[asa] What Does it Mean to Be a Christian in the Sciences?

From: Rich Blinne <rich.blinne@gmail.com>
Date: Sun Apr 27 2008 - 20:33:46 EDT

Randy in his review of the movie Expelled said it would be successful
if it promoted meaningful dialog. I want to do precisely that.
Expelled proposes that Christians should be doing battle for truth,
justice, and the American Way, err, OK, doing warfare against atheism
and naturalism. If they fight back it just proves they are meanies and
not very nice people. But, is it really our purpose to be an adjunct
wing of a culture wars organization?

I am a proponent of the so-called fine-tuning argument, realizing it
does have some real limitations that George has ably laid out in front
of us. This argument appears to be a piece of common ground between
many if not most TE and ID proponents. It even produces some common
ground with young-earth creationists, but I don't think YECs realize,
however, that the same data that produces the finely-tuned constants
also requires a 13.6 billion-year-old Universe. For example, you see
the argument in both Privileged Planet and the Language of God. So,
making apologetics arguments is certainly part of being a Christian in
the sciences. My concern is that it has been made everything and I
would like to compare/contrast Gonzalez and Collins to show that.

I have already presented to this list evidence that ID appears to be a
science stopper. What do I mean by that? I mean that once you are
involved with ID your scientific output both inside and outside of ID
comes to a screeching halt. David O. brought up the example of the
ISCID journal which could be giving safe have to those who disagree
with the current demarcation of secular science. But they haven't been
publishing anything for a couple of years. This was supposed to be
the great research program promised by ID but nothing has come of it.
This also appears to be the case on a personal level for Dr. Gonzalez.
You will recall the graph I posted that showed Dr. Gonzalez' output
dropping like a rock after becoming a DI fellow. His only major grant
was the one from the Templeton Foundation -- a group dedicated to
supporting the intersection of faith and science -- which I thought
until yesterday was for writing Privileged Planet. I was wrong. While
the Templeton Foundation awarded Gonzalez the grant, the money was to
be used “to support scientific research on the dynamical and
compositional properties of the sun with respect to other local
stars.” In a June 29 letter to the Chronicle for Higher Learning,
Pamela Thompson, a vice president at the John Templeton Foundation
wrote:

> “Professor Gonzalez made it sound as if in some way the John
> Templeton Foundation had supported his study of intelligent design.
> This is not true. The foundation does not support research programs
> that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge.”

I am familiar with Gonzalez' pre-ISU papers and they were in the very
area he was funded for with the Templeton Foundation grant. So, if
NASA and NSF shut him down for being an ID proponent he could continue
his work with the Templeton Foundation money. But, as we know he used
the money to write his book instead. He did not continue his previous
research, nor did he get any NSF or NASA funding either or any other
funding sources used for the previous research. Of course, you do not
get that impression here where money is being asked from private to
support Gonzalez' research: http://www.freegonzalez.com/involved.html

I am really at a loss why this is happened. So, I will not make any
particular connection to ID here. This does appear to be a cautionary
tale of what happens when a agenda -- any agenda -- gets in the way of
the rest of our work. This is not to say that you cannot be greatly
involved with apologetics or any other worthy avocation. This is where
we come to Dr. Collins. Like Dr. Gonzalez, Dr. Collins wrote a book
with a heavy apologetic bent. At the same time, however, Dr. Collins
was able to run the Human Genome Project and able to apply his
Christian faith to his work. How? Let's go back to his 2006 ASA
keynote. Here he noted that how Christians were different -- or more
precisely ought to be different -- from our secular colleagues is the
ethics and morality we bring to the job. In Collins' case, his concern
was genetic discrimination. Collins has been single-handedly trying to
get Congress to pass this needed legislation over the last twelve or
so years. This persistence has apparently paid off. This week on DNA
day, the Senate passed the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act
after the House has. The President is expected to sign this. You can
hear an interview of Dr. Collins concerning this, here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89934197&ft=1&f=100

Dr. Collins is not alone here on how Christians apply their faith. The
general public I am afraid believes that Christians in science are
different in their worldview and thus the studies we do will look
different. To be honest, if I did a blind review of papers I would be
very, very hard pressed to tell the difference between a Christian and
secular scientist. On the other hand, what our faith brings is to the
"now what?" questions. Just because we can do something does not mean
it ought to be done. We also have an eternal time reference so we can
raise issues like Francis Collins did before they become a crisis. We
see other examples of this in the context of climate change with Sir
John Houghton and technology with Jack Swearengen. Unfortunately, when
we tried to reach students at Colorado State this February having Jack
talk we did not have nearly the crowd when Michael Behe came along.
This only reinforces to the next generation that the way to be a
Christian in the sciences is to ride a hobby horse until it drops
dead. I don't have an answer to the current problem of the
controversial trumping the substantive, save one example from Dr.
Collins. Persistence. It took Dr. Collins twelve years to make a
difference. Many examples in Scripture underly the need of
perseverance and were honored in the "Hall of Faith" chapter of
Hebrews. We must show the same faith and not weary in well-doing.

Rich Blinne
Member ASA

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Received on Sun Apr 27 20:34:42 2008

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