The ISCAST Journal: Christian Perspectives on Science and Technology
The ISCAST Online Journal, Christian Perspectives on Science and Technology (CPOSAT), online from March 2006, is a forum for those exploring the interaction between science, technology and the Christian faith. The intended readers are Christians interested in science and technology as well as scientists or technologists interested in the Christian faith. It is likely that readers will have a university degree or its equivalent but we do not assume that they will have specialised knowledge of a branch of science or theology.
Below are sample articles from the journal over the years.
The Science-Faith Relationship and Its Impact on Students in Australian Christian Secondary Schools
Abstract: This article is based on doctoral research undertaken by the author to investigate perceptions of the science–faith relationship within Lutheran secondary schools and the associated attitudes towards both science and Christianity. A variety of perspectives emerged including atheism, scientism and Young Earth Creationism. Creationism and scientism were found to be associated with negative student attitudes towards either science or Christianity, or both. The findings of the research emphasise the necessity for Christian school educators and administrators to be well-informed on the topic of the science–faith relationship and aware of the learning and attitudinal outcomes associated with different ideologies and approaches. The author’s PhD dissertation, entitled “Christianity and Science in Australian Lutheran Secondary Schools: Perceptions, Problems and Possibilities,” was accepted by the Academic Board of the University of Divinity, Melbourne in February, 2017.
Keywords: science–faith relationship, evolution, creation, complementary model, independence model, conflict model, Young Earth Creationism, atheism, scientism, Christian schools, mission, attitudes, cognitive dissonance
Christian Voices in the Environment Debate
Richard W Gijsbers
Abstract: This paper arose out of ISCAST’s “State of Play” workshop held at Ridley College in Melbourne in August 2015. The workshop explored the possible hot topics in the science-Christianity debate that would be of concern in ten years’ time in a number of identified domains. This paper focuses on the “Stewardship of Creation” domain. It argues that the debates about the environment are not only complex and difficult, but they are continually shifting; not least because there are so many sciences involved, few of which communicate with each other and which, themselves, continue to evolve. It notes that the values and uses society wants to apply to the environment are also changing and are impossible to specify over the long term. Christians (individuals, local churches, denominations, and national churches) have a responsibility to be part of these debates and to contribute their voices in how we relate to the environment at any point in time. Christians however will not necessarily speak with the one voice to the same issue. They will disagree. Nor will they necessarily have the final word on any issue in the debate. The paper identifies four voices that Christians can use in the debate: the prophetic voice, the priestly voice, the kingly voice, and the voice of wisdom or wise counsel. Different Christians will use different voices, often from different perspectives. We cannot claim that any particular position is the only one that Christians can or should hold.
Keywords: Environment, church, prophet, priest, king, counsellor, environment debate, nature, creation, wilderness, grace, sin, ecotheology, wicked problem.
Contextual Approaches in the Dialogue between Theology and Science and their Implications for Understanding the Development of Doctrine
Abstract: The dialogue concerning Christian theology as a science is not new. However, it is only relatively recently that the importance of the context within which theology is conducted has been discussed. Previous philosophical rendezvous between science and theology are recalled, noting the characteristics they share; in particular those that consider context and approaches that go beyond foundationalism. Recent arguments for theology being viewed as a science are recalled and described. Though early attempts focused on approaches employing foundationalism, more nuanced techniques which discuss contextual factors have lately been expounded. Various works from the philosophy of science are used to demonstrate the benefit of context for thinking of theology as a science. Emphasis on the way this shift to a more holistic approach to ‘scientific theology’ impacts our understanding of the development of Christian doctrine is also provided.
Keywords: Scientific theology, foundationalism, contextual approaches, philosophy of science, development of Christian doctrine
The Presupposition of Science Based Atheism
Jonathan M. Hanes
Abstract: Best-selling author Jerry Coyne’s latest book, Faith versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible, prompted another round of discussion about the relationship between science and religion (theism, in particular). Are science and religion compatible? Does science preclude the existence of God? Atheists like Coyne hold to a central presupposition about science that merits further scrutiny. The presupposition is that science is an independent, self-verifying arbiter of truth that is inherently rational. For the sake of expanding this debate beyond the usual discussions about scientific evidence, this presupposition must be tested by examining the intellectual structure of science. When this is done, it becomes evident that this presupposition is untenable and leaves its adherents without a rational basis for science. Contrary to the thesis of Professor Coyne’s book, theism need not compete with science to ascertain truth about nature. Rather, theism establishes the rationality of science in a way that is impossible in an atheistic framework. Ultimately, the efforts of Professor Coyne and others to dispute theism using science are self-refuting and it’s high time to recognise them as such.
Keywords: science, presuppositionalism, philosophy of science, atheism, Jerry Coyne
Neuroimaging, the sense of self and the sense of God
Abstract: Recent advances in imaging methods have allowed controlled studies of brain processes associated with religious beliefs and practices. Now that imaging and other techniques can follow the way that nerve cells interconnect, there is a fresh interest in what constitutes consciousness. There is a related question of whether, if religious experience is uniquely human, some neural firing pattern or connectivity differences between humans and non-humans might be expected. There is now quite a large number of experimental investigations both of religious experience (or practice) and religious belief. This article reviews this recent work and highlights some of the limitations to these methods. In particular, the evidence for a particular region within the brain responsible for religious experience (a so-called ‘God spot’) is found to be virtually non-existent and many of the brain networks involved in manifestations of religious practice or belief are shared by other aspects of social interaction and belief formation.
Keywords: Biomedical imaging, neurotheology, identity, mind-brain problem, consciousness.
The Genesis of Everything: An historical account of the Bible’s opening chapter
John P. Dickson
Abstract: The paper seeks to plot a path through the controversy surrounding the Bible’s opening chapter by examining Genesis 1 in historical context. The author assumes and endorses no particular view of human origins but argues for a literal interpretation of the text, as opposed to what may be called ‘literalistic’. The former reading gives due weight to both the literary genre of Genesis 1 and the cultural milieu of the original writer, whereas the latter gives sufficient attention to neither.
Various pre-scientific interpretations of Genesis 1 are described, including those of the first century Jewish intellectual Philo and the great Christian theologian Augustine. In particular, comparisons are drawn with the Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, and it is suggested that Genesis 1 is a piece of ‘subversive theology’, making significant theological points in the light of contemporaneous creation ideas. The questions raised (and answered) by the Bible’s opening chapter concern the nature of the Creator, the value of creation and the place of humanity within the creational scheme. Modern questions concerning the mechanics and chronology of creation may not be appropriately put to the ancient text.
Keywords: Creation, Genesis 1, literary genre, number symbolism, Babylonian Enuma Elish, one God, coherent creation, place of men and women
Then a miracle occurs: the blessing and limitations of science
A bishop looks at science from the viewpoint of the Christian faith
Abstract: The remarkable human activity of science has been wonderfully successful in advancing human understanding of creation in which we live and human wellbeing. From a Christian point of view, science makes sense in the context of creation which is good, real and dependent. It is a blessing from the Creator. There is no essential warfare between science and Christianity. However, the use of science as a form of Christian apologetics has dangers for Christian faith. Science has the limits in what it can describe from the actual miracles of the gospel to even the existence of science itself. The Intelligent Design issue is really an argument about what are the limits of science. Science and the Bible are engaged in a two-way conversation because God does not teach what is false, and because science helps us interpret Scripture in a number of ways: discerning literary types, distinguishing between the human and divine author’s intentions and clarifying assumptions of the models which we import to Scripture.
Keywords: Science, Christianity, Bible, miracle, creation, blessing and limit of science
God’s Statistical Universe
Robert J. Stening
Abstract: The universe is not completely predictable, but contains many uncertain events, which follow statistical laws. The whole evolutionary process is driven by statistics. Haught’s ‘process theology’, is discussed, in which the future is uncertain, even to God, but offers promise. Two common attitudes, of blind trust in God, and the earth as a ‘soul school’, are examined and found to be common in popular Christian literature. The existence of uncertainty is seen as a prerequisite for the exercise of faith as God requires. Some ideas are advanced of how evangelicals and process theologians might learn from each other.
Keywords: Statistical universe, uncertainty, kenosis, process theology, providence as promise
Modern Science and Christian Belief Should Be at Peace
Peter H. Barry
Abstract: In this paper, I will give an overview/review of two recent books: Coming to peace with science: bridging the worlds between faith and biology by Darrell R. Falk and Random Designer: created from chaos to connect with the Creator by Richard G. Colling. In addition, I will include something of my own background and my thoughts on the science-faith issues raised by these two books.
Keywords: Modern science, Christian faith, creation and Genesis, evolution, the age of the earth, evangelical views, creationism, genetic evidence, random designer
Christian Views of Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (1600-2000): An Alien Concept?
Abstract: The 17th century saw a shift in Christian thinking about the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI), in line with changes in scientific understanding. Mainstream Christian doctrine began to accept at least the possibility of a ‘plurality of worlds,’ although divided on the theological ramifications of such a doctrine. For Christians, ETI has long been a difficult issue on which a wide range of opinions have been expressed or indeed suppressed; from dismissal of the idea as outright heresy, through to a belief that a wise and benevolent creator God could indeed have created a multitude of inhabited worlds replete with intelligent life. This paper will examine the opposing Christian perspectives on ETI from 1600 to the close of the 20th century, and consider why some Christians have found the idea of intelligent life populating the universe confronting to their faith.
Keywords: extra-terrestrial intelligence, ETI, Christianity, plurality of worlds, universe, faith, heaven, creation, geocentric, cosmology
Biotechnology and Medical Ethics: Thinking Biblically about Contemporary Medicine
Allan J Day
Abstract: The rapid development of medical technology has created considerable ethical concern relating to the use of such technology. It is now possible to perform abortion for all sorts of reasons, to produce babies from all sorts of parents, to ensure survival for all sorts of humans and by genetic engineering and cloning to design all sorts of children. Such possibilities—what we are able to do—raise ethical questions of what we ought to do. In seeking to explore this problem, some biblical principles are outlined. They relate to those derived from our common humanity (creation theology), to those associated with our living as a community (covenant theology), and to those that call for justice distributed and care for the disadvantaged (Old Testament Prophets) as well as those derived from the New Testament ethic of care and compassion. In applying these principles however it is not always easy to get clear cut answers and many questions remain. One of the most cogent is the question of whether the embryo is fully human—a person, and what criteria determine such humanity. Some of these questions, on which Christians and others disagree are considered and some basis suggested for arising at satisfactory conclusions.
Keywords: Ethics, abortion, cloning, stem cells, embryo, human, humanity, technology, genetic, IVF, creation theology, person
Adam, Anthropology and the Genesis Record: Taking Genesis Seriously in the Light of Contemporary Science
Allan John Day
Abstract: Much of the perceived conflict between science and Christian belief is not due to any intrinsic disagreement between these two approaches to truth, but rather to the conflict of emerging science with entrenched interpretations of Scripture. The history of the science/faith interface attests to this fact from the time of Galileo and before. It is important therefore, in interpreting Gen. 1-3, to take into account the findings of contemporary science. This approach should be made, not as an attempt to conform science to the bible or the bible to science, but rather as one in which science serves along with history, culture and language as one of many inputs into the interpretative exercise. The important message of Genesis and of the role of Scripture as the Word of God is not compromised by such an approach, but rather enhanced and its relevance in the contemporary scene emphasised.
In this paper an attempt is made to assess the findings of modern anthropology in relation to the interpretation of the Genesis account of Adam and the Fall. It is maintained, that neither a strictly literal interpretation, nor one which identifies an individual historic Adam with the Biblical Adam, is consistent with the findings of cultural and physical anthropology. On the other hand, it is proposed that an interpretation suggesting a generic (representative humanity) Adam and a gradual emergence of both humanity made in the 'image of God' and of the Fall is consistent with a proper interpretation of Gen. 1-3. It is maintained that the essential message of Gen. 1-3 with its theology of humanity created in the image of God and embracing the development of a sinful human nature needing redemption is not compromised by this reading.
Keywords: Adam, Fall, anthropology, Genesis, biblical interpretation