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God & Science

God & Science

Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science

The Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science, under the direction of Dr. Edward B. (“Ted”) Davis, Professor of the History of Science, sponsors a variety of events, all intended to help promote better understanding of religion and science–including medicine and social science–in this region.  We continue the college’s established tradition of hosting speakers who represent diverse religious and disciplinary perspectives.  We also sponsor a book discussion group, presently meeting (usually) on the second Thursday of the month during the academic year (see below for more details).  Most events take place on our campus, but some are held in other locations. 

All of our events are announced here.  PLEASE BOOKMARK THIS PAGE FOR FUTURE REFERENCE.  Information about each event is also sent electronically to anyone who wants to be contacted by email.  Recipients are sent blind copies, in order to ensure that individual addresses are kept private.  To add your name to this list, or to update your email address, contact Dr. Davis at Tdavis@messiah.edu or at 717.766.2511 ext. 6840.  Dr. Davis’ web page contains further resources on science and religion:

http://home.messiah.edu/~tdavis/

All of our events are open to the public—indeed, it is the people of central Pennsylvania whom we seek to serve.  Most events are free; any exceptions will be clearly announced.  Annual membership in the Forum is possible for a contribution in any amount.  To inquire about becoming a member, contact Dr. Davis.  The primary benefit of membership is knowing that you have helped us provide quality programs, but from time to time members are invited to a limited number of private events, such as opportunities to dine with speakers, and members are also invited to suggest specific programs for future events.

EVENTS FOR FALL 2014

THE READING GROUP is discussing The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus, published in 2011 by Cambridge University Press (http://www.cambridge.org/asia/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521732000). The author, Sir Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University (http://www.msm.cam.ac.uk/department/profiles/humphreys.php), is one of the top materials scientists in the world. Ordinarily this would not qualify him to write about biblical chronology, but he’s been researching intersections between the Bible and astronomical events in a highly responsible way for more than thirty years. An earlier book, The Miracles of Exodus: a Scientist Reveals the Extraordinary Natural Causes Underlying the Biblical Miracles (HarperCollins 2003), was very well received, and he’s also written several fascinating articles on similar topics in scholarly journals, including an article on dating the crucifixion published in Nature, the top science journal in Europe: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v306/n5945/abs/306743a0.html. A later version published in another journal is publicly accessible: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1985/JASA3-85Humphreys.html.

To introduce the book, I’ll quote the conclusion: “In closing, let me return to the statement by Richard Dawkins I quoted in chapter 1: ‘The only difference between The DaVinci Code and the gospels is that the gospels are ancient fiction while The DaVinci Code is modern fiction.’ I have taken what the biblical scholar F. F. Bruce called ‘the thorniest problem in the New Testament,’ the problem of the date and nature of the last supper. I have shown that even with this complex problem the gospels are in substantial agreement, when understood in light of evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Egypt, and elsewhere. The extensive analysis in this book shows that the gospels give a coherent and detailed factual account of the last days of Jesus, days that changed the world. On the other hand, The DaVinci Code is indeed a work of fiction.”

For more information, see the column Dr. Humphreys wrote for the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/colin-humphreys/why-do-the-gospels-disagr_b_850198.html; an informative review from the Evangelical Times: http://www.evangelical-times.org/book-reviews/book/382/The+Mystery+of+the+Last+Supper%3A+Reconstructing+the+Final+Days+of+Jesus; and a review from International Business Times: http://www.ibtimes.com/last-supper-was-wednesday-not-thursday-challenges-cambridge-professor-colin-humphreys-280407.

Officially the book has 260 pages, but the endnotes are extensive (which makes it a very useful reference work) and the main text is just under 200 pages long, including numerous illustrations. We’ll discuss the first two chapters (25 pages) at our first meeting on September 11. We will follow the schedule below, with each session from 7:00-8:30 pm in Kline Hall 108.

  • Thursday, Sept 11—chapters 1 & 2

  • Thursday, Oct 23—chapters 3 & 4

  • Thursday, Nov 13—chapters 5 & 6

  • Thursday, Dec 11—chapters 7 & 8

All are invited to attend, whether or not you have attended any of our events in the past. The reading group is free, but you will need to bring your own copy of the book.

Our program of FREE PUBLIC LECTURES has one fall event, as follows:

“Shattering the Myth of Race,” a lecture by biologist Dave Unander from Eastern University (St. David’s, PA) on Tuesday evening, October 14, at 7:00 pm in Frey Hall 110. The Biblical command to demolish strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4-5) profoundly encompasses ideas and philosophies. The concept of race – that humanity is divided into a few distinct groups – has been a stronghold, and also illustrates how science is never fully objective. We will review the origin of the idea of “races”, its influence on history and science, and some Biblical and genetic reasons why “race” is an illusion. This is based on his book, Shattering the Myth of Race: Genetic Realities and Biblical Truths (Judson Press, 2000).

There will also be at least one spring event, as follows:

On Thursday evening, March 5, Princeton University physicist Robert Kaita will speak about the experience of his family in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War 2. Dr. Kaita and his family are Christians. This will be a rare opportunity to get a personal glimpse of that episode in American history. He will also speak earlier in the day about his work in plasma physics. Further details TBA.