|Dear WesleyNexus Colleague:
Those of us in the Washington, DC are experiencing a wonderfully pleasant, low-humidity mid-
summer day. It is a good day to relax and enjoy a pleasant breeze midst the rustling of leaves.
However, I do want to take the time to update you all on the progress towards the first ever
WesleyNexus retreat at West River Center in Maryland. In addition, I found a few articles that I
found interesting and a new blogger, Gary Herstein, who promises to offer an array of interesting posts
related to science and philosophy.
WesleyNexus hopes you are enjoying your summer and, as always, thank you for your interest and
support. We are dependent on you, our participants, for donations to cover expenses for these
activities. WesleyNexus is a certified 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so please consider supporting
this initiative with a contribution either through the PayPal DONATE link below, or, by sending a
24500 Fossen Road
Damascus, MD 20872
We will use these funds to further our efforts to promote the dissemination of resource material
promoting the dialogue between sound science and religion across the country.
Rick Barr, Secretary,
WesleyNexus, Board of Directors
WesleyNexus Retreat/Discussion, September 19-20, 2014
WesleyNexus is moving forward on developing the retreat that
will take place on September 19-20, 2014 at West River Center
near Annapolis Maryland. We will gather in the evening of the
19th with a scheduled film “The Journey of the Universe”
beginning around 7:30 until 10:00 PM. WesleyNexus members
will be arriving before that time to welcome you all to West River.
Dinner details for Friday evening will be worked out in the coming
weeks. We will be starting the next day early with breakfast at 7:30 followed by the Keynote remarks
by Dr. Connie Bertka. Connie has many years working in the science and religion arena and is
currently Adjunct Professor at Wesley Theological Seminary and is the Co-Chair of the Broader Social
Impacts Committee in the Hall of Human Origins program at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of
Natural History. The rest of the day will be spent in workshops focusing on faith and science issues
• The story of evolution as a framework for religious thinking.
• How can I speak about evolution within a faithful perspective?
• The paradigm of creation as a framework for scientific thinking.
• What does “created in the image of God” mean in the 21st century?
• How do new discoveries re: DNA impact our thinking about humanity?
• What does brain science have to say about our self-identity as humans?
• How is our witness as Christians impacted by our taking science seriously?
• Science findings re: human identity for church decision making.
• The perspective of young people that the church is “anti-science.”
West River is a United Methodist Church Conference Center and camp with 45 beautiful acres on the
shores of the Chesapeake Bay just 20 miles south of Annapolis, MD. Lodging for guests is in adult
accommodations in a modern Conference Center, generally two persons per room, with bath rooms.
Delicious meals are prepared by a professional staff. There is a maximum of 50 persons for this
retreat so please register early. Acceptance is on a first come, first person basis. Click here to register.
IRAS turns 60
The 60th Anniversary Conference of The Institute on Religion
in an Age of Science Science (IRAS) convenes on August 2-9,
2014 at Star Island, on the isle of Shoals out in the Atlantic off
the coast of New Hampshire. The conference theme "Religion
in a Globalizing World" is chaired in 2104 by Dr. Whitney
Bauman, Florida International University, and Dr. Karl E. Peters, Rollins College (emeritus); the
Conference is a sell-out with a long waiting list, but information can be found here: www.iras.org.
IRAS was founded in 1954 in response to a civilization crisis: the moral and motivational resources of
traditional religious and cultural practices and beliefs had proved inadequate to constrain horrid
barbarity, and techno-scientific progress had given rise to weapons whose use could destroy
civilization. At the same time, scientific advances carried the portent of enormous improvements in the
human prospect, and the human sciences seemed to promise understandings that could foster their
attainment and help head off catastrophe. IRAS leaders thought that old traditions should be reformed
and that the new scientific story about the world and humanity’s place in it was “good news” that
could enable that reformation.
The annual IRAS Conference evolved from the ideas of two pioneer groups. The first was a group of
scientists from the Committee on Science and Values of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The second group was an interfaith, religious coalition which hoped to revitalize religion for today's
needs. Members of both groups saw the, at times, battlefield of conflicting ideologies of religion and
science as a place of opportunity for a constructive relationship to emerge. In 1954 the scientists
accepted an invitation to present their views to the religious group at a seven-day conference on
Religion in an Age of Science on Star Island. The October 1 issue of Science reported on the
Ten scientists explained how they thought scientific and religious knowledge could be integrated...
While there were a number of both scientists and clergy who held that religious truth was hardly
susceptible of being approached by scientific beliefs, there was a strong recognition that today we can
increase the scope and validity of our understanding of our destiny and our relationship to that "in
which we live and move and have our being," not only by reading ancient texts, but also by building
up the science of theology in harmony with other science.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of IRAS (and the upcoming 50th anniversary of Zygon:
Journal of Religion and Science in 2015), and in light of developments in the sciences, religious studies
and society, in August 2014 we will explore new and enduring questions: “Can either science or
religion, or both taken together, enable us to organize and govern ourselves in harmony with the Earth
with enough wisdom to cope with the emerging conditions of the 21st Century? If so, what do we
require in our understandings of religion, science, ourselves, and the cosmos? Which insights stand the
test of time? What about our inherited enterprises of science, religion and society must be re-
conceived, re-thought and renewed?” The following topics will provide a framework for our inquiries.
Among those confirmed as speakers for the 2014 Conference, Nancy Abrams, University of
California, Santa Cruz (attorney and cultural philosopher), Zain Bagir, Director of the Center for
Religious and Cross-cultural Studies at the Graduate School of Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta,
Indonesia; Willem B. Drees, University of Leiden, Editor of Zygon; Mark Juergensmeyer, University
of California, Santa Barbara, and Director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies;
Joel Primack, University of California, Santa Cruz, Director of the University of California system-
wide High-Performance AstroComputing Center, and Michael Ruse, Florida State University, Director
of the History and Philosophy of Science Program.
What is Science?
Gary Herstien, Ph. D. is an independent scholar working on
various projects relating to the philosophy of Alfred North
Whitehead, logical forms and measurement, and metaphysics.
His blog, “The Quantum of Explanation” started in July of 2014,
has a number of articles of interest to those engaged in the science
and religion dialogue. He keeps his posting short and written to
be understood by the general public. Three posts in particular are of note:
What is Science: http://garyherstein.com/2014/07/09/what-is-science/
On Whose Authority: http://garyherstein.com/2014/07/06/on-whose-authority/
The Nature of Naturalism: http://garyherstein.com/2014/07/16/the-nature-of-naturalism/
Per Science 2.0 (http://www.science20.com/profile/gary_herstein), “Dr. Herstein began his career in
the computer and networked PC industries, where he worked for almost 25 years. During this time he
completed an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies at DePaul University, writing his thesis on the group-
theoretic algebraic structures underlying the concept of identity. Dr. Herstein completed his Ph.D at
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, writing his dissertation on Whitehead's criticisms of the
logical presuppositions of Einstein's general theory of relativity. He has taught full-time at Merrimack
and Muskingum colleges, and part time at Harper college, where his courses included Ethics, Logic,
Critical Thinking, American Philosophy and Philosophy of Science.”
Science is Not About Certainty by Carlo Rovelli
In a July 11, 2014 posting in the New Republic, physicist
Carlo Rovelli reflects on what it means to be a scientist
and what it means to have scientific knowledge. Rovelli
muses that perhaps the difficulty with scientific advancement
is not the method, not the techniques nor the tools. For Rovelli,
the real challenge is to view the challenges of science, in his
case, physics, with fresh eyes, a new perspective, a new point of
view. “It’s not by changing theories that we go ahead but by changing the way we think about the
world.” It is not about finding that theory will solve, once and for all, scientific problems. Science is
not about certainty but about overturning our inherited ideas of the world. “It’s about overcoming our
own ideas and continually going beyond common sense. Science is a continual challenging of common
sense, and the core of science is not certainty, it’s continual uncertainty—I would even say, the joy of
being aware that in everything we think, there are probably still an enormous amount of prejudices and
mistakes, and trying to learn to look a little bit beyond, knowing that there’s always a larger point of
view to be expected in the future.” The discussion that follows the article is illuminating. The
comments demonstrate that Rovelli's position is not dominant even in the scientific community,
although it is impossible to tell how well informed are the critics. Nevertheless, the “uncertainty about
the world” that is reflected in science is something the religious community needs to hear. Too often,
the uninformed lay person assumes that “science speaks with authority,” even though many scientific
findings and reports present only tentative conclusions. As Bishop John Shelby Spong continually
points out, we religious types too often accept doctrine and authority as a foundation for certainty
instead of making hard choices in situations requiring ethical responsibility. The issues raised by
Rovelli are important for the Science and Religion dialogue. The article can be found here.
The Science-Religion Crisis at Christian Colleges
Academic freedom is a bedrock principle at most colleges
and universities. However, freedom of scientific inquiry
and instruction in Christian colleges continues to be a challenge. In a recent article in the Huffington
Post, Kelly James Clark of Grand Valley State University highlights the difficulties that scientists face
when the official position of a church related school conflicts with accepted scientific understanding.
“Forcing a choice between science and God may not have the result Christian colleges and their
shortsighted leaders desire. Forced to choose between physics, cosmology, paleontology,
anthropology, geology, genetics, and biology, on the one hand, and the antiquated interpretation of
Christianity on the other, increasingly many will choose science.”
The article does not mention any colleges affiliated with the United Methodist Church but does
mention a Nazarene college. The Church of the Nazarene is within the Wesleyan tradition and is
struggling to accept scientific findings that conflict with long held doctrines. The article can be found
The World at 7 Billion
I just ran across a beautiful NY Times collection of pictures titled “A World at 7 Billion”. Posted in
2011, this pictorial montage provides a “visual time capsule, capturing our world at seven billion
people — and counting…you’ll find a virtual quilt that weaves together about 400 of the more than
1,000 photographs we received. There is little rhyme or reason to the order you see. We sought a
mega-snapshot of our world — different regions, subjects, viewpoints.” Enjoy.
|July 20, 2014