Greg Cootsona: "Mere Science" and Adam's Empty Chair

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #67

Didn’t I just do that? What do you think…

(Greg Cootsona) #68

I believe you asked for the syllabus of my religion and science course, but I can’t locate the specific spot in this thread. If so, here’s a link to the pdf of my fall 2017 syllabus.
You can find me at Chico State email, if you’d like more materials.

(Greg Cootsona) #69

I think you have some good points on tolerance, and I would would add that this is a key value for emerging adults. We will probably have to start there–engage it, refine the reasons behind it, critique, and offer something more robust. ***

As for these topics, bravo! Especially in articulating the importance of race in discussing science. I should have mentioned that many of the topics I raised came from the 15-month study I did of emerging adult attitudes on science and religion, especially how they were formed and how they change through Science for Students and Emerging Young Adults or SEYA. I know I’ve linked this grant above, but I’ll offer the link to SEYA again because there’s a summary paper we wrote with our findings.

All that to say, my topics are, in some sense, empirically derived, not primarily what I’d like to see discussed.

(Greg Cootsona) #70

I’m not sure if we’ll come back to future topics in science and religion, which Josh and I are outlining.

Nevertheless, I also sense that the three days of the forum are coming to a close soon. In addition, it’s my wife’s birthday, and we’re about to throw a party. So I doubt I’ll be able to post before this forum closes.

I’ll move to two items as I wrap this up.

  1. Can I invite people to my blog if they want to see weekly reflections on topics of interested? As one example–Andy Walsh’s new book, “Something New and Fresh in the Multiverse,” which will also be featured on Peaceful Science.

  2. Here are my closing words from Mere Science and Christian Faith adapted a bit:

Because of the stories I’ve heard from emerging adults who have either rejection Christian faith because of science (Jim and Beth) or have seen an exciting integration (Dave, Sarah), I believe bridging the divide between mere science and Christian faith is a vital task. It’s for them that I want you and me to write better, true stories. To be honest,I’m not sure I by myself know how to write this story. Instead it’s something we as the church need to do together. (Nonetheless, I leave with the hope that this book has provided some useful plot points and strategies.)

I do know, however, that these true, better stories are also beautiful. They will bring together the goodness and truth of the Good News with the beauty of God. There truth becomes beautiful. And with that sentence it should not be lost that rhetoric—as an engagement with beauty—should be used in concert with philosophy—as the pursuit of truth.

Truth is only worth engaging if it’s beautiful, and beauty is that which allures us.

And this is a particular beauty, the beauty of life’s making sense, of satisfying our need for deep abiding happiness, for Aristotle’s “human flourishing,” and for Jesus’s promise of “abundant life” (John 10:10). Drawing on these ancient, wise voices indicates that this obviously is not a new idea, and I concur here with the great twentieth century French physicist Henri Poincaré,

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it; and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing and life would not be worth living….

Let’s can join hands with Poincaré and with the ancient theology’s love of beauty or philokalia .

Our final goal is this: To weave together mainstream science and the good news of mere Christianity into a narrative that’s truly beautiful and beautifully true.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #71

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(Daniel Deen) #72

I’m actually very positive about science as well. I’m just more inclined to remind people that scientific theories tend to go the way of the dodo – 160yrs is great, but it was right about the 200yr mark that Newton’s theory of gravity was overturned. You couple the contingent nature of science with the psychological data of human proclivities toward cognitive biases and I’m simply more cautious with your integration thesis. This is not to say that we shouldn’t ponder these issues… I’m just not sure we’ve quite figured out how to ponder them yet!

Thanks! I’ll take a look.

Thanks for this. I know the metaphysical sorts of stories. However, and this is my philosophical training not my Christian convictions, metaphysics is a zero-sum game in that certain assumptions are simply asserted and then denied by people with different metaphysical assumptions. It may be that science as we know it flourished with Christian metaphysical assumptions, but if that is the only way that theology has a direct impact on science, I’m not sure much good is gained. Or to put it another way, what does the theologian offer the scientist if all the theologian has to offer is metaphysical grounds for the science.

Yeah, that provides some mind fodder! My intent was a bit rhetorical and simply “me thinking out loud at the end of a big session!” However, your response did spark another thought. You teach at a state school. I assume you are in a religious studies department. Do you find any tension in navigating the the science/religion waters at a state school with a, again assuming, Christian background focusing on Jesus as the author and perfecter of your faith?

I don’t doubt that you’ve had a stressful couple of years, tangling with all the groups you’ve tangled with while also maintaining credibility at an R1 institution in the biological sciences. It is part of the reason I wanted you to speak to my students and why I keep coming back to see what people are talking about here at PeacefulScience!

Fair enough. My overarching point with the demarcation language is that we all play by rules when in our disciplines. The problem is that our disciplines are but a microcosm of the life we actually live. Thus, dialogue will almost always take place outside the microcosm of our disciplines. In your lab, the rules are strict and your conversation with lab partners is probably nothing like the conversation you have with us – even when you are discussing the science. This is because, here, you are part of that larger conversation. @Patrick undoubtedly as well as others will keep you honest when he sees violation of the Rules, but I take the public conversation to be a little more squishy and ambiguous than any of us like.

Yep, I dig it here. I think your Rules and the…

…are great conversational guidelines. You have started something that hopefully will lead to your fifth option. I have seen more genuine conversation and genuine frustration on this forum than I can count. This is a good thing. Much of the toil will end in fruitless trees, but the fruit that is born/survives will be all the more fertile.

I mispoke when I said “nobody has elucidated just what dialogue actually entails/means.” I should have said something like, “I’ve never seen it practiced particualrly well in an interdisciplinary context outside of cetain historical contexts.” This is why I included this forum with a question mark – best I’ve seen so far, but can we keep it going. I hope so!

I really like the play with goodness, truth, and beauty – Thanks Greg!

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #73

Thank you for the great conversation Greg. You are a real wealth of knowledge. I’m looking forward to following up on many of the threads you’ve given us here.

There has been real conversation and genuine conversation in this dialogue.

Perhaps pursuing peace raises everyones hopes. It calls out the best of us, but it also opens us up to real disappointment. The type of conversation we are finding here is between camps that disagree. In the end, we will most often still disagree. Real conflicts come to the surface in dialogue, and it can even confirm our worst fears about one another. This brings us to a grand paradox…

So why enter conversations that are likely to increase conflict? There is a chance here to uncover something greater. I like how @Cootsona ends, and I quote him here.