New Frontiers in Science and Faith
Alan Fraser participó en una conferencia sobre Ciencia y Fe Cristiana en agosto de 2007.
En el artículo que se presenta en esta oportunidad, extraído del número de diciembre de The Monthly Record, el Dr. Fraser habla acerca de esta experiencia.
New Frontiers in Science and Faith
At the beginning of August this year, Christians in Science and The American Scientific Affiliation held a conference in Edinburgh. Alan J F Fraser attended
Dr. Alan Fraser
From the first notice of the conference, it was clear that this would be a major event for all who are concerned with the relationship between science and Christian faith. I looked forward to it eagerly and was not disappointed. The sheer breadth of topics covered and the quality of the participants was enough to get one excited. The fellowship across cultural boundaries and differences of viewpoints with a clear devotion to Christ ensured the success of the conference.
One of the main ingredients for the success of the conference was the wide range of topics, some of which are highlighted below.
The main keynote lecture was taken by Alister McGrath, Director of the Oxford Centre for Evangelism and Apologetics. He explored the conference theme of New Frontiers in Science and Faith in a masterly fashion —a delight to any teacher interested in communication skills. His talk was clear, covered a lot of ground, demonstrated encyclopaedic and up-to-date knowledge of the subject, engaged graciously but devastatingly with the opposition, and gripped his audience from start to finish. There was so much ground covered that it will be necessary to go back again and again to think about what was said. He ended with a challenge to think ahead to the issues likely to dominate future debate, to react with understanding and confidence and to go out and encourage as many as possible to take an interest in science and faith.
Sir John Houghton, former member of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, kicked off a morning devoted to environmental issues. He set out the serious nature of global warming, refuting those who see it as hyped-up scaremongering. He made it clear that, although man’s contribution to the problem was not the whole picture, it was a very significant contribution indeed. Man’s greed is turning a major problem into a disaster. Sir Ghillean Prance, former Director at Kew, followed up with a talk on the loss of bio-diversity and its implications for future generations. Food and medicines depend on created, natural resources in the biosphere. We allow these resources to be depleted at our peril.
It is impossible in this article to detail the ground covered in these and other lectures, but it is important to note that Christians have a special responsibility to care for creation. Whatever our views on the origins of the problem, encouraging human greed and profligacy is no way to resolve it. The evidence is now very strong indeed that the burning of fossil fuels in transport, industry and domestic energy is already bringing huge problems for the most vulnerable peoples of the world and will bring even greater problems for all in the future. Can we remain complacent in the face of wasteful destruction of God’s gifts —natural resources created for the good of all? What should we do as individual Christians or as a corporate Church body in the face of current misuse of irreplaceable resources? It is a Biblical principle that parents provide for their children. How do we square this with a squandering of the vital natural resources, not least clean air and water, that rightly belong to our children? It is a Biblical principle that we should give to those in need. How do we square that with a lifestyle that creates and accentuates poverty for millions? Are we guilty of pouring oil on the fires of other people’s afflictions while feeling good about the cup of cold water we offer them in sporadic aid?
When Darwin first published his theory of evolution it was opposed by many on scientific, not Biblical, grounds. There were those, notably Charles Hodge, who believed the very idea of Natural Selection was an attack on divine design, and so they argued against Evolution. Others, such as Benjamin B Warfield, cautiously accepted the theory, seeing a creation that could develop in God’s providence as much more wonderful than creation envisaged as a clock-like mechanism. For nearly all of them the idea of great antiquity for the creation had already been accepted as being in agreement with the Scriptures. Christian geologists such as Hugh Miller believed in geological processes shaping the earth over many eons. In the twentieth century, first among Seventh Day Adventists and then among North American Fundamentalists, there arose a strong antipathy to evolution and a promotion of Recent Creationism as the only acceptable option for Biblebelieving Christians. In the UK there always remained a significant body of scientists who saw evolution as a fruitful scientific theory that was in no way a threat to their faith. The scientists who gathered at the Conference belonged to the latter stream of Christian thought. Prof Simon Conway Morris, Cambridge, presented a paper on possible theological implications for evidence that Evolution has a deep structure and so resonates with the sense of purpose inherent in theistic creation. Other hard questions raised by Evolution were considered by Dr Denis Alexander, whose books on science and faith are well worth reading. He looked at issues related to death, suffering, the Fall, Adam and Eve, and more.
The Biblical text was not neglected. Rev Dr Ernest Lucas, Bristol Baptist College, gave a full talk on “Interpreting Genesis 1-3”. He set out a number of principles for interpreting Scripture so that we can listen to what God is saying, rather than read into the Word what we think it should be saying. Perhaps to avoid automatic rejection of his views as mere accommodation to current science, he drew on the works of pre-Darwinian Biblical commentators, such as Augustine and Calvin.
A very different issue arising from modern science is the impact of neuroscience research on the relationship between mind and matter, free will and determinism, quantum theory and the soul, cognitive science, and the development of religion. A number of scientists working in this area gave us much food for thought in an often neglected aspect of science/faith interaction.
In the area of cosmology, the conference was fortunate to hear from cutting-edge scientists with international reputations. Sir John Polkinghorne, formerly president of Queens College, Cambridge, spoke on “Space, Time and Eternity” with characteristic humility and clarity of thought. Dr Joan Centrella from NASA gave a fascinating account of award-winning research on “Binary Black Holes and Gravitational Waves”, with an accompanying testimony of God’s dealings with her. Perhaps the most controversial area was the discussion on the nature of time and God’s relationship to it. Did God create time in such a way that he would always see it stretched out before him, past, present and future, or did he create it in such a way that events may occur with a randomness that is intrinsically unpredictable? This has implications for the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and omniscience. It would be good to see a sensitive engagement of a Calvinist theologian with John Polkinghorne’s views.
The last area to be covered is the one that tends to grab most headlines. It deals with Bio-Technology —designer babies, GM crops, and nanotechnology. Prof Nigel M de S Cameron, the only local boy on the platform, explored the implications of modern biotechnologies for human dignity. Prof Gareth Jones from New Zealand guided us through the difficult ethical issues related to genetic manipulations. These are huge issues that we must contemplate, and Prof Jones helped to calm fears generated by the blurring of distinctions between science and science fiction, while gently challenging us to think ahead to the issues that are likely to arise in this crucial area.
There were opportunities to make new friends and explore other issues in excursions, a wide variety of seminars, and meal times and coffee breaks. The Sunday morning service was a real inspiration and encouragement, with a fine exposition of Philippians 1:12-26 led by Rev Colin Sinclair. For me personally, it was one of the highlights of the conference.
I hope the range of topics covered by the conference will encourage us to see the importance of relating our faith to every aspect of life. I trust it will also cause us to pray for Christian scientists who are at the forefront of research. Their testimony, as they practice their profession, is often more important for the standing of the evangelical community in our country than all the words of those with hastily conceived opinions who stand outside the fray. Our growing world community needs science more than ever, but needs a science informed by the teachings of the Word of God. Let all who love the Lord and His creation seek to use the gifts so graciously given to us for His glory and the wellbeing of all who are made in His image.
An abstract of the conference may be downloaded from www.cis.org.uk. I will be making much more use of this website in future. I hope you will too, and that we will be encouraged to think more about the issues raised, examine our own presuppositions, and learn from our rich Reformed tradition of interaction between science and faith.
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