July 22: Intelligent Design Theory

Everyone who accepts the Hebrew Scriptures as revealed truth believes in intelligent design of the universe and its inhabitants. But, what is this Intelligent Design (ID) Theory? To its proponents, a few scientists and groups in the UK and US, it’s a scientific conclusion and method based on observations and logical deductions. To its detractors, including many scientists of faith and a Pennsylvania court, it’s not science and does not belong in science classrooms. This talk will explore these points of view and encourage each person to decide on the merits of the arguments.

GERRY (pronounced like GARY) WOOD came to Los Alamos on a postdoc after completing a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin. He retired after 35 years at LANL, working mostly in health and safety areas and specializing in respiratory protection from toxic gases and vapors. He has spent more than 12 years as a consultant with various U.S. Government agencies: CDC, EPA, Department of Labor/OSHA, and the U.S. Army. Since leaving LANL he has done independent studies including astrophysics, physics, and history of science and faith. Gerry has been a member of the Los Alamos Church of Christ for 46 years, the last 22 years serving as one of the elders there. You can find out more about Gerry at his website: GerryOWood.com .

Advertisements

July 15: Evolution as Our Origin

The presentation will cover the main areas of evidence in support of the theory of evolution of animal species, dividing the evidence into old (pre-20th century) and new (20th century to present) bodies of discoveries with emphasis that the new both adds to and supports the old. The evidence will include that covered in chapter 9 of Origins plus some related evidence and examples.

The evidence found in the fossil record of sedimentary rock, comparative zoology, and biogeography constitutes the body of evidence that was available to Darwin and his contemporaries prior to the 20th century. Highlights will include the Law of Superposition, the Law of Faunal Succession, the relationship between the malleus and incus of the human ear and the jaw of non-mammalian tetrapods, the roles of Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos Islands vs. that of other bird species on the mainland, and the roles of marsupials in Australia vs. the roles of placental mammals on other continents.

Recent evidence for evolution will center on genetics but will also touch on radiometric dating of sedimentary rock and the biochemical evidence (growth factor Bmp4) for the changes in the beak sizes of Darwin’s finches. The genetic evidence will focus upon the similarity of genes among all species and the diversity of genes within species.

A brief explanation of the comparative zoology and genetic evidence that refutes the concept of ‘common function’ will further demonstrate how both recent discoveries and older discoveries support the theory of evolution. The presentation will end with a brief description of three “old-earth” religious views of creation, asking whether or not they can be reconciled with the evidence that supports evolution.

About our presenter:

Dr. Bob Fuselier’s career as a veterinarian includes small animal and farm animal practice in North Carolina and Louisiana, volunteer work at a Honduran orphanage during the Contra War, microvascular research, and small animal medicine and surgery in Los Alamos.

Bob lives in Los Alamos with his wife, Susie, who’s also a veterinarian. They have three children and five grandchildren, the older of which often join Bob on his favorite pastime, hiking the trails around Los Alamos.

Bob’s desire to understand aggression in dogs and violence in people has fueled his interests in nonviolence and emotional neuroscience. He works with and/or supports educational systems and programs that promote tolerance and interconnectivity for students in Honduras, Israel, Afghanistan, and Los Alamos.

July 8: Evolution

The faith and science talk for July 8, presented by Nels Hoffman, deals with the idea of evolution, the meaning of the term, and various ways that Christians look at evolution. (Evidence for or against evolution will be discussed by a future speaker.) The term evolution has several meanings: (1) It can refer to adaptation, sometimes called microevolution, which is the phenomenon whereby the observed traits of living organisms, subject to random mutation and natural selection, change over time to enhance the organisms’ reproductive success, in the presence of some external stimulus. (2) Or evolution may refer to the observed changes in physical anatomy and body patterns preserved in the geological fossil record. (3) Alternatively, evolution may mean the concept that all past and present organisms descend genealogically from a common ancestor in a kind of family tree. (4) A fourth meaning of evolution is the scientific theory of evolution as originally defined by Charles Darwin in his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. He proposed that microevolution operating over long periods of time produced the anatomical changes and body types seen in the fossil record. (5) Finally, a fifth meaning of evolution is also called evolutionism, which is a world view that uses the theory of evolution to argue that life, and by extension the universe, is godless, meaningless, and without purpose. Christians respond to these ideas in several ways. Young-earth creationists reject most evidence for evolution in its meanings 2 through 5, accepting only microevolution as an actual possibility. This viewpoint supports the idea that all natural evil, carnivorous predation, and physical death are the consequence of human sin, as Romans 5:12 may be taken to suggest. Progressive creationists hold that the theory of evolution is partially valid, but incomplete, and that occasional supernatural intervention occurred in the history of life on Earth. Darwin himself realized there were possible objections to his theory, which he described in his book in Chap. 6, “Difficulties on Theory;” for example, it is problematic to explain organs such as the eye, in which many components would have had to evolve simultaneously. Progressive creationists claim that, while evolution may explain the origin of species, it can’t explain the origin of life, or even the origin of phyla (the different body plans), as observed in the Cambrian Explosion. Finally, evolutionary creationists accept the theory of evolution as a scientific model and as a valid means by which God brought into being the diversity of life on Earth. Theological and philosophical risks of the three Christian viewpoints are that: young-earth creationists reject much of science and the Liber Naturae, and hence may view God as deceptive in making a universe that looks old but is not; progressive creationists may be caught in a “God of the Gaps” trap and hence undermined by scientific advances; and evolutionary creationists risk lapsing into deism.

About our presenter:

Nelson Hoffman’s parents were missionaries in India, so he was raised in a religious home, but during the 1970s (his twenties) he drifted spiritually far away from his upbringing, dabbling in eastern religions and some unwholesome practices characteristic of the times. These distractions didn’t stop him from earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from Rice and a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Wisconsin, however, or from finding a job at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he continues to be employed as a physicist working on plasma physics, especially ion kinetics and high-energy-density plasmas. Over time, certain inner promptings, the raising of his children, and various authors led him back to his Christian roots.  For several years, he has been intrigued by the features of the universe referred to as “cosmological fine tuning,” the origin of life, and the origin of humanity, and their plausible links to the creative acts of the God of the Bible. During this time, he has found an important resource in the ministry Reasons To Believe (www.reasons.org). Recently, he has been studying the history of science, finding in the origin of modern science (that is, empirical mathematical science) a crucial role for Judaeo-Christian theology, together with Greek philosophy and Roman law, as described in the writings of Toby Huff (Chancellor Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth), Lawrence Principe (Drew Professor of the Humanities, Johns Hopkins University) and their predecessors. In the view of these scholars, one can almost say that without Christianity, modern science would not exist. Hoffman thinks this message can help alleviate some ungrounded fears that science and religion (Christianity, anyway) must be constantly in conflict.

July 1: A Finely Tuned Universe: its beginnings and dynamics

Scientific evidence suggests that the universe is very old, roughly 13.7 billion years and that it started with a “Big Bang”. Furthermore the physical laws are fine tuned in such a way that galaxies and stars can form allowing nuclear reactions to produce the energy that sustains the “starlight” we see. The sun is an example of a star that releases energy in a way that allows life on Earth. Scientific evidence will be presented that supports the universe’s age and its beginning. The physical laws will be examined to determine how they will provide for the universe we experience. How do we experience the motion of the earth? How does the vastness of the universe and the life of a star give insight into our own lives? 
 
Glenn Magelssen has a PhD from the University of Colorado. His scientific research has included solar physics, laser and ion beam fusion, neutral nets, code development and stockpile strewardship. He has studied theology most of his life and taken a four year course called EFM from the University of the South on Old and New Testament, Christian history and Christian Theology. He has been influenced by many authors including C. S. Lewis, Joseph Sitler, Walter Wangerin, Richard Feynman, John Steinbeck, Clarence Jordan and Paul Tournier.

June 24: Scripture and Science: Different Questions

Scripture and science are intended to address different questions.  The creation stories in the Bible are designed to answer the “who?” question: “Who created the heavens and the earth?” Science seeks to answer a different question: “How was/is the universe (being) made?” Bruce intends to explore this distinction in evaluating the “concordist” and “non-concordist” interpretations of Genesis 1.  This distinction is crucial because it can keep us from trying to use Scripture to answer scientific questions, and science to answer theological questions.  Bruce also plans to spell out how differing understandings of the reliability of the Scriptures leads to a “concordist” or a “non-concordist” understanding of Genesis 1.

 

Bruce Kuenzel is currently the Senior Pastor at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Los Alamos, where he has served for the past eleven years.  Prior to that he served to Lutheran congregations in Minnesota for twenty years.

Pastor Kuenzel has a undergraduate degree in history from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, IN; a Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO; a Master of Theology in Social Change and Pastoral Care from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN; and a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching degree from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. He is also a certified biblical storyteller through the Network of Biblical Storytellers.

He and Cynthia have been married for thirty-six years.  She teaches first grade at Barranca Mesa Elementary.  They have three grown child, two of whom are married, and two grandchildren.

June 17: God’s Word and God’s World in Conflict?

The discussion topic this week is “God’s Word and God’s World in Conflict?” presented by Chick Keller. The basic theme is how to reconcile important elements of religious thought with findings of science.

Chick’s main point will be the need to have religions make the crucial distinction that science does between truth and interpretation of it.  This liberates theologians from having to be ‘right’ and instead allows them to concentrate all knowledge on improving their interpretations of revelation.  We will discuss how to test the reliability of these interpretations since testing interpretations of revelation differs from testing science.  To put ‘meat on the bones’ Chick will give some examples starting with Galileo’s conflict with the Vatican.

One conclusion will be the challenge to theologians to give science (nature’s book as Haarsamas call it) equal standing with revelation in attempting to reconcile differing interpretations.

About Chick: 

Chick Keller was born into a Catholic Community.  He went to Catholic school for 12 years, where the nuns were wonderful and great teachers.

Chick decided to become a priest and went to Benedictine Monastery/St. Vincent College for four years—a splendid time of learning.  He decided that theologians didn’t pay enough attention to what science was trying to tell them,  but had recognized that there was a second Catholic tradition– that of the monastic system with its scholarship.  This made much more sense to him than the local parish tradition and still does.

Chick went to Penn State Univ. in physics and math, thence to Indiana University in Astrophysics for a PhD; thence to LANL (graduate work in 1967-8); hired in 1969—retiring in 2001 after career in computer modeling of fluid motions and administration of computer modeling in geoscience studies including climate change.  He is active at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church with its Vatican II reforms—music, teaching junior high students, support for poor in Northern N.M.  More recently he has influence from Buddhism as it enhances Christian thinking, as well as great admiration for Judaism especially as the basis of much Christian thinking.  He is enthusiastic about innovative thinking of other Christian denominations. He has done much reading in area of Religion and Science, especially interested in applying scientific methods and findings to Revelation.  For example, if quantum and chaos theories are correct, the Creator has made a world in which even the Creator can’t know the future in detail.  This rids us of problems like Predestination and points to our role in creating a future that is better than the present.

June 10: Worldviews and Science

Our summer faith and science series on Origins continues on June 10 with a presentation and discussion about worldviews and science. As individuals, we integrate our religious, political, and social beliefs along with the facts that we have learned by living in the world into a worldview that we answer life’s questions with. Science is also an organization of our observations and knowledge of the world. How do scientists; who come from a complete spectrum of faiths, parts of society, and walks of life; look at nature and the universe through their personal worldview glasses and arrive at the same conclusion?  How can science be explained to the public when they have an even broader spectrum of worldviews without the training in the area being discussed?  These questions will lead to a discussion of nature, the observations of nature, the scientific method, experiments, theories, and how our faiths are intertwined with pursuit of science.

Our presenter, Eric Ferm, has a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics and worked on fluid mechanics problems and analysis of problems and experiments involving fluids and dynamic solid movements at LANL for nearly 31 years. He was raised and has been a member in the Episcopal or Lutheran church all of his life life with a few occasions of wandering off, but music and an unfulfilled need vectored him back towards a spiritual path. In his words, “Although I have an analytic understanding of the world I have always felt that in some parts of life, analysis is of limited use to comprehend important things in life like love, hope, grief, etc.  They are revealed and understood more in a spiritual journey that my families, friends and church families have accompanied me on.  In times of life crises I have felt like my life was in a free fall with nothing to grab on to.  But as the situation became resolved and I was help by others in my grief and pains I have felt a buoyancy force in life that helps to support me and brings me to the surface, where I can again breath safely.  Understanding how faith and science are related is of interest to me because I believe you must use both to examine and understand the world we live in.”

A longer summary of the presentation follows under the “Read More” tag.

Continue reading June 10: Worldviews and Science