2021 abstracts

June 2, 2021 — Why  Can/Should  Faith and Reason/Religion and Science Interact?

Bob Reinovsky

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Early in its life, the Los Alamos Faith and Science Forum articulated its purpose: “(To) Invite the communities of science and faith to join in living deeply in the mysteries of faith and the mysteries of science by looking deeply into both.”One aspect of looking deeply into the mysteries of both faith and science is the Forum’s ongoing effort to explore topics of current interest such as “Origins”, “What Makes Us Human?”, Evolution and Hope” and “Purposeful Evolution”, “Are You a Robot?”, and “Hope, Nature, Sin and Transhumanism” from both the perspective of faith and from the perspective of science.  We have done so by generally using the tools of the physical sciences and, largely, the tools of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Another aspect of living deeply in , and looking deeply into, the mysteries of faith and science is to explore why Faith and Reason/Religion and Science can or should interact at all.  As an introduction to this year’s Summer Series, we explore six reasons such interactions make sense.  The twin disciplines Faith and Reason/ Religion and Science,  F(RR)S both: (1) Share a common objective, asserting that there are fundamentals of truth and both are working to find it; (2) Share the desire to address the same Big Questions; (3) Share a common processes for thought and exploration; (4) Share similar values (virtues) such as Curiosity, Humility and Shalom; (5)  Place boundary conditions on each other while still respecting each other unique approach and data sets; (6) Address the uncertainty that seems to plague human thought.

How Christianity Laid the Foundation for Modern Science … and many other things, such as human rights and individual freedom

Nels Hoffman

June 9, 2021 — Part I: The Psychology of Europe

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June 16, 2021 — Part II: The Work of the Church

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Abstract. In the world of 750 CE, Europe was an unimpressive backwater, sparsely populated by non-literate, polytheistic tribes. The cultural powerhouses of Islam, the Chinese empire, and Classical India were ascendant, while Europe stagnated. Few objective observers would have predicted that Europe was on its way to a series of cultural revolutions, leading to Modern Science, the Industrial Revolution, and world dominance, by the middle of the following millennium. How such a transformation could have happened has been the topic of much research and scholarship over many years. But now a provocative new proposal* by Harvard evolutionary anthropologist Joseph Henrich traces the origin of these changes to the influence of a new psychology fostered by the European Church, over many centuries beginning about 500 CE. The Church’s insistence on new marriage norms — restricting polygamy and cousin marriage, for example — gradually weakened the old kinship institutions of clan and tribe, leading to new ways of thinking that promoted individualism, non-conformity, self-obsession, control, impersonal prosociality, abstractions, and an analytical mindset. Henrich’s term for this way of thinking is “WEIRD – Western /Educated /Industrialized /Rich /Democratic. The new WEIRD psychology, in turn, paved the way for societal changes such as urbanization, legal institutions, commercial markets, and self-governing voluntary associations (like townships, guilds, corporations, monasteries, and universities). These entities were free to compete with, and learn from, each other. This diverse Medieval society is the context in which later emerged the Humanistic emphasis on the Self, the Protestant Reformation, the explosion of literacy, and the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, ultimately driving the spread of European norms and psychology around the world. Concepts such as human rights, representative government, and individual freedom are some of the other fruits of this sustained revolution, together with its darker legacy of imperialistic exploitation, cultural hegemony, global warfare, and the spiritual illnesses of modern civilization. Henrich covers a lot of ground in psychology, anthropology, sociology, and history, which we will try to summarize. We shall also go beyond Henrich’s focus on the Church’s marriage and family norms to consider the impact of the Church’s entire cultural package, and the moral and social imperatives that followed from it.
*Joseph Henrich, The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020).

June 23, 2021 — Ethics: The Common Ground Between Faith and Science

Robert Dryja

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Abstract. My purpose is to review how faith and science can reinforce one another by considering ethics as the common connection. The relationship of faith and science can be considered through four points of view.  These are: (1) In conflict with one another; (2) independent of one another; (3) a dialogue including questions between one another; and (4) integration with one another for a more complete understanding of one another.  Ethics provides a means to this more complete mutual understanding. Faith included with science broadens the understanding of science issues.  Science included with faith deepens the understanding of faith issues. Science uses a cycle of deductive and inductive reasoning to understand and explain an issue.  Science starts with deductive ideas that come from imagination, analogies or models.  These then are the basis for more specific theories and the kinds of data collected.  Data collection is the basis for inductive analysis of details. Faith also starts with deductive ideas based on imagination, analogies and models.  However, faith continues with deductive thinking in which imaginative ideas become beliefs which influence how experiences are interpreted.  In turn, experiences are the basis from which stories and rituals are created. The strength of science is focusing on measurable details.  However, it may become lost in the details by not associating them with other issues.  The strength of faith in contrast is focusing on a broad, general understanding of principles.  However, this broadness means that the correctness or a detailed understanding of a specific immediate issue may be missing. CRISPR gene editing provides an example.  On the one hand it is becoming possible to change more and more of the genome of a person.   Genetically based diseases may be cured for individuals.   However, when does an accumulation of genetic changes result in a new kind of person?  When does a whole population become changed fundamentally? Ethics provides one way to make a bridge between a particular scientific technique and whether it should be used.  Ethics can be viewed in various ways.  The Code of Hammurabi lists penalties for different kinds of bad behavior.  Taoism provides a set of precepts on how to behave with one another.  The Ten Commandments also states how to behave with one another.  The preceding approach to ethics is based on looking outward on how to relate to one another. An alternative approach involves looking inward into oneself.  The four Moral Virtues of Aristotle is a classic historical example.  “Why Science and Faith Need Each Other” by Elaine Ecklund presents eight characteristics.   “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life” by Karen Armstrong is another current example.  These provide a basis for how science technology should or should not be used.  Ethics provides a way for humanity to be helped by emerging new technologies from science, not harmed.


Ian G. Barbour, “Religion and Science

Karen Armstrong, “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life”

Elaine Ecklund, “Why Science and Faith Need Each Other”

John Haught, “Science and Religion: from Conflict to Conversation”

Francis Crick, “The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul”

June 30, 2021 — The Ethics of Science Informing Theology

Gerry Wood

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Abstract. The two human endeavors: 1) the scientific development of information and understanding of the natural world leading to technology and 2) the development of scripture-based theologies leading to religious practices have in common that they include assumptions, processes and applications. Some would keep these endeavors and results completely separate to avoid conflicts; they cite differing content and purposes. Others claim that, if properly understood and interpreted, science and scripture-based theologies must describe the same reality since nature and scripture are taken to come from the same Source. Most scientists reject supernatural sources for their efforts and some believers reject the conclusions of science. Scripture-believing scientists face an ethical problem of whether to or how to share consensus scientific discoveries that challenge strongly-help beliefs. The difficult answer to this conundrum in a particular situation depends on motivation, expected reception, and caring.

July 7, 2021 — Scientific Constraints on the Existence of Adam and Eve

Charles “Chick” Keller

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Abstract. The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis has been the topic for numberless commentaries and even wise humor.  But were those two really the first humans and are we somehow tainted by their fall from grace?  Most scripture scholars hold that this story (as well as much of the early parts of Genesis) were not meant to be factual, but rather to send a deep (and somewhat poetic) message about human nature and our relation to the Creator. Yet it is clear from some passages in the NT that the writers, especially Paul, did indeed think this story was the actual account of how humans came to exist on this planet, and from that they (including St. Augustine and others) developed theological ideas of why humans act the way they do.  But, of course, if there were not first parents in the Genesis sense, their conclusions would not be entirely accurate. This talk will attempt to use science to get a more focussed idea of what the A&E story tells us.  It begins by showing evidence that there seems no place in human history for two such parents.  It will give information from both paleontology and DNA to support this conclusion,  It will end by asking what scenarios have been put forth to bring the scriptural account into consilience with the scientific evidence and what that might mean for how we view human nature and our relation with God.

July 14, 2021 — Christology without the ‘fall’: Do we need Adam and Eve? Impact on Jesus’ mission(s)

Morrie Pongratz

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Science poses a number of challenges to the Genesis account of Adam and Eve. If there was no “fall”, then, contrary to Saint Anselm, Jesus’s mission was not to atone for Adam’s sin.  Do we need Adam and Eve to understand Jesus?  Did Jesus have to die? Why?  What was Jesus’ mission?  Sacrifice, shepherd or pathfinder?  Does good science reveal a more potent mission?

July 21, 2021 — Adam and Eve’s origin and impact: How they fit into evolutionary history, why they are essential to religion, and how they enabled the explosive success of mankind. 

Gary Stradling

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Abstract. This presentation will show the Adam and Eve account to be scientifically plausible, essential to Christian theology, and understandable from both a scientific and a religious perspective.The scriptural accounts of the creation of mankind, and specifically, Adam and Eve, have been challenged by scientists and broadly misunderstood by theologians. There is a vantage, which provides a perspective, from which we can see how they came to be, not only as the capstone of God’s elegant and painstaking creation project, but empowered to develop their full potential for becoming His heavenly companions. It is a story of life and death. Implicit in the account are: the Creation of humans—day 6, the Creation of Adam and Eve—day 7, the purpose of the Garden of Eden within the rest the world, the presence of God and of Satan (the serpent), the significance of the two Trees, the revelation of Good and Evil, the Choice and the meaning of “free agency”, the Fall, the Savior, and redemption. I will explain The Gift: the Law prescribing relationships with God, with families, with a complex human society, without which humanity as we know it would never have come to be. 

July 28, 2021 — The History of Vaccines and the Christian Response to Vaccination

Glenn Magelssen

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Abstract. In this talk we’ll describe the different types of vaccines. The histories of smallpox, polio and the coronavirus will be emphasized. We’ll finish with a discussion of our human response and how it involves our faith ( religion ).

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