Re: History and ASA

From: Jack Haas <>
Date: Thu Nov 17 2005 - 11:38:24 EST


On the matter of history - it might might be well to mention the
"history" of what constituted an ASA member and ASA Fellow. I have
become more aware of this in scanning the early/ /ASA Newsletters/ /for
posting to the ASA web site.

 From the very beginning, requirements for membership were contentious.
ASA was modeled more-or-less after the British Victoria Society. We
wanted to be seen as part of the scientific community and emphasized our
scientific respectability. Regular members and the fellows were
expected to be "practicing scientists (engineers) with emphasis on "men
of science." The science/religion field was much less developed in the
40s and 50s and scientists were inclined to think they could do it all.
They soon found that such was not the case and the rules were soon
broken as R. Laird Harris, Bernard Ramm, Harry Leith and others in the
humanities joined in to help shape the understanding of scientists who
had little background in theology, philosophy, history and sociology of

Early in the 60s, the ASA council broadened the membership to admit
those who had a degree in a science/math field in their background even
though they might be in a non-science related vocation. Fellow
requirements have similarly changed over the years as the culture of
science has broadened and new disciplines found importance in
science/faith consideration. I like the statement at the masthead of
the ASA Web Page.

"The *American Scientific Affiliation* (ASA) is a fellowship of men and
women in science and disciplines that relate to science who share a
common fidelity to the Word of God and a commitment to integrity in the
practice of science."

The /ASA Journal/ of the 90s saw a new emphasis on HPS that continues today.

The cutting edge discussion of science/faith questions has largely
moved away from the chemists, engineers, biologists and physicists of
the early ASA to those with double degrees that include
history, theology, philosophy and sociology as well as one in science.
This is disturbing to bench scientists who find themselves excluded from
the discussion. Yet, it is the bench scientist that witnesses to his
neighbor and brings discussion of faith/science to the church. It is
still the bench scientist who knows the pleasure of searching out the
ways of God in nature.

Jack Haas

Ted Davis wrote:

>>>>"George Murphy" <> 11/16/05 8:34 PM >>>writes:
>Since this is an ASA list it's relevant to point out that the constitution
>of the ASA (Article III, Section 2, c.) includes "history" in its broad
>definition of science for purposes of membership.
>Ted comments:
>I've actually been asked about this very thing--the inclusion of history as
>among the relevant disciplines for the ASA--and here is what I think.
>First, I do not know the history of the "history", if I can put it that way.
> Mark Kalthoff might, but I don't. I'm prepared to bow before the facts, if
>someone actually unearths them. The rest of my response is speculative,
>although in the absence of further information I think it's a very
>reasonable speculation.
>My suspicion is, that history was included b/c it was once considered by
>many in academe as a branch of social science rather than as a branch of the
>humanities--which is how it is usually seen today. My own view is the
>modern one, that history is in the humanities rather than the social
>sciences. I do not see history per se as part of the ASA umbrella, despite
>the fact that "history" is there. History of science clearly is part of the
>umbrella, however--indeed, I would argue (no surprise) that HSC is either
>the single most important discipline for the modern religion/science
>conversation (in support of that, let me note that when the Templeton
>foundation sought out model courses on science and religion to use in their
>course program several years ago, 3 of the 5 models they chose were taught
>by historians of science) or at least one of the 2 or 3 most important
>disciplines. But I won't take that one further here, I think most ASAers
>would fully agree that HSC is vital to the ASA. Intellectual history, which
>some regard as a dying specialty (I don't, but it might be seriously ill),
>is often relevant to ASA's concerns.
>Philosophy of science likewise, but philosophy per se is IMO more relevant
>to the ASA than history per se.
>All this having been said, some important ASAers are/have been historians,
>and not historians of science. Just to pick two obvious examples: the late
>W Stanford Reid was a good reformation scholar who knew a lot about Calvin
>and science (of much relevance to the ASA), and Ed Yamauchi is an excellent
>ancient historian (and his knowledge of the biblical world is surely
>relevant to the ASA).
>So, one can make a good argument that historians (undifferentiated) ought
>to be included.
>On a larger issue, however, I really do wonder why we bother to indicate
>which disciplines belong and which don't. Isn't the real issue simply one's
>own interest in participating in the ASA? I entirely support a specifically
>Christian statement of faith for membership, but the disciplinary thing
>seems quite irrelevant to me here in 2005. If a carpenter or a secretary or
>an elementary schoolteacher or a homemaker wants to join the ASA, read the
>journal, and/or attend our meetings, why in the world would we want to keep
>him or her out? Obviously such persons would not (in most cases, not quite
>all) be qualified to lead the organization or to contribute to PSCF, but if
>they perceive a benefit worth paying the dues for, why should we not welcome
>them into the organization? I am not worried about a potential "swamping"
>effect, in which people with relatively little knowledge of science try to
>influence opinions in such a way as to drive away professional scientists--I
>doubt that such people would be attracted to the ASA in the first place.
>Rather, let us enhance our opportunities to provide leadership on important
>issues, leadership first to the body of Christ and then to our secular
>This isn't a "campaign promise," but it's something I want to push for if I
>get onto the council.
Received on Thu Nov 17 11:40:20 2005

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