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Vibrant Dance: Communicating Science and Science/Theology Issues

There were three panel discussions at the conference, one on Wednesday morning, and two on Thursday morning, of which this is the first. I was generally able to summarize each statement made by each speaker, and so will present these as summarizing transcripts. Each speaker will be identified by their initials, listed after their name below. The listing below comes as presented in the symposium program. My comments will be bracketed.

This panel was entitled, “Panel Discussion and Q&A with Speakers: The Vibrant Dance of Faith & Science:  Communicating to our Churches, Communicating to our Cultures –Science and Science/Theology Issues,” and was moderated by Andy Crouch (AC). Panelists were Deborah Haarsma  (DH), Rob Norris (RN), Dinesh D’Souza (DD), Darrel Falk (DF), Hugh Ross (HR), Stephen Meyer (SM) and Ross Hastings (RH). {I apologize for all of the D’s, H’s and R’s! ugh!}

Start transcript summary.

Missed AC’s intro—apparently a survey that only 2% of scientists are evangelical. “How can we raise it?”
DF—We can’t convey an opinion that biology is fundamentally flawed—this is a missional issue as opposed to a scientific one
HR—Take a different survey:  instead of looking for evangelicals in science, look for those who respect the Bible
AC—True—what can we do to redeem the term “evangelical?”
RN—Teach Christian students in Christian schools not to be afraid of science. They also need to recognize there is a diversity of approaches to science/faith. This will discourage the defensive mentality we see among those coming from Christian schools.
SM—Christian colleges should look at teaching models with flexible schedules to allow for research. The Discovery Institute has a research fellow program and try to help faculty at Christian colleges buy out a teaching schedule to allow research. We also have summer research institutes. Christians in academia and clergy should pay attention to the rising generation of scholars and mentor/nurture them.
DF—I believe strongly in Christian colleges. In effect, he seems to disagree with SM on balancing mentorship with research—taking SM’s comment to mean replacing mentorship with research
SM—Corrects impression—there is a need for Christian PhD granting institutions, also, not in place of Christian undergraduate only institutions.
AC--How can this group {the panel} interact with what’s going on at Christian colleges?
DH—Likes the current system of Christian colleges, but also sees need for Christian students in secular institutions—pastors can encourage students to be Christian scholars anywhere.
AC—{New topic} Instructed panel to offer ways to stay relatively well informed on new frontiers in science (WITHOUT referring to their own websites/books!) {jab at RTB in particular, who tend to mention a topic in passing, then send folks to their materials for the details before going to the next topic and doing the same thing. I understand they have such a vast amount of material and they give very similar talks repeatedly and it saves time. I get that, but they make such references so often, it becomes annoying to hear over and over and…GREAT folks, though! I recommend their stuff. Seriously.}
DD—The challenge for Christians is to be bilingual in secular culture. We think culture is made from the ground up, but it is often from the top down, especially in science, so we need to influence the influencers. Also, we tend to go from science to nature, rather than the other way around at times. Finally, we need to have ‘interpretive modesty.’ {i.e.-we should not be dogmatic about our interpretation, either of Scripture or the book of nature. Being tentative draws people in to examine our claims to see if they are true, rather than beating them over the head with them.}
HR—In his churches, they focus on teaching not preaching and they deal with controversial issues, which draws in unbelievers. Agrees with DD on top down—we need to engage the top scientists.
RN—As a pastor, he meets with the scientists who do keep up with the developments and has them give him a précis on what is going on, but pitched at his level. He needs to understand the issues so he can encourage others to face them.
DH—See the ASA journal on current science and faith. {ASA: American Scientific Affiliation—an association of Christian scientists}
AC—{New topic} DH’s husband has an article at that gives 4 myths about ID and 4 about theistic evolution. Why don’t’ these issues engage both the scientific community and the faith community?
DH—Astronomy is starting to improve in this area. Women aren’t interested in the interface because few women are in either/both clergy and science. Also, they don’t see hard science as relevant or able to help people. {Comment based on general idea that women tend to be primarily concerned with compassion issues as nurturers.}
DD—sees this as a non-issue—the big issue is why evangelicals in general are drastically underrepresented in all areas of elite society. He calls for a well thought out strategy to infiltrate and engage debates legally and politically, not affirmative action. He objects to science books including metaphysical statements.
AC—Science and the church are some of the most diverse in society, yet the interface between them seems to be most interesting to European males.
HR—Are we merely dealing with demographics—are women are committed to supporting it, but maybe as a support role rather than reading the journals themselves?
DF—Sees origins as more of a hobby area than area of priority.
DH—True—people more concerned about evangelism than apologetics.
HR—Apologetics is part of evangelism.
DD—Do we meet needs of body or engage culture?
SM—ID does attack the foundations of the atheist culture, which is the public face of the secular worldview. He disagrees with DF, and thinks that origins is more than a hobby and is critical. It is one among several priorities or areas of interest.
AC—{Next topic} We should have public engagement with the way science is done—science has limits—what it can and should do. Scientists often want/try to push those limits. How do we make the case for those limits effectively and be part of the public debate, regardless of whether others come to faith?
DH—Best arena for these discussions is the professional scientific societies, which limits what the church can do.
DD—There are two things we can do 1)articulate the hidden faith-based assumptions of modern science (uniformity of nature)and  2) scientists think faith is a bad word, so we have to establish the reasonableness of faith (differentiate between evidence based faith and blind faith).
DF—The church needs to realize that science is capable of being pretty certain about some things.
HR—We need to not shackle the research of theologians, philosophers and scientists so that we can talk with each other.
RN—It is not the church’s role to police the scientific society, but to proclaim the kingdom of God, and equip the scientific members to responsibly act in their communities.
AC—There are lots of questions (pre-submitted from the audience) about details that we didn’t get to (such as was Adam really 900 yrs old, best dating systems, etc)
End Transcript summary.


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