Public Lectures by Henry F. Schaefer III

Modern Science and the Christian Faith

I. Scientists and their Gods (a.k.a., Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence?) (40-110 minutes)

In the later 1800s, T. H. Huxley, affectionately known as Darwin's Bulldog, and Andrew Dickson White, the first President of Cornell University, attempted to demonstrate the existence of a warfare between science and Christianity. Given that most of the pioneers of modern physical science were committed Christians, the Huxley-White proposition is worthy of discussion. More recently, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins have championed the warfare metaphor. The present lecture attempts to provide some balance to the general discussion of the religious views of great scientists. For example, the Christian views of Charles Townes, discoverer of the laser, Francis Collins, discoverer of the cystic fibrosis gene, Allan Sandage, the greatest living observational cosmologist, and William Phillips, the 1997 Nobel Laureate in physics, are quite different from those of the four individuals previously mentioned.

II. Climbing Mount Improbable: Evolutionary Science or Wishful Thinking? (60 minutes)

In recent years Richard Dawkins, formerly a research zoologist, has made a great deal of money as the author of popular books about evolution. Among these writing are "The Blind Watchmaker" and "Climbing Mount Improbable". The thesis of all Dawkins popular books is that evolution proves the truth of atheism. Of course, Dawkins view is far from universally held. This lecture uses the work of Dawkins as a springboard to a more general discussion of the relationships between evolution, science and theism.

III. The Big Bang, Stephen Hawking, and God (55-80 minutes)

Stephen Hawking is now perhaps the world's best known scientist. The sale of more than twenty million copies of his book "A Brief History of Time" is essential without precedent for a book about science. Hawking's book, and the subject of cosmology more generally, pose many questions about the interface between science and theism, and some of these will be explored in the present lecture.

IV. Quantum Mechanics, Postmodernism and God (55 minutes)

It has become increasingly common in recent years to use quantum mechanics to support the intellectual validity of postmodernism. Postmodernism holds to an epistemology of radical skepticism. Taken to the limit, postmodernism concludes that human beings are profoundly subjective and unable to say anything meaningful about reality. Support for the idea that quantum mechanics opposes objective assertions of truth is found in a particular interpretation of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. This lecture critically reviews the four most prominent expositions of the uncertainty principle, with an eye to their philosophical and spiritual implications.

V. Complexity, Chaos, and God* (with Wesley D. Allen, 50 minutes)

In the first half of this lecture, the foundations of complexity and chaos theory are broadly presented: complexity in the cosmos, criteria for complexity, the discovery of chaos by computers, the etymology of chaos, popular confusion over chaos, and mathematical characteristics of chaos. The second half of the lecture considers some of the many philosophical and theological implications of complexity and chaos: the uncertain prominence of chaos, the fundamental physics of complexity and chaos, tension between reductionism and complexity theory, life and the metaphysics of complexity, the demise of the clockwork universe, cause for epistemic humility, free will and determinism, chance and providence, complexity and the origin of life, complexity and Darwinism. Our conclusions regarding these diverse topics will aim for the construction of a coherent and effective worldview.

*Please note that this lecture makes scientific demands on the audience, to a significantly greater degree than the other lectures in this series.

VI. C.S. Lewis: Science and Scientism (60 minutes)

Scientism, related to the earlier term logical positivism, and the currently popular word reductionism, was a matter of concern to C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. Lewis expressed his thoughts with respect to scientism in his space trilogy, the fictional works "Out of the Silent Planet," "Perelandra," and especially "That Hideous Strength," and in his extended essay, "The Abolition of Man." Lewis raised questions concerning what might be done to all nature and especially to humankind if scientific knowledge would be applied by the power of government without the restraints of traditional values. This lecture examines the views of Lewis, asks whether scientism is alive and well in the twenty-first century, and examines the question of how contemporary scientists evaluate scientism.

VII. String Theory, Higher Dimensionality, and God (in progress, with Wesley D. Allen)

VIII. Consciousness, Reductionism, and God (in progress, with Wesley D. Allen)

Other Topics

A. The Ten Questions Intellectuals Ask About Christianity (50 minutes)

B. From Berkeley Professor to Christian (50 minutes)

C. The Way of Discovery (25 minutes)

Several of these lectures, albeit not in their most recent editions, may be found at: