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Calendar

12/7/2016
“Advancing Together: Cooperation and Creativity in Human Evolution,” Washington, DC

12/10/2016
“Telescope to Microscope: Perspectives on Science and Faith,” Boston, MA

12/10/2016
Vineyard's Men's Breakfast Meeting, San Dimas, CA

1/27/2017
“The Penultimate Curiosity: How science swims in the slipstream of ultimate questions,” Bristol, UK

2/4/2017
“The Big Questions: Richard Dawkins versus C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life,” Houston, TX

CWIS: Christian Women in Science
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Agnes Giberne: A Lover of Science

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Yesterday

 

 

"Look at that dim star, shining through a powerful telescope with faint and glimmering light. We are told that in all probability the tiny ray left its home long before the time of Adam.
There is a strange solemnity in the thought. Hundreds of years ago - thousands of years ago - some say, even tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago! It carries us out of the little present into the unknown ages of a past eternity."--Agnes Giberne (The Story of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, p. 104, published in 1898)

Agnes Giberne was born in 1845 in the state of Karnataka, India, where her father was in military service. Major Charles Giberne was directly descended from the nobleman Jean De Giberne who migrated to England in the seventeenth century. Agnes acquired her interest in science and the natural world from her father.

Agnes acquired her literary interest from her mother, Lydia Mary Wilson. She began to pen stories at age 7. She was a prolific British author who wrote fiction with religious themes for children and books on science for young people. Most of her writing was done before 1910.

 

From Giberne's bookSun, Moon and Stars

 

In the nineteenth century it was unusual for a woman to be involved in astronomy. Yet, Giberne became one of the most popular astronomy writers of her time. Through her writings she was able to present basic astronomy to children and women in the Victorian Age.

She was interested in many branches of science. In 1890, she became a founding member of the British Astronomical Association. In addition to astronomy, she also wrote on geology, oceanography, and meteorology. 
 
Her book Sun, Moon and Stars: Astronomy for Beginners was first published in 1879. The foreword was written by Charles Pritchard, a professor of Astronomy at Oxford University. The book was printed in several edition and sold 24,000 copies in its first 20 years. She wrote a sequel titled Radiant Suns (1894).

These were but two of many books written by Giberne in which she made science accessible to children and beginners. Other volumes include The Starry SkiesThe World's Foundations (Geology for Beginners), This Wonderful Universe, and The Upward Gaze.
 
Agnes was a devout Anglican. She wrote with the Catechism in mind. Some of her works were written for the Religious Tract Society.

Agnes Giberne's prayer is quoted in over 100 books published in the early 20th century:
Gracious Saviour, gentle Shepherd,
Children all are dear to Thee;
Gathered with Thine arms and carried
In Thy bosom may we be;
Sweetly, fondly, safely tended,
From all want and danger free.
Tender Shepherd, never leave us
From Thy fold to go astray;
By Thy look of love directed
May we walk the narrow way;
Thus direct us, and protect us,
Lest we fall an easy prey.‎
 
Agnes lived most of her life at 25 Lushington Road in Eastbourne, United Kingdom. She died 20 August 1939, at age  93.

 

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Hildegard von Bingen

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Sunday, November 6, 2016

 

 
Hildegard of Bingen
 


Hildegard of Bingen was the most significant woman in science in the 11th century. She was centuries ahead of her time. She excelled in science, medicine, Christian theology, and music. She is sometimes called the “Sibyl of the Rhine.”

She was born in Germany in 1098 and died in 1179. She was born during the first crusade, the youngest of 10 children. In noble families it was customary for the tenth child to be given to the church, so at age of eight she was given as a tithe to God. She went to live with the anchoress Jutta, a woman who withdrew from the word, living alone in a small enclosed area adjoining a church. The noble woman Jutta spend every day learning about God and praying. 

Hildegard served as Jutta’s maid and apprentice from age 8 to 18. Jutta taught Hildegard about Christ and how to serve him. When Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard was elected unanimously the abbess in charge of the monastery that was over 400 years old. She was a Benedictine nun, so she lived in obedience to the Rule of Benedict. This rule meant a daily life of prayer, work, study, and offering hospitality.

In 1148 Hildegard decided to move the convent to Rupertsberg, separating the women’s ministry from that of the men. This decision was opposed by her abbot, but in 1150, the new convent was founded and Hildegard was firmly in administrative control. The Rupertsberg convent grew to as many as 50 women, most of whom came from wealthy backgrounds.

As abbess, Hildegard’s duties included nursing, illuminating manuscripts, supervising the nuns, and travel in Germany and France. She also was in demand for her skills in helping the sick. 

Hildegard was perhaps the most prolific writer of her time. She wrote hymns, treatises, plays, and over 300 letters. Most of her hymns have been performed and recorded by the ensemble Sequentia. The ensemble continued to record all of Hildegard’s music, ending their “music of the saints” project in 1998, the year celebrating Hildegard's 900th birthday.

In her letters Hildegard gave spiritual advice to people of both high and low estate. She wrote to chastise Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and the archbishop of Main. She also wrote to St Bernard, King Henry II of England and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Abbess Hildegard was a strong woman, though she regarded herself as a paupercula feminea forma, or poor weak woman. She held her ground when church authorities tried to force her to exhume the body of an excommunicated nobleman she had permitted to be buried on the convent grounds. This happened when she was in her eighties. Hildegard defied the authorities by hiding the grave, and the authorities excommunicated the entire convent community. Hildegard appealed the decision to higher church authorities, and the interdict was finally lifted.

Hildegard suffered from extreme migraines, but luckily, she discovered the power of herbs that can calm nerves and relax muscles. Lemon balm, passion flower, catnip, and valerian are some of the herbs that she studied to discover some of their medical properties. She used plants from her own garden to do experiments and kept very detailed journals of all her experiments. 

Hildegard wrote her two treatises between 1151 and 1161. These are often referred to by their Latin titles, Physica and Causae et CuraePhysica describes the characteristics of elements, mammals, reptiles, fish, birds, trees, metals, and precious stones and medicinal uses of over 200 plants. In Causae et Curae Hildegard describes forty-seven diseases according to causes, symptoms, and treatments and lists over 300 plants used to treat diseases.

Her book Scivias (Know the Ways of the Lord) is based the book on the visions that she received from God since age three. Hildegard had shared her visions with only two people: Jutta and another monk, named Volmar. Volmar served as Hildegard’s secretary until her death. The process of writing this book was drawn out over 10 years. In 1147 Pope Eugenius encouraged Hildegard to finish Scivias and eventually it was published with papal imprimatur. The book drew the attention of many throughout Europe.

She also wrote the Book of the Merits of Life. The sections of the book concern the “Man Looking to the East and to the South” (Part 1); the “Man Looking to the North and the West” (Part 2), and the “Man looking Over the Whole Earth” (Part 5).

The Book of Divine Works (Liber divinorum operum) which was published in 1163. In this book she wrote, “Whoever has submitted to God with humble devotion and been set alight by the aid of the Holy Spirit overcomes both what is corrupted within themselves and the devil; the angels rejoice because of the good works of the just and praise God’s omnipotence.”

She also wrote, “The Son of God’s love crushed the devil with its Cross, and its imitation treads now under foot discord among God’s faithful, other vices, and that ancient deceiver of the human race, and reduces them to nothing.”

Hildegard died in 1179 and was buried in her convent church of Disibodenberg. The convent was destroyed by the Swedes in 1632 and her remains were moved to the parish church of Eibergen (Germany) in 1642.

She was a brilliant Christian woman who served others and left a great legacy. That legacy is being promoted by The International Society of Hildegard von Bingen Studies which was established in 1983 by Professor Bruce Hozeski of Ball State University. The Society has a public Facebook group for those interested in learning more about this outstanding woman of profound Christian faith.


Related: CONTINUUM: Hildegard - Sequentia - First & Last

 

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Mary Celine Fasenmyer

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Friday, November 4, 2016

 

Sister Celine is one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the 20th century and also one of the least known. She is most noted for her ground breaking work on hypergeometric functions and linear algebra.


Mary Celine Fasenmyer, Ph.D., RSM, was born in Crown, Pennsylvania on Oct. 4, 1906 to George and Cecilia Leight Fasenmyer. They were members of St. Mary Catholic Church in Crown, Pennsylvania. Her father owned an oil lease in Crown and he ran his own business from there. Mary's mother died when she was only one year old. Three years later George remarried Josephine.

Mary attended St Joseph's Academy in Titusville, a town about 30 miles from Crown. At St Joseph's Academy she exhibited talents in mathematics but there was no opportunity for her to go to the university and her step-mother Josephine was very sick, so she entered the St. Joseph Novitiate in Titusville on April 13, 1924 before graduating from high school. She began to teach and did so for the next ten years. She was sent to teach in Pittsburgh and during this time she studied mathematics and physics at the University of Pittsburgh.

The research she did during her doctoral studies became an item of interest among mathematicians in the early 1990s when advances in computer technology made her research practical.

Sister Celine was told by her community of nuns to go to the University of Michigan for her doctorate, which she did in 1942, earning her degree in 1946. Her thesis - "Some Generalized Hypergeometric Polynomials" - was written under the direction of Dr. Earl D. Rainville, who Sister Celine regarded as an extremely good teacher and mentor. Dr. Rainville dedicated a chapter in his textbook entitled, "Sister Celine's Technique" based on the research she had conducted. It is the intellectual progenitor of the computerized methods that we use today to prove hypergeometric identities, thanks to the recognition by Doron Zeilberger that her method can be adapted to prove such identities. The hypergeometric polynomials she studied are called Sister Celine's polynomials.

Sister Celine's doctoral thesis showed how one can deduce recurrence relations that are satisfied by sums of hypergeometric terms, in a purely mechanical ("algorithmic") way. She used the method in her thesis to find pure recurrence relations that are satisfied by various hypergeometric polynomial sequences. In a 1947 paper in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, she developed the method further, and in her paper On Recurrence Relations in the American Mathematical Monthly, she explained its workings to a broad audience [Volume 56 (1949), p.14, Abstract]. 

These papers were further elaborated by mathematicians Doron Zeilberger and Herbert Wilf into "WZ theory", which allowed computerized proof of many combinatorial identities. Before Sister Celine's work there was no pattern or algorithm to prove difficult identities. The power of her method was recognized by Zeilberger and Wilf who read her work and set about to test it using computers. There 1996 bok A=B devotes two chapters to Sister Celine's polynomials.

Zeilberger teamed with Herbert Wilf to enhance Sister Celine's technique. Zeilberger called Sister Celine's dissertation "a work of genius."

"Before her method came to light, mathematicians needed to spend months, sometimes years, to `prove' something," Zeilberger said. "Now, with computers, it takes a few seconds."

 
Ironically, Sister Celine had little interest in computers. She told the historian Larie Pintea, "Mechanical things don't interest me."

This modest genius once told a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "I don't think I'm proficient in math."

Sister Celine also did post-graduate study at Montclair State College, Michigan College of Mining and Engineering, and American University. In 1945 she became a professor of mathematics at Mercyhurst College and taught there until her retirement in 1979. From 1954 to 1960 she also served on the Mercyhurst College Board of Trustees.

Herbert Wilf, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, contacted Sister Celine in 1993. He went to the Mercy Mother House in Erie where she lived and invited her to attend a discrete mathematics conference in Boca Raton, Florida. The conference was attended by about 500 people from 15 countries. The diocese awarded her a travel grant and she was able to attend the conference. When Wilf introduced her from the audience, the 87-year-old nun rose to her feet and said she wished to make only two remarks. First, she wanted to thank Professor Wilf for the invitation. And second, she said, casting a level gaze at the distinguished mathematicians, "I want you all to know - I really did that work." It is reported that there wasn't a dry eye in the house.




She died on December 27, 1996 and was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Erie, Pennsylvania. Her grave is marked by the simple stone shown above. She served 73 years as a Sister of Mercy and taught for 34 years at Mercyhurst College.

"My whole aim in getting my doctor's degree was for the college," Sister Celine once explained to Dr. Wilf. "I didn't want to do more research, except what would help me to be a better teacher."

 

 

 

Tags:  Mary Celine Fasenmyer 

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High Altitude News from Vicki Best

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Monday, September 26, 2016

 

Greetings from 36,000 feet in the air! I’m currently in route from Boston to Los Angeles to meet Leslie and attend the STEAM conference on Catalina Island. It feels like just yesterday that I was making the same trip—only then I was traveling to attend the annual meeting at Azusa Pacific University (APU). Much activity has taken place on the ASA front since then, and I want to share with you some exciting and important developments.

1.  75th Anniversary Annual Meeting- We have just wrapped up a spectacular annual meeting at APU with a record attendance of 290, including 22 VIPs (40+ year members) and 57 students. We have received a lot of encouraging feedback, including “It was the best conference ever!” In addition to celebrating 75 years of God’s faithfulness, it was a special time of connecting and networking with fellow Christians in the sciences. If you have not yet done so, please check out the audio/video recordings of the excellent plenaries and break-out sessions here.

2.  STEAM Grant Award - Thanks to a STEAM (Science & Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries) grant from the John Templeton Foundation and Fuller Theological Seminary, Leslie and I are traveling around the country as part of our “local chapters campaign” to provide encouragement to existing chapters and to help launch new ones to further extend the work and mission of the ASA. If you are interested in partnering with us to start a new chapter in your area, please contact us directly. We look forward to seeing many of you in our travels.

3.  Two New ASA Local Chapters - We have just returned from a fabulous trip to Phoenix, Arizona, to help launch two new local chapters. With the leadership of ASA members, Ben Sanders and Daisy Savarirajan, we now have a local chapter at Arizona State University and one at Grand Canyon University. We are thrilled with this new development!

4.  75th Anniversary Dinner at Wheaton College - As we continue to celebrate ASA’s 75th anniversary in 2016, ASA is hosting another 75th anniversary dinner onTuesday, October 11, at Wheaton College under the leadership of Stephen Moshier and Ray Lewis. We are looking forward to a wonderful evening of highlighting ASA’s past, present, and future. If you live in the Chicago vicinity or plan to be in the area, we’d love to have you as our guests for this special, complimentary evening. We are also envisioning the event as a way to introduce and engage new people in the ASA, so please feel free to invite your friends, family, colleagues, pastors. Hereis a link to the invitation and registration form. 

5. 
NorCal Events in November- Leslie and I plan to be in the Bay Area of Northern California during the week of November 14 and have several special events in process. Please stay tuned for specific dates and details in the coming days. If you live in that area, we'd be delighted to connect with you then and hope that you can attend one or more of these meetings.

6.  Capital Campaign Update-  It was two years ago that ASA took a bold and strategic step by purchasing two office condominiums—picking up stakes after 33 years in Ipswich and making the move to neighboring Topsfield. This investment positions the organization for long-term financial stability by significantly reducing annual occupancy costs (by 75%) and building equity for the future. Simultaneously, we publicly launched a $150,000 capital campaign. To date, we have received $120,000 in gifts (leaving only $30,000 left to fundraise), and for that, we are most grateful. If you are interested in helping us reach our goal, you can make a gift here.

7.  ASA 2017: Annual Meeting in Colorado- Plans are already in full swing for our next annual meeting at Colorado School of Mines in beautiful Golden, Colorado. Please save the dates of July 28-31, 2017, and check out all the action-packed, important details here.

I believe these are exciting days for the ASA! God's hand of provision and blessing is clearly at work on many levels. We are so grateful for all of you partnering with us; giving of your time, talents and treasure on a regular basis.

We always enjoy hearing from you so please feel free to drop us a line at any time.

Until next time,

Vicki L. Best
Director of Operations and Development
American Scientific Affiliation
218 Boston Street
Suite 208
Topsfield, MA  01983
978.807.5189


Tags:  Vicki Best 

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Welcome Deb Shepherd

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Friday, September 23, 2016

 

From Lynn Billman

You know the story of why geese fly in a “V” shape?  As it’s been told to me over the years, the birds take advantage of the aerodynamics of flight and get a benefit in that formation from the slipstream of the bird ahead of them.  However, the lead goose has no such advantage.  And periodically, when it gets tired, the lead goose will move back from the lead, and another goose will take its place.

That is a good story to remember whenever you are overwhelmed with life. This past year, that has been true for me.  The American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) duties as president of the Executive Council have been more time-consuming than normal, with the changes inherent in seeing Randy off to retirement, hiring Leslie, expanding duties for Vicki, and dealing with the resignation and replacement of one of our Council members.  Before these changes, I agreed to be program chair for ASA 2017, the annual conference being held in Colorado, which requires a lot of early planning to select the best venue, the theme, and the plenary speakers.  As you can imagine, I have not had as much time for CWIS as I did the first three years.  Faith pitched in at a critical moment and organized our great panel at ASA 2016, and Pat and others helped at that conference too, for which I am very grateful.  But for me, the next year does not look much better -- I’m on Council for another 18 months and much has yet to be done for next summer’s conference.  As a result, I have had much angst over the fact that I haven’t been able to make much time for progress recently on new actions or activities.

But, God has His ways!  I first was introduced to Deb Shepherd when the CWIS concept was first in development, and while she was very interested, she quite honestly explained that she was just at the pivot point from a very successful career in engineering, astrophysics, and astronomy, to enter Fuller Seminary, and would not have any spare time.  At the ASA conference in Azusa this summer, Deb and I found each other again.  She graduated in June from Fuller, and is ready to reach out for new God-given adventures.  I was thrilled!  It seemed / seems like an answer to my prayers.

Deb has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for lighting a fire under CWIS and making a difference in the lives of Christian women in the sciences, students and beyond.  Just as importantly, she is at a position in life to make some time for this important organization. After a discussion with the other CWIS Board members, we decided to invite Deb to take over leadership of CWIS, effective immediately.

I won’t go into the interesting details of Deb’s career here, but you can find that at the CWIS blog.  Deb and the CWIS Board are currently considering new actions and activities that would be beneficial to our mission to help Christian women in the sciences and related areas.  Shortly she will take over this periodic communication with you all, and invite you into the conversation as we develop new ideas and actions together!  You can reach her any time at dshepher@gmail.com . 

I will still be on the Board, to help out and support.  I think / hope that will be doable for me, because I remain as dedicated as ever to the real issues faced by women in the sciences and our unique challenges as Christians. So this isn’t good-bye, just the time for me to slide back into the slipstream. Please send an email of welcome to Deb, our lead goose now, whenever you can!

 

Tags:  CWIS  Debra Shepherd  Lynn Billman 

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Technology Preserving Dying Languages

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Wednesday, September 21, 2016

 

There are many endangered languages in our collective linguistic radar. Some of them have been covered here before and some haven’t. In 2007, Joshua Hinson of Chickasaw heritage, identified that his language was one the brink of extinction. Rather than blaming technology as contributing source to language loss, Hinson embraced the opportunity to use technology to help save his language.

 

When Hinson saw that his ancestral Chickasaw language was disappearing, he decided to help build an online presence and create a smartphone app to make the language accessible.

 

Hinson used the internet to build an online presence for his tribe. This has been done before, as recently as in 2012 when Google embraced theEndangered Languages Project. Hinson almost a poured a decade into theChickasaw Language Revitalization Program, and by now knows enough Chickasaw to hold conversations as well as to read and write. As I understand it, at 32 years old, he is youngest member of the language to speak fluently, the next youngest member is 62.

 

Read the full article here.

Tags:  Linguistics 

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CWIS Welcomes Deb Shepherd

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

 

Image result for Photo of Debra Shepherd Astronomer

The American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) and Christian Women in Science (CWIS) are pleased to announce that the leadership of CWIS has passed from our first President and Founder Lynn Billman to Dr. Debra Shepherd. Deb began her career as a research engineer and spent 10 years working on space-based sensors and training NASA astronauts for Space Lab shuttle missions while getting a Masters degree in astrophysics. She earned a Doctorate in Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin.

For 17 years Deb worked as an astronomer and project manager at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), researching star and planet formation and helping to build and commission radio telescopes in the USA, Chile and South Africa.

Deb recently completed a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and serves as a science and English teacher at the Learning Works Charter School in Pasadena, California.

She also serves as a deacon in the United Methodist Church. Last summer she worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help Katanga Methodist University develop a strategic plan and help build a high school in the village of Muleji.

Dr. Shepherd has a great vision for the future of CWIS and she will share some of her thoughts in a post scheduled to appear next week.


The American Scientific Affiliation and Christian Women in Science are please to announce that the leadership of CWIS has passed from Lynn Billman to Deb Shepherd. Deb holds degrees in physics and earned a Doctorate in Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin. She began her career as a research engineer and spent 10 years working on space-based sensors and training NASA astronauts for Space Lab shuttle missions while getting a Masters degree in astrophysics.

 

For 17 years she worked as an astronomer and project manager at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), researching star and planet formation and helping to build and commission radio telescopes in the USA, Chile and South Africa.

 

Deb recently completed a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and serves as a science and English teacher at the Learning Works Charter School in Pasadena, California. She is a deacon in the United Methodist Church. Last summer she worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help Katanga Methodist University develop a strategic plan and help build a high school in the village of Muleji.

The American Scientific Affiliation and Christian Women in Science are please to announce that the leadership of CWIS has passed from Lynn Billman to Deb Shepherd. Deb holds degrees in physics and earned a Doctorate in Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin. She began her career as a research engineer and spent 10 years working on space-based sensors and training NASA astronauts for Space Lab shuttle missions while getting a Masters degree in astrophysics.

 

For 17 years she worked as an astronomer and project manager at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), researching star and planet formation and helping to build and commission radio telescopes in the USA, Chile and South Africa.

 

Deb recently completed a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and serves as a science and English teacher at the Learning Works Charter School in Pasadena, California. She is a deacon in the United Methodist Church. Last summer she worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help Katanga Methodist University develop a strategic plan and help build a high school in the village of Muleji.

The American Scientific Affiliation and Christian Women in Science are please to announce that the leadership of CWIS has passed from Lynn Billman to Deb Shepherd. Deb holds degrees in physics and earned a Doctorate in Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin. She began her career as a research engineer and spent 10 years working on space-based sensors and training NASA astronauts for Space Lab shuttle missions while getting a Masters degree in astrophysics.

 

For 17 years she worked as an astronomer and project manager at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), researching star and planet formation and helping to build and commission radio telescopes in the USA, Chile and South Africa.

 

Deb recently completed a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and serves as a science and English teacher at the Learning Works Charter School in Pasadena, California. She is a deacon in the United Methodist Church. Last summer she worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help Katanga Methodist University develop a strategic plan and help build a high school in the village of Muleji.

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New Ways to Look at Science and Religion

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Monday, August 29, 2016

  

At her blog Science and Belief, Dr, Ruth Bancewicz reports on the Faraday Summer Lecture on Human Origins with Mark Harris, Senior Lecturer in Science and Religion at Edinburgh University. He started by showing a picture of his two favourite workplaces. At the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire he focused in on nature in its finest details, and at the Edinburgh Divinity School he’s now involved in looking up to the heavens and asking very broad questions. Harris spoke about the relationship between science and religion, asking whether there is a clash of worldviews between the two. 

Science may have changed the way we read the opening chapters of Genesis, but we still need to respect the historical integrity of the text. This was Mark Harris’s reflection as he opened his lecture on The Bible and Human Origins  at the Faraday summer course last month. When it comes to questions of human identity and where we came from, the focus for most Christians is on the first three chapters of Genesis. Harris spent his talk looking at different interpretations of this text – especially the story of the fall – and the questions those interpretations raise for both science and faith. 

Harris started out by saying that both science and religion are almost impossible to define in general terms. Dictionary definitions of religion never seem to capture the experiences of ‘the other’, of community, or dealing with the hard facts of life that are so important for him in Christianity. Definitions of science are also slippery because there are so many different methodologies to include that it becomes difficult to summarise them in a meaningful way. This is reflected in his own view of science and faith, which he gave at the end of the lecture.

The most common models for the relationship between science and religion are conflict, independence, dialogue and integration. These were the four categories used by Ian Barbour, who was one of the founders of the field of science and religion. Conflict tends to be promoted by those who shout the loudest – the people whose agenda is to diminish the importance of the other side – whether it is science against religion, or religion against science. Independence was promoted by the late palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who wanted a clear separation between science and religion. Is this what is being embraced by some Christians when they say that science and religion are different sides of reality, or ask different types of question? Perhaps not, but this is one place where we need to be careful about the words and definitions we use.

Dialogue suggests that science and religion can learn from each other, as they did in the past when an education in natural philosophy (as science was called back then) was a step on the way to a career in theology. We still assume that there are laws in nature and that the world can be understood in a logical way, even though the theological arguments behind those things have been forgotten. So can dialogue still happen, building on this heritage?

The idea of integration probably sounds wacky to most natural scientists, but there are other ways of viewing science and religion besides these four. Perhaps a more helpful way of seeing the two might be complexity, which is based on the work of the historian John Hedley Brooke. In his book, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, he pointed out that science and religion are “social activities involving different expressions of human concern, the same individuals often participating in both”.

One of Harris’s favourite models for relating science and religion is what he has calledprophetic conflict, based on the work of the philosopher Willem B. Drees. In Religion and Science in Context, Drees writes that the academic field of science and religion is a product of secularisation, and is driven by conflict – but conflict can sometimes be a good thing. He says that religion should have a ‘prophetic’ dimension, pointing to a better world and offering a critical perspective. If religion holds science to account in a healthy way, conflict is inevitable from time to time.

For Harris, science and religion cannot be neatly pigeonholed into a single model. Our views may change many times over the course of our lives (Darwin’s certainly did!), and different aspects of science and religion may also relate in different ways. He started his lecture by talking about worldview, or a personal philosophy of life. For him, the doctrine of creation makes sense of both science and religion. If the world had a beginning, if it was made from nothing, and if it relies on God for its continued existence, then all the sciences have the same starting point. So although our views about the relationship between science and religion may be constantly changing as we go through life, this may be a way of bringing them all together and making sense of them.

Reprinted with permission.

Tags:  Mark Harris  Ruth Bancewicz 

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Christians in Science and Math

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Sunday, July 31, 2016

 



Erasmus 1466-1536
Nicholas Copernicus 1473-1543
Francis Bacon 1561-1627
Galileo Galilei 1564-1642
Johannes Kepler 1571-1630
George Washington Carver 1864-1943

Roger John Williams (1893–1988) was Christian and a biochemist who named folic acid and discovered pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5). He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and President of the American Chemical Society. He founded and directed the Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas (now called the Biochemical Institute). In 1972, he served as a member of President Nixon's Advisory Panel on Heart Disease.

Roger's older brother, Robert Runnels Williams (1886–1965), also was a Christian and a chemist who discovered the cure for Beriberi. In 1936 Williams made the correct structural determination of vitamin B1 and designed a synthesis for it. Williams named vitamin B1 “thiamin” and submitted it for addition to the American Medical Association’s publication New and Non-Official Remedies. The American Chemical Society added an e to the end of the name to reflect the amine nature of the vitamin. Thiamine is found in whole-grain cereals, meats, yeast, and nuts and acts as a cofactor in the enzymatic reaction that breaks down carbohydrates, alcohol, and some proteins.

Robert and Roger were the sons of pioneer missionaries to India. Their only sister, Alice Williams Linsley, was a Professor of Philosophy at Redlands University in California.

Women should be portrayed equally in images such as the one above. Women scientists of the Christian Faith include:

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799)
Mary Anning (1799-1847)
Agnes Giberne (1845-1939)
Sister Mary Celine Fasenmyer (1906-1996)
Rhoda Hawkins (living)
Anne Marie Thro (living)
Leslie Wickman (living)
Jennifer Wiseman (living)

Today there are more opportunities for women to receive the education and training necessary to advance in the many fields of science. It has been claimed, however, that in the past women played a minimal role in Science and the contribution of Christian women is even more minimal due to male dominance in the Church. While science has certainly been dominated by men, there is no doctrine or tradition in Christianity that inhibits women from being involved in science. If men have dominated, it is because in centuries past they were the ones who received the more advanced education.

It is also likely that the contributions of women in science and technology have been overlooked rather consistently by both secular historians and Christian historians. If the historian is looking for inventions and discoveries that bring about paradigm shifts, they will miss the contributions of many women. For centuries, women were discovering the healing properties of plants (phytomedicine), experimenting in chemistry to create dyes (remember Biblical Lydia?), and exploring methods for creating fibers and developing textile technologies. They invented things like buttons and butter churns, but these do not lead to paradigm shifts, only to an improved quality of life.

 

 

 

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Live Streaming: Catch the Plenary Talks

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Saturday, July 16, 2016

         

 

 

The plenary talks will be live-streaming for those who are not able to attend the Annual Meeting at Azusa Pacific University. ASA Fellow Terry Gray will record and live-stream all the plenary talks. Join us virtually online at this link:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/asa-tv

 

Tags:  annual meeting 

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