Posted by: Mr. C | October 23, 2009

Science and Faith Conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

I am currently in the middle of the conference and I decided to go ahead and post my notes from the conference thus far. I have enjoyed it and I think it is great that the speakers open up the floor for questions after each session. Please note that these are my notes and typos are likely to be found as I have not edited them. Also, the yellow highlights are courtesy of my typing the notes in Google Docs.


Science and Faith Conference

Session 1- Dr. Jay Richards
A Biblical Theology of Nature
  • Three Distinct Things
    • Intelligent Design (ID)
    • Natural Theology
    • Theology of Nature
  • ID
    • The activities of intelligent agency are sometimes detectable
    • Nature exhibits evidence of intelligent agency
    • ID is not robustly theological
      • It is not the claim that there is a God, but it is possible the some aspects of nature exhibit design. This is is the presupposition of ID so that it can remain open to the evidences of nature.
  • Natural Theology
    • “Theology is properly distinguished as natural and revealed. The former is concerned with the facts of nature so far as they reveal God and our relation to him, and the latter with the facts of Scripture.” -Charles Hodge
    • There are certain things you cannot learn about God without the text of Scripture, however you can also learn things about God by studying nature.
    • General and Special Revelation
    • Movement of the mind from the created order to certain theological conclusions
  • The book of nature (Ps 19: 1-4)
    • General (El)
    • Continuous
    • Abundant
    • Universal
    • In Scripture- Romans 1:20- “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
  • What about materialism?
    • “The Cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be.”- Carl Sagan
    • Sagan was attributing things that theology applies to God, to the cosmos
    • The theological answer to Sagan can be found in Romans 1:21 ff.
    • The created world clearly reveals something about the eternal qualities and divine nature of the creator.
    • Because of sin we attribute things that ought to be attributed to God, to the created order.
  • Theology of Nature
    • Themes
      • Creation and Contingency- The existence of the natural world is not necessary and is the result of the free choice of God
      • Imago Dei– Man is created in the image of God
      • Stewardship- We are part of the created order and are to care for it and will be held accountable for our care of it. Humans are a part of God’s created order and are not a parasite as radical environmentalists would have us believe
      • The Fall
      • The Trinity
      • Incarnation
Session 2- Dr. Michael Keas
The Role of Christianity in the Founding of Modern Science
Intelligent Design in Ancient Greek Science
  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Aristotle
  • We have pagans who espouse some form of intelligent design with the above Greeks
ID and the Early Church
  • Nature has certain features that can only be attributed to science
  • Theophilus– “God is known by his works and mighty deeds”
  • Tertullian– Argued that orderly celestial motions point to a “governing power”
  • Clement of Alexandria- Greek philosophy is “a stepping-stone to the philosophy which is according to Christ.”
  • Augustine- a Christian “should understand that wherever he may find truth, it in his Lord’s.”
    • He used Greek science to help interpret the Bible and also developed and contributed to Greek science
Creational Theology Stimulated the Growth of Science
  • Comprehensibitly of the World
  • Optimist and humility in knowing nature
  • The unity of heaven and earth- both heaven and earth decay
  • Nature has a qualified self-sufficiency due God’s granting of natural laws. It still depends upon God.
  • The university was a Christian invention
  • The scientific revolution was possible because of many discoveries made by Christians during “the Dark Ages”
Common Myths About Science and Christianity
  • Medieval churchmen thought the earth was flat
    • Medieval people know the earth spherical
    • This myth started with Washington Irving’s novel that portrayed Columbus fighting against the flat-earth theologians
    • The real debate with Columbus was not about the shape of the earth but about the size of the earth (he thought it was much smaller than it was)
    • No one before the 1830s believes that Medieval people thought the earth was flat. Defenders of Darwin wanted to put Christians to shame and called them “flat earthers
  • Copernicus wanted to remove Christians from the center of universe
    • Copernican principle- There is nothing special about earth and we have no purpose
    • The problem is that Copernicus did not believe in the Copernican Principle
    • Copernicus actually promoted earth. He promoted earth into the heavens. To the ancient Greeks the center, where the earth was located, was seen as a lowly location. Thus, Copernicus actually promoted earth from its place on bottom in Greek cosmology.
    • Kepler argued that the universe was designed for discovery. If the earth was the center of the universe, the triangulation for measuring the length between distant objects would not have been possible.
Christianity’s Role in the Origin of Origin Sciences
  • Two goals of science
    • How things work
    • How things originated
Conclusions about the Rise of Science
  • Christianity was a leading factor in the rise of modern science
  • Other religions contributed, especially Islam, but the accelerated growth of science since the 16th century took place within Christian cultures
Session 3- Dr. John West

The Rise of Scientific Materialism and Its Impact on Ethics and Culture

  • Origins
    • Dates back to the ancient Greeks
Darwin and the rise of scientific materialism
  • Darwin proposed a “designer substitute”
  • All things descended from a universal, common ancestor
  • All creatures are produced by a blind, impersonal material process of natural selection acting on random variations
  • “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”- George Gaylord Simpson
  • Darwin, in Descent of Man and his personal notebooks, describes what he believed to be the ramifications of his theory
    • Darwin and the problem of free will
      • “The general delusion about free will [is] obvious.”- Darwin did not believe his system allowed for free will. It was all hereditary and interactions with the environment that formed people and ultimately people have no free will. Ultimately this would make morality pointless because humans would ultimately have no real control.
    • Darwin and the origins of morality
      • Darwin argued that evolution lead to things like sympathy and the Golden Rule
      • Moral rules are ultimately determined by reproductive success
      • Morality was ultimately determined by natural selection
      • Acts that lead to survival of more healthy offspring became enshrined as moral rules
      • Problem- any practice in nature can be justified in this way. Whatever exists by definition must have contributed to reproductive success. Moreover, any time conditions for survival change, so do moral rules
    • Darwin and the Basis of Human Dignity
      • What is so special about humans?
      • “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties.” -Darwin
      • There are significant differences in the mental faculties of “men of distinct races.”- Darwin
      • Believed natural selection explained why racial inequalities should be expected
      • Darwin believed, in the Descent of Man, that black people were the closest to apes
      • Darwin believed it was fortunate that natural selection would kill off the weakest in society despite the best efforts of society to help save them and rehabilitate them
      • “Man like very other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence consequent on his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher he must remain subject to a severe struggle.”- Darwin, Descent of Man
Ideas Have Consequences
  • Crime and Punishment
    • What happens if people do accept Darwin’s view of free will as being a myth?
    • Leupold/Lobe case defended by Clarence Darrow- Darrow argued they murdered due to their “making” and the imperfectness of their “machine” thanks to hereditary issues
    • Fueled liberal crusades to abolish punishment and treat criminals more like patients to be cured (i.e. lobotomies)
  • Family life and sexuality
    • Darwin thought that marriage, like all human behaviors, is just another evolving product of the struggle to survive
    • Monogamous marriage might have made sense in 19th century England, but that does not mean it has always been that way or will continue to be that way
    • There is nothing sacrosanct about monogamous marriage as the preferred form of human mating
    • Alfred Kinsey was a Darwinian zoologist at Harvard- sexual ethics reduced to “normal mammalian behavior”
      • “The main trauma for molestation come from societies reaction to it.”
    • Floyd Martinson (Sex Education in the Eighties) suggested that molestation could be a positive experience the sexual development of children
  • Sanctity and value of life
    • Charles Davenport, Evolutionary Geneticist- Influenced eugenics movement
    • Eugenics- the self direction of human evolution
      • Did want the human race to be destroyed by bypassing natural selection and helping the weak
      • Eugenics was to help natural selection by improving human beings through breeding by encouraging the breeding of the genetically superior and discouraging the breeding of those deemed inferior
  • Impact of eugenics on public policy
    • Peter Singer- “The life of a newborn baby is of less value than the life of a pig or a chimpanzee”
Darwin and Religion
  • If Darwinian evolution is true, it makes atheism far more plausible
  • Richard Dawkins– “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”
“A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”- Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species– Dr. West used this to point out the mean-spirited and ad hominem attacks of Darwinists on ID people and how they go against even Darwin who would have encouraged a rigorous and intellectually honest debate.

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