of learning at the highest level, modeled after the great European universities.”
CUA includes twelve schools and 21 research facilities and is the only American university with ecclesiastical faculties which grants canonical degrees in three disciplines: canon law, philosophy, and theology. Theological College, the university seminary, prepares men for the priesthood. There are approximately 3,470 undergraduate and 3,240 graduate students from all 50 states and 97 countries in 72 bachelor’s programs, 103 master’s programs and 66 doctoral programs. Eighty-eight percent of undergrads and 61 percent of graduate students are Catholic. CUA’s motto is “Deus Lux Mea Est,” meaning “God is My Light.”
The university has a 193-acre campus just north of Capitol Hill. Students have access to a wide range of educational, cultural, and political opportunities in the nation’s capital including internships, even in congressional offices. CUA combines strong academics with programs of faith development and opportunities for service both locally and abroad.
CUA is one of only two universities in the USA to have hosted the Pope and the only one to have done so twice. Pope John Paul II came in 1979; Pope Benedict XVI in 2008. There are 21 varsity intercollegiate teams, and their athletic colors are red and black. Academic colors are gold and white.
The campus is set among tree-lined rolling hills, adjacent to the majestic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in the USA. We look forward to our Annual Meeting at this amazing institution.
ISSR, along with the Ian Ramsey Centre Theology Faculty, University of Oxford, is also sponsoring a conference, July 7–11, at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, titled “God and Physics.” The winner of the essay contest will be able to present his or her essay at this conference. Essays can be sent to Dr. Christopher Knight by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Randall D. Isaac
In the nearly 70 years of its existence, the ASA has dealt with many issues of origins. The beginning of the universe, Earth, life, species, and consciousness, to name a few, have all occupied a significant amount of space in our journal and publications. But the one that draws the most attention is human origins. Many writers who have found ways to integrate the evolution of species with biblical teaching, have stopped short at the challenge of human origins. Now we see a surge of emphasis on this topic.
On March 17, 2010, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will open its new exhibit on human origins, titled “Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human?” This exhibit will present the latest scientific discoveries of the development of humans over the last 6 million years. A new website will be launched in concert with the opening of the exhibit.
Recognizing the sensitivity of many people to the scientific account of human origins, the Smithsonian Institute convened a Broad Social Impact committee to address the ways in which the public might respond to this exhibit. This committee of about 25 people represents the many diverse religious and ethnic cultures in America. I had the privilege of being asked, as ASA director, to represent the evangelical protestant perspective.
Our committee met last summer in a stimulating 24-hour session that included a tour of the unfinished exhibit and of the back rooms of the museum. We had no means of influencing the content of the exhibit. Rather, our mission was to inform the leaders how the exhibit might be perceived and to help anticipate questions from the public and to advise the most constructive responses. Despite the broad diversity of committee members, we had a remarkable degree of commonality on most of the issues. Meeting each other and hearing about the various perspectives on human origins were most valuable experiences.
On March 21, a few days after the opening of the exhibit, this committee is scheduled to meet again and to begin to publicize some of the perspectives on understanding human origins and faith issues. It will be interesting to see what media coverage will be obtained.
One of the reasons for the resurgence of interest in human origins is the tremendous progress of research in genetics, especially following the success of the Human Genome Project. While the fossil record provides an incredible historical trail of anatomical features, it is the genetic code that provides detailed evidence for many connections between humans and other species.
Based on the fossil and genetic evidence, the following tale of human origins is now the majority scientific understanding. Human ancestors branched from primate relatives about 7 million years ago. Diverse hominin species developed but all became extinct, as recently as 30,000 years ago, except for Homo sapiens, which apparently first appeared in central east Africa around 200,000 years ago. Dispersion out of Africa began about 120,000 years ago and reached all continents by about 18,000 years ago. Studies of human genetic diversity indicate that world human population during these 200,000 years never dropped below 5 or 10 thousand.
How do we as Christians respond to such an account? It does not seem to easily accord with the traditional account we find in the Bible, not just Genesis 1 but Romans 5 and related passages. Within a diverse group such as ASA, we have a broad spectrum of responses. A first reaction is to question the science. Can such an account be adequately proven? Perhaps it is wrong. However, rapidly mounting genetic evidence is making it more and more difficult to defend such an approach. Does careful biblical interpretation lead us to an account consistent with, or at least not contradictory to, such a scientific account? We all believe that there is no inherent conflict of science and faith, so such reconciliation is possible in principle. But the wide diversity of views will give us many years of intense discussion.
The role of the ASA is to facilitate civil and respectful discussions on topics such as this. We are not advocates of a particular perspective but aim to show how Christians can discuss these issues, demonstrating our unity in Christ while we disagree on the details. Pray for continued wisdom and effectiveness for the ASA as we seek the truth in love.
At the 2009 Annual Meeting, Horizon Media Studios, Inspirational Christian Television Programming, Lake Worth, FL, interviewed several ASA leaders and produced a 6–7-minute video describing the ASA. It aired on the Revelations television program, which was broadcast on the Inspiration Network, World Harvest TV, Total Christian Television, GOD TV, the Word Network, and the Family Net Television Network. The video is available from the ASA website, www.asa3.org, to help you introduce our organization to others.
WesleyNexus was created in 2009 by a group of dedicated clergy, academics, and laypersons who share the heritage of John Wesley as part of their faith tradition. This is a nonprofit organization in the greater Washington, DC, area dedicated to disseminating sound information on the dialogue between science and religion within the Wesleyan tradition. Their website www.wesnex.org provides resources and announcements of discussions about science and religion in the DC area. Their goal is to build an understanding of how science, religion, and theology can better inform one another among persons in a growing online community. They hope to broaden the dialogue among thoughtful persons of faith who take science seriously.
Wesley Theological Seminary is the largest Protestant seminary in Washington, DC, and trains pastors in various Protestant denominations. This is a new resource for all of us involved in the interface of science and faith. Paul Arveson, our local arrangements chair, will be networking with them in advance of our 2010 ASA meeting. * Paul Arveson
Solar physicist Charles Kankelborg is among the Montana State University (MSU) scientists involved in a new space mission to figure out how energy is transferred through the sun’s atmosphere. He says IRIS (Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph) was one of two missions that recently won NASA’s Small Explorer Competition. Their team will design its telescope to face the sun at all times, orbit Earth at least three years, and gather images from the sun’s chromosphere and transition region which is invisible from the ground. This telescope would be launched on a NASA rocket in 2012. IRIS is the latest in a string of solar missions involving MSU students. TRACE, or Transition Region and Coronal Explorer, drew Kankelborg to MSU in 1996. MSU Collegian (Fall 2009): 7.
As an atheist, “Bruce Sheiman does not believe in God, but he does believe in religion,” states an October 15 Religionnews.com dispatch. Regarding his new book An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity Is Better Off with Religion than Without It, he told an interviewer, “I don’t know if anybody is going to be able to convince me that God exists, but they can convince me that religion has intrinsic value.”
The “upgraded unbelievers” aren’t echoing Dawkins’ acerbic assertions that religion is a mental virus. The article differentiates,
The old atheists said there was no God. The so-called ‘New Atheists’ said there was no God and they were vocally vicious about it. Now, the new ‘New Atheists’—call it Atheism 3.0—say there’s still no God, but maybe religion isn’t all that bad.
One reviewer summarizes,
unlike most atheists who embrace their rejection of God as a sign of intellectual triumph, he [Sheiman] asserts that such disbelief is maladaptive and that some form of religious belief is the overwhelmingly preferable option. Reaching beyond the God question, this book explains how religion provides a combination of psychological, moral, emotional, existential, communal, and even physical-health benefits that no other institution can replicate.
In Sheiman’s words,
More than any other institution, religion deserves our appreciation and respect because it has persistently encouraged people to care deeply—for the self, for neighbors, for humanity, and for the natural world—and to strive for the highest ideals humans are able to envision.
In early Nov. 2009, a conclave of leading figures from nine of the world’s major religions was held at Windsor Castle, under the auspices of Prince Philip and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Called “Many Heavens, One Earth,” the meeting hoped to generate commitments for actions by religious organizations, congregants, and countries that could reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or otherwise limit the human impact on the environment. Science and Religion Today (Nov. 4, 2009.)
Last November, Church Women United groups around the world emphasized environmental care as a duty for Christians. The worship service “Piecing Earth Together” dealt with Scripture which referenced God’s Earth (Ps. 136:1–9, 23–26; Genesis 1) and included a page of pledges to which participants could consider and commit. Examples were carpooling, using locally grown food, planting a tree, using energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, using solar or wind energy, recycling, becoming informed about environmental legislation before Congress, and advocating for responsible action. Hymns included in this service were “This Is the Day That Our God Has Made,” “Morning Has Broken,” and “Touch the Earth Lightly.” The opening prayer was
The benediction was, “Go out into God’s creation, looking for ways to piece Earth back together. Monitor your own life in seeking new ways to contribute to environmental conservation and encourage others to honor God’s great gifts.”
The president of the British Science Association, Lord
May, gave a presentation at its festival at the University of Surrey in
September. He said that religious leaders should play a front-line role in
mobilizing people to take action against global warming, adding that religious
groups should use their influence to motivate their peers to reduce the
environmental impact of their lives and that religion can unite communities as
they tackle environmental challenges.
The Guardian (7 Sept. 2009).
“The Catholic-Jewish Commission recently said there is a tension between ‘secular environmentalist movements and religious perspectives’ on ecology because Christians and Jews follow biblical teaching that gives human beings a special place and a special responsibility for the rest of creation. They said the Bible ‘views nature as being endowed with sanctity that flows from the Creator,’ but it also asserts that God made human beings ‘the summit of his inherently good creation’ and gave them stewardship over the earth.” Science and Religion Today (Jan. 21, 2010).
The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate, inspire, and mobilize Christians to care for God’s creation, to be faithful stewards of his provision, and to advocate for actions and policies that honor God and protect the environment. Its president and chief executive officer is Mitchell Hescox, pastor of Grace Church, Shrewsbury, PA. Headquartered in Washington, DC, EEN publishes a quarterly journal, Creation Care, and provides educational materials and resources to individuals and churches to help them take actions that will honor God and protect the environment. They are concerned with water, endangered species, air pollution, energy usage, recycling, and many other areas. They inform youth and adults and advise churches about how to deal with these issues. One of many suggestions they have is:
Turn your church grounds into a garden and wildlife habitat. Have your youth group help turn your church grounds into a place to attract wildlife and a place for church members and others to go and pray and relax in the beauty of God’s creation. Plant native vegetation that will require minimum upkeep. Plant berry bushes and other things that will attract a variety of birds. Add a hummingbird feeder, butterfly feeders, or bat house.
The World Wildlife Fund has chosen Earth Hour 2010 to be on Saturday, March 27, 8:30–9:30 p.m. local time. National landmarks including Mount Rushmore, the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Las Vegas Strip have pledged to participate. Each of us can be a part of this special event by joining millions of people around the world in turning off the lights for Earth Hour 2010. See www.EarthHour.org.
More than 790 congregations from all 50 states and 11 countries participated in Evolution Weekend, Feb. 12–14. The goal was to elevate the level of discussion concerning the compatibility of religion and science. Sermons, discussion groups, church classes, and chats over lunch were some options. Michael Zimmerman, biology prof. at Butler University, the initiator of the project says,
One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic—to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally … Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.
“Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa has deciphered the earliest known Hebrew inscription, dating to the 10th century BC, written on a shard of clay found near the Valley of Elah in Israel. This makes it possible, he says, that parts of the Bible could have been written that far back, centuries earlier than scholars now believe.” Galil says that it is very reasonable that in the 10th century BC, during the reign of King David, there were scribes in Israel who were able to write literary texts and complex historiographies, such as the books of Judges and Samuel. Science and Religion Today (Jan. 13, 2010).
We think that “creating” life in the context of synthetic biology raises the same ethical question that is raised by “manipulating” life in the context of genetic engineering (and in contexts such as assisted human reproduction, embryonic stem cell research, or animal-human chimeras). The question is: Should there be any in-principle limits on our capacity to transform ourselves and the rest of the natural world?
Science and Religion Today, Oct. 5, 2009, quotes Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion as follows:
It is not the task of theology to seek to influence the content of scientific theories … Nevertheless, it remains a fact that positive theological influences on the actual content of scientific theories can readily be discerned in the history of science, although such influences are more readily discernible with the benefit of hindsight. Scientists are not ethereal beings isolated from their cultural milieu, but embedded in their context and history as much as anyone else. So even those who think they are being most “purely scientific” in their work may, in retrospect, be seen to be influenced in their theorizing or research programs by nonscientific factors. It is a plausible inference, for example, that Newton’s laws of gravity were nurtured by his deep faith in a creator God who could act over vast distances to maintain the mathematically elegant relationships between objects in harmony. Newton was resolutely agnostic over the mechanisms whereby gravity operates, leading to accusations that he believed in “occult forces,” but a universe in which unknown forces of gravity acted at a distance certainly seemed more believable when it was ruled over by a benevolent albeit invisible law-maker.
Jim Tour gave a riveting talk last year at our Annual Meeting about how to stand for Christ in the Academy. The Houston Chronicle, Jan. 3, featured him on the front page of the City section, in a laudatory article titled “Laws of Science.” Jim has always been very open about his faith and how he relies on God for direction in his research. See the full article: www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6795911.html * Christina Chan and Scott and Penny Robinson
The gene hunt began quietly, with few theatrics and much uncertainty. For Mitch Drumm, the starting gate lifted in the fall of 1985. He and geneticist Francis Collins met on opposite sides of a volleyball net, during a faculty-student mixer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Drumm, shorter than the lanky Collins, was outmatched in volleyball. But Collins quickly recruited Drumm to join the lab he was setting up, as its first graduate student.
The two scientists began gene hunting on cystic fibrosis. In 1989, in collaboration with a research group in Toronto, they cloned the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene. 2009 was the 20th anniversary of the identification of the CF gene. Life expectancy in 1989 for those with CF was about 29 years. In 2009, with gene therapy, it exceeds 37 years. The article includes a 1980s-era photo of Collins and Drumm.
Following up his best-seller The Language of God, Francis Collins has written The Language of Life (New York: Harper, 2010). Subtitling his book “DNA and the revolution in personalized medicine,” Collins explains, “For centuries, we considered ourselves to be healthy until symptoms of illness arose. Once diagnosed, correctly or not, we received standardized treatments … But not all our glitches are the same, so one treatment does not fit all sufferers of a given disease.” It’s difficult for physicians to keep current on new developments, so much routine medical treatment is obsolete or erroneous.
An increasing number of people are having their DNA analyzed for early warnings of what genetic weaknesses they may have inherited. Reliable tests for key indicators are now available for prices ranging from $399 to $2499, using DNA samples donated by merely spitting into a special tube or scraping a cheek. Collins anonymously submitted samples; the fact that all three laboratory results agreed in all important characteristics assured him of their accuracy.
Plentifully lacing it with real-life examples, Collins gives an insider’s look at the genomic revolution in ways that fascinate the casual reader and provide state-of-the-art insights for anyone needing or providing medical care. With discrete balance and avoiding hype, he points out, “The more you know about all this, the more you can adjust your own lifestyle and medical surveillance to prevent illnesses or catch them in early and treatable stages.”
On Jan. 23, the First Baptist Church of
Austin, TX, and the Center for Ministry Effectiveness and Educational
Leadership at Baylor University co-sponsored an all-day seminar titled
“Science and Faith: Breaking Down the Wall.” Its aim was to help
clergy and laity understand how, in their pursuit of truth, their faith can be
strengthened and their Christian effectiveness be increased when they take
biblical theology and science seriously. The seminar showed how the Christian
faith and the scientific investigation of the natural world can be
complimentary, mutually informing, and edifying. Gerald Cleaver, assoc.
prof. of physics, spoke on “Faith and the New Cosmology.” Barry
Harvey, prof. of theology, presented “Mystery and Well-Formed
Intellect—Why Science and Theology Are Not in Competition,” and
Phyllis Tippit, lecturer in geology and interdisciplinary science, spoke on
“Does Life Have a History?”
* Don Schmeltekopf and Gerald Cleaver and Scott and Penny Robinson.
On Jan. 10, John Haught, chair (1990– 1995) and professor (1970–2005) in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University, gave a presentation “Evolution, God, and the Drama of Life” at the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington, DC. Maynard Moore, a retired Methodist minister, organized the event to which more than 70 attended.
Haught is an internationally known lecturer and author (including God after Darwin) in science and religion and testified for the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Board of Education trial in Harrisburg, PA. He has won many awards in science and religion. His area of specialization is systematic theology, with a particular interest in issues pertaining to science including cosmology, evolution, and ecology.
Paul Arveson attended this lecture and says Haught’s “defense of the faith is based on the idea that religion and evolution lie on different ‘levels of explanation,’ so they cannot logically compete with each other.” Paul says that Haught’s latest book, Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God and the Drama of Life, will deal with much of what he discussed with them. After the presentation, Paul met with Haught and told him that he thinks we have come a long way in our acceptance of evolution. Haught agreed, then countered, “But you don’t rejoice in it yet.” * Paul Arveson
“Creation,” a new film about Darwin, premiered in the USA on Jan. 22 in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, and Boston. The National Center for Science Education’s executive director, Eugenie Scott, said it was “a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the people—for the good.” Discussion panels were present in each city prior to the showing. Since it was well received, it is being shown in almost 20 cities in February and March. For more, visit www.creationthemovie.com/
Mar. 12. Science Museum of Minnesota opening the exhibition of “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the St. John’s Bible.” Details at www.smm.org/scrolls.
Mar. 13. “Radioactive Dating,” Reasons to Believe Chicago chapter, Wheaton, IL. Information at Chicago@reasons.org.
Mar. 16–18. "Exploring Identity: Created or Crafted?" Wheaton, IL, Council for Applied Christian Ethics. Details at www.wheaton.edu/CACE/
Mar. 24. Wheaton College Science Symposium, “Extreme Frontiers in Geo-exploration: Earth and Mars,” Armerding Auditorium. Speakers: Wei Lou, associate prof of geography, Northern Illinois U., “Global Pattern of Dissection on Mars and the Northern Ocean Hypothesis,” at 4 p.m. Marjorie A. Chan, prof of geology and geophysics, U. of Utah, “Red Rocks on Earth and Mars,” at 7 p.m. www.wheaton.edu
Mar. 31. "The Identity of a Christian College," 7 p.m., Barrows Auditorium, Wheaton College. Speaker: Duane Litfin, President, Wheaton College. Details at www.wheaton.edu/CACE/
Apr. 10. “Does the Bible Support an Old-Earth View?” Reasons to Believe Chicago chapter, Wheaton, IL. Information at Chicago@reasons.org.
Apr. 19–22. "Health Care Ethics in the 21st Century," Providence Health Care Ethics Seminar, Vancouver, BC. Details at www.providencehealthcare.org/ethics_services/health-ethics-seminars.html
May 6–7. “Spirituality: The Invisible Ingredient in Health and Healing,” Providence Health Care of Vancouver, BC. Coast Plaza Hotel. To register call (919) 660-7556, Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, Duke U. email@example.com
May 8. “Examining Arguments for a Young Earth,” Reasons to Believe Chicago chapter, Wheaton, IL. Information at Chicago@reasons.org.
June 16–18. Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Spirituality, Theology and Health, R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center at Duke U. Preconference presentations on June 15. Call (919) 660-7556 or go to www.spiritualityandhealth.duke.edu/
July 6–17. International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism & Human Rights, Strasbourg, France. A unique opportunity to defend historic biblical faith in an increasingly secular age devoid of a solid basis for human rights. Details at www.apologeticsacademy.eu
July 7–11. “God and Physics” and celebration of John Polkinghorne’s 80th birthday. Oxford, UK. Robert Russell will be one of the speakers. Sponsored by the Ian Ramsey Centre and the International Society for Science and Religion. See http://users.ox.ac.uk/~theo0038/Conferenceinfo/General.html. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
July 11–17. Summer Vacation Seminar at St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN.
July 30–Aug. 2. ASA Annual Meeting. “Science, Faith, and Public Policy,” Catholic U. of America, Washington, DC. Details at www.asa3.org
Aug. 5–8. “The Idea of a University: From John Henry Newman to the Multiversity and Beyond.” Symposium sponsored by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research led by Oskar Gruenwald, at the Hilton Hotel, Pasadena, CA, www.JIS3.org/symposium2010.htm
Sept. 20–Oct. 2. Biblical Archaeology Society tour: “In the Footsteps of Paul.” Call 1-800-221-4644, ext. 208 for complete information.
Oct. 21–Nov. 5. Biblical Archaeology Society tour “From Petra to Palmyra: Visiting Syria, Antioch and Jordan.” Where Paul traveled in Turkey. See contact information above.
Nov. 19–21. Bible and Archaeology Fest XIII, Atlanta, GA
Beisner, E. Calvin –Pembroke Pines, FL
Bowen, Robert –Ottawa, ON
Buchanan, J. Scott –Lambertville, NJ
Cartolano, Melinda S. –Hawthorn Woods, IL
Congdon, Robert –Roseburg, OR
Cox, Aimie –Waco, TX
Dube, Benjamin –St Davids, PA
Haan, Stanley –Grand Rapids, MI
Heese, Jason P. –Plover, WI
Heo, Eui Seon –Shindorim-dong Guro-gu, Seoul, Korea
Hollett, Brian –Rochester Hills, MI
Injeti, Elisha R. –Cedarville, OH
Kim, Hannah –Glen Ellyn, IL
Kunz, Kyle T. –Wheaton, IL
Macdonald, Parry –MoonTwp, PA
MacDonald, Don –Seattle, WA
Manning, James O. –Corbin, KY
Mekhail, Mina –Montreal, QC
Muir, Donald G. –Las Vegas, NV
Nichols, Norma H. –Walterboro, SC
Robinson, John M. –Kenosha, WI
Rosario, Pedro M. –San Juan, PR
Russell, Robert J. –Berkeley, CA
Sankaran, Kamesh –Spokane, WA
Sonnenburg, Larry –Lake Forest, CA
Tam, David S. –Hamilton, MA
Thomas, Jesse –Murrieta, CA
Tour, James M. –Houston, TX
Vanderploeg, Jessica L. –Hamilton, ON
White, Michelle S. –Fort Wayne, IN
Yamada, James T. –Hon, HI
Zauderer, Bevin A. –Roswell, GA
Celebrating 45 years of membership
Gordon E. Brown
Marilyn R. Graves
Stuart F. Hayes
Gordon R. Lewthwaite
Myron A. Mann
Jennie E. Master
James R. Moore
Kenneth C. Olson
Albert J. Smith
Robert J. Werking
L. William Yoder
(News from ASA local chapters)
The Wheaton/Naperville ASA chapter featured James Sire as its Jan. 21 speaker. A 50-year member of the ASA, Jim has degrees in English and in chemistry. His best-selling book, The Universe Next Door, deals with worldviews. It has been translated into 19 languages and is used as a text at many colleges. Originally published in 1956, it has recently been updated in its fifth edition.
With that in mind, Sire talked about “The Development of the Universe (Next Door),” discussing how the various editions of the book had changed—responding both to new scientific and cultural developments, and to the maturation of his own thinking. As examples, the first edition had followed the convention of using masculine pronouns to include both genders. In the second edition, he avoided the clumsy his/her phraseology by using “we” and “us” instead of “he.” In the third edition, he began answering Dawkins.
It wasn’t until the fourth edition that he arrived at what he now considers an adequate conception and definition of worldview. He called it
a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of propositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or unconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.
Worldview has an intellectual component, but the Bible is more in the form of a story than in intellectual propositions. Jim distinguished between reincarnation and resurrection: You are resurrected as you, but reincarnated as someone else.
Up and Down Escalators
As his understanding of worldviews was developing, Sire recognized that the trajectory of prevalent worldviews had been downward. Christian theism descended into deism by truncating God into merely a force. When deism abandoned belief in God, naturalism took over, and it in turn degenerated into nihilism, with no clear path to truth, an intellectual dead end. New Age blends existentialism and eastern religion, with the self becoming God. He described its intellectual incoherence as “Drag Velcro across a culture and believe whatever sticks.”
Both scientists and theologians rely on certain assumptions. They often talk past each other, with an attitude of “You are a [scientist/theologian]; you wouldn’t understand.”
July 30–August 2, 2010
The Catholic University of America
29–August 1, 2011
North Central College
Jointly hosted by North Central and Wheaton Colleges
As a newsletter, this publication presents news spanning a spectrum of activities, reports, and publications in order to keep readers abreast of a variety of events and views. Just as newspapers report statements made by people of various viewpoints and opinions without endorsing them, inclusion in this newsletter does not constitute or imply official ASA endorsement.
The Newsletter of the ASA and CSCA is published bimonthly for its membership by the American Scientific Affiliation. Send Newsletter information to the editors: David Fisher, 285 Cane Garden Cir., Aurora, IL 60504-2064. E-mail: email@example.com and Margaret Towne, 8505 Copper Mountain Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89129. E-mail: TowneMG@aol.com. Both receive e-mail through firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send Canadian matters to: CSCA, PO Box 63082, University Plaza, Dundas, ON, Canada L9H 4H0.
Send address changes and other business items to the American Scientific Affiliation, 55 Market St., PO Box 668, Ipswich, MA 01938-0668. Phone: (978) 356-5656; FAX: (978) 356-4375; E-mail: email@example.com; Web site: www.asa3.org
©2010 American Scientific Affiliation (except previously published material). All rights reserved.
Editors: David Fisher, Margaret Towne
Managing Editor: Lyn Berg