Week in Review: Science, Religion, and Waffles Edition

Welcome to this week’s Week in Review! If you have your own link or suggestion, please add it to the comments, or email it to Tom or Mike.

From Tom

I received a forward of the First Things online survey of religion at America’s colleges and universities. What do you think of online surveys?  Below’s the point of the survey First Things online survey.   Question: Do you have any stories to share, like the one in the comments section, i.e., Seal of approval? Presence of Moses on KU symbol gives rise to burning questions.

We’d like to come up with a list of schools that provide (1) a solid academic training, (2) a diploma that will mean something at the end of day, and (3) an environment where faith, if not actively supported, is at least approved of and not discouraged inside and outside the classroom.

The Motivated Belief of John Polkinghorne (Edward B. Davis, First Things, 7/17/2009) came to my attention after reviewing the First Things online survey of religion at America’s colleges and universities. If you’re not familiar with Polkinghorne, a world-class mathematical physicist who resigned his chair at Cambridge in mid-career to study for the Anglican ministry, Davis encourages you to swing by here. Davis summarizes Polkinghorne’s overall message as:

Science cannot provide its own metaphysical interpretation. As he says with typical precision, “Physics constrains metaphysics, but it no more determines it than the foundations of a house determine the precise form of the building erected on them.” This is especially true in a post-Newtonian world characterized by greater epistemological humility. “The twentieth-century demise of mere mechanism,” he says, provides “a salutary reminder that there is nothing absolute or incorrigible about the context of science.” Some questions lie “outside the scientific domain,” and here “theology has a right to contribute to the subsequent metascientific discourse.” Anyone familiar with the writings of such preachers of scientific atheism as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, or Christopher Hitchins will immediately appreciate the very different world in which Polkinghorne dwells. “The tendency among atheist writers to identify reason exclusively with scientific modes of thought,” he notes pointedly, “is a disastrous diminishment of our human powers of truth-seeking inquiry.”

Theology in turn has something to say to science. “Science offers an illuminating context within which much theological reflection can take place, but in its turn it needs to be considered in the wider and deeper context of intelligibility that a belief in God affords. …”

P.S.  Do you agree/disagree with Pace’s cartoon The Descent of the Modernists, see The Motivated Belief of John Polkinghorne?

While visiting Pittsburgh last week, I came across The Waffle Shop (connected with Carnegie Mellon University).  Due to it’s limited hours and my packed schedule, I wasn’t able to visit. Reading up (6/27/09 post and A Reality Show) and watching video at The Waffle Shop [Note:  Inappropriate content to a number of the clips. Viewer discretion advised], I was struck by what an environment this would be to share the Word/Life of Christ!  Do other campuses have similar experiments  …

The Waffle Shop is an experimental platform for media production and public dialogue that combines a restaurant with the production of a talk show directly on the premises.

At Waffle Shop, our customers are also our stars, as we film each night, inviting interested patrons to express their unique opinions and personalities. These recordings are streamed live through this very website during our open hours, and then produced into episodes which are broadcast publicly 24 hours a day in the windows of the storefront, and made available through our online archive.

Upcoming plans include: a changeable analog phrase system designed for the vacant billboard space above the shop, a live weekend world news show, an independent record label that produces and distributes music recorded live during our nighttime show, and a weekly radio show.

From Mike

Silicon Brains (WSJ) – I love science writing. I just can’t get enough of it.  Here’s a very interesting look at the “Blue Brain” project at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Henry Markram’s team is attempting to replicate a rat’s brain in a computer, but that’s only the beginning.

The scientists behind Blue Brain hope to have a virtual human brain functioning in ten years — a lengthy time period that underscores the scientific challenge. The human brain has 100 billion neurons that send electrical signals to each other via a network of at least 100 trillion connections, or synapses. How could this dizzying complexity ever be recreated in a virtual model?

I’m not so sure that ten years to recreate the human brain is all that “lengthy,” but that’s just me.  Many questions struck me as I read this article. How would John Sommerville’s question of the human consider this project? If Blue Brain is successful, could it be considered positronic? Could the brains of rats – though cats would be better – pilot the next generation of spacecraft? Is the beginning of reality for Ray Kurzweil’s vision?

Post-Tenure Review (Chronicle) – Kevin Brown of Lee University revisits a pseudonymous essay he’d written while preparing for tenure, both whether his expectations met reality and how the essay itself impacted his tenure review.

Science and Religion – A couple of good articles from Books & Culture about science religion.  First, “Squaring God’s Books,” a review by Timothy J. Burbery of The Word and the World: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Science, a collection of essays that examine the change in how Christians read the Bible in the 16th and 17th centuries and how that affected (or didn’t affect) the rise of modern science. The book opens with an essay by Peter Harrison, who was mentioned in an earlier Week in Review.

From the Community

Also from Books & Culture, JTG points us to a conversation between Karl Gilberson and Francis Collins about science, religion, evolution, and other matters. Mike’s comments on the article: Very interesting reading, and a good introduction to both men, though I wish B&C had arranged a conversation between Collins and someone a little bit more removed from Collins’ inner circle. (Gilberson sits on the board of Collins’ new Biologos Foundation.) Gilberson raises the question of whether Collins has been fair to the ID movement, but Collins could have been pushed much harder on that issue.

JTG also directs us to an editorial by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post about Collins’ appointment to be Director of the NIH in which Gerson calls Collins “Obama’s Scientific Peacemaker.”

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Micheal Hickerson

The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.

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One Comment

  • bsaontheloose@yahoo.com'
    Sergey commented on August 1, 2009 Reply

    I read a little bit about Biologos and I pray for it to be questioned and for God to reveal the reality of the idea.

    The idea basically says that God used evolution to create this world and thus this world is progressing because of it.

    Being in Philosophy, I fully understand what it is like to use your mind and even justify our “rationalize” God’s creation but when I prayed for revelation of evolution being used by God he showed me how logically it does not work.

    He had me write a logical analysis on it:
    Evolution says that things changed over time and advanced however God showed me that things are degrading because of sin.

    According to Him,
    Once sin came into the world, animals, plants, and even humans had their defense mechanisms triggered and the earth was decaying.

    Before Sin, everything God created was good and righteous.

    If everything was good according to Him nothing changed and developed or digressed. It was Good.

    Thus biologos does not confirm the word because Biologos says that the good God confirmed in the beginning is wrong.

    God is right and pure. Everything he says comes to pass and is complete.
    God created the earth and it was complete and good.

    I encourage Francis Collins to ask the Lord to help him in understanding God and his nature so then he understands Science through God’s lens not man’s.

    I believe if Francis opens his mind and heart to God then Francis will know the truth to Creation.

    God’s revelation he revealed to me and many others makes so much more sense and it is so logical and reasonable that you will be amazed.

    I encourage those who want to know the reality of creation to know the truth of creation.

    God is never wrong. When we create man’s understanding, it is more likely incorrect.

    We need to see the Holy Spirit’s wisdom of creation not man’s wisdom.


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