Robert Mann, Physics and Astronomy, Waterloo

Next in GFCF Series

Professor Robert Mann, Professor of Physics and Applied Mathematics,

University of Waterloo

The Multiverse, Science and Theology: A Critical Inquiry

January 16, 2019 @ 4:00 pm,  

Math Room 100

Abstract

Professor Mann explains multiverse theory and what implications the acceptance of multiverse theory may have for science and theology. If the multiverse is rejected as an explanation for the particularity of our universe, scientists and theologians are left to address why our particular universe exists rather than every universe.

 

Biography

Robert B. Mann (PhD University of Toronto) is Professor of Physics at the University of Waterloo; he has been a visiting professor at Harvard and Cambridge Universities, and the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.  He is an Affiliate Member of the Perimeter Institute and the Institute for Quantum Computing. Author of over 350 papers, he has received numerous awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship, Teaching Excellence awards from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and from the University of Waterloo, and a Presidential Award of merit from the University of Waterloo. He was chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo from 2001-2008 and is a past President of the Canadian Association of Physicists (2009-2011) and the Canadian Scientific & Christian Affiliation (1996-2007). He has served on the Advisory Board of the John Templeton Foundation.

His research interests are in black holes, cosmology, particle physics, quantum foundations, and quantum information, as well as the science/religion dialogue. His Waterloo research group looks at these questions:

  • How would relativity influence how a quantum computer worked?
  • Could we use a quantum probe to peek inside a black hole?
  • Is it possible that the Big Bang could be replaced with a black hole at the beginning of time?

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Next in The Forum Series

The Tao of Right and Wrong: Rediscovering Humanity’s Moral Foundations

Dennis Danielson

Professor Emeritus English UBC

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Wednesday, March 13 at 4 pm,  Math 100

Written in the tradition of The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis’s classic work on moral philosophy celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2018, The Tao of Right and Wrong addresses questions such as what is just? What is right? What is wrong? What purposes, and what virtues, are worth pursuing? And most importantly, how can we weigh answers to these questions without lapsing into, “That’s only your opinion”?

In The Tao of Right and Wrong, Dennis Danielson offers a vigorous primer on moral realism, asserting that humans can and should exercise ethical judgments—and that these judgments are not reducible to subjective opinion, animal instinct, or cultural “construction.” The book is a twenty-first century call for the virtuous cultivation of “humans with hearts,” for a rejection of moral nihilism, and for a life-affirming embrace of moral realism founded in the Tao—the transcultural fund of ultimate postulates that form the very ground of moral judgment, codes of ethics, and standards of right and wrong.

Biography

Dennis Danielson is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of British Columbia and an intellectual historian who has written about literature, religion, and the history of science. He is a past recipient of his university’s Killam Prize for research in the humanities, and of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Konrad Adenauer Research Award.

 

Bob Doede October 24 on Transhumanism

 

Irving Barber Learning Centre/Library, Room 182

Response to Professor Doede:  Dr. Martin Ester, Head of Computing Science, Simon Fraser University

Martin Ester Research Interests, PhD ETH, Zurich, Switzerland

  • Data Mining in Social Media
  • Recommendation in Social Media
  • Opinion Mining from Online Product Reviews
  • Data Mining in Biological Networks
  • Discovery of Cancer Markers from Gene Expression and Variation Data

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Anyone who carefully pays attention to the arc of western cultural thought and practice since the rise of modernity will discern a progressively intensifying and spreading pursuit of abstractions as the most trusted means of representing reality and accessing truth. The increases in our power to intellectually grasp and materially control nature, eventually brought with it stupendous gains in human standards of living for a good portion of Earth’s growing population. Yet, in recent decades, it has dawned on many that these improvements in material standards of living came with an unanticipated price: viz., a rather steep and almost unbearable reduction of the existential meaningfulness of life.

Since the rise of information sciences in the 1940s, our fondness for abstractions has expressed itself most emphatically in a number of cultural domains: for example, our culture’s growing preference for digitality over analogue, for algorithm over observation, for informational effigies over empirical realities, and for data-structures over concrete physical presences. This obsession with bloodless abstractions finds its ideological epicenter today in a computational variant of functionalism that has dominated the cognitive sciences for the last four decades. Quite generally, the cognitive sciences view the mind as essentially an information processing software running in, on, and through the brain’s neuronal connectivity, which both receives input from the hardware peripheries of the body’s senses and which also outputs commands to the body’s hardware motor peripheries. Computational functionalism provides the conceptual sub-structure upon which most articulations of transhumanism directly rely.

Alister McGrath September 19, 2018

Professor Alister McGrath, Andreos Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, Oxford, Gresham Professor of Divinity

Probing the Viability of Natural Theology for the Twenty-first Century. 

 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018 @ 12:00 noon

Woodward (IRC) Room 3

Audio File 

Abstract

Are there viable pathways from nature to God? Natural theology is making a strong comeback, stimulated as much by scientific advance as by theological and philosophical reflection. There is a growing realization that the sciences raise questions that transcend their capacity to answer them—above all, the question of the existence of God. Alister McGrath examines the apparent “fine-tuning” of the universe and its significance for natural theology. Exploring a wide range of physical and biological phenomena and drawing on the latest research in biochemistry and evolutionary biology, McGrath outlines our new understanding of the natural world and discusses its implications for traditional debates about the existence of God. He develops a rich Trinitarian approach to natural theology that allows deep engagement with current intellectual and moral complexities. He will pose some key questions for discussion.

Biography

Alister McGrath is the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading theologians. After an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a doctorate in molecular biophysics from Oxford, McGrath turned to the study of theology. He has a special interest in the relation of science and religion, and has published widely on this topic. As a former atheist, McGrath has an especial interest in the “New Atheism” of writers such as Richard Dawkins. McGrath’s bestselling books include the market leading Christian Theology: An Introduction (6th edition, 2017) and the award-winning C. S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (2013). Areas of reflection: Science and religion; natural theology as a legitimate field of theological reflection, and as a framework for furthering the dialogue between science, religion, and literature; critical realism in science and theology; the theological utility of scientific philosophies of explanation; theological models of engagement with the natural sciences, especially those of T. F. Torrance and Emil Brunner; the application of biological models of evolution to cultural contexts, especially the development of Christian doctrine; the “New Atheism”; “two cultures” issues, especially defending the value of humanities in a scientific culture.

https://www.regentinterface.com/

Alister’s presentation was superb. I have thought a lot about natural theology and yet Alister had something new to say about its re-emergence in this decade with a refreshing nuance. He also said it with style and without a wasted word. The energy in the room was palpable and every question was well directed. Alister’s responses were so good that the energy never left the room. ~Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus Geography UBC

See also https://www.regent-college.edu/about-us/events/event-details?event_id=720 for other McGrath lectures

 

 

Expert Panel on Addiction @ UBC

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  Audio Recording of Addiction Panel

Dr. Gabriel Loh

Gabriel is currently Clinical Coordinator of Pharmacy Practice at Richmond Hospital and is also a Clinical Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC.  Gabriel obtained his undergraduate Pharmacy degree at UBC in 2001, subsequently completed a hospital pharmacy residency at Saint Paul’s Hospital in 2002 and then a post-graduate Doctor of Pharmacy degree at UBC in 2007.  He has worked as a front-line clinical pharmacist in the Intensive Care Units at both Vancouver General Hospital and Richmond Hospital for the past 10 years and has helped care for patients and families with various addiction issues in his daily work.

“Addiction is a complex medical disorder that not only affects the individual but which can also destroy the lives of entire families and loved ones.  While various interventions and treatments are now available to help an individual manage addiction, the Christian community must not neglect the patient’s family members and caregivers who desperately need support and healing as well. While there are all sorts of therapeutic interventions and harm reduction strategies being promoted right now, I believe that a holistic approach that incorporates the physical-emotional-spiritual aspects would be most successful in breaking the cycle of addiction.”

Dr. John Koehn

John completed his medical education at the University of British Columbia, receiving certification from the Canadian College of Family Physicians. He acquired additional training in addiction medicine through completion of the St. Paul’s Goldcorp Addiction Medicine Fellowship and is certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. Currently, he is a consulting physician in addiction medicine at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia, where he also teaches as a member of the UBC Clinical Faculty.

” I tell my patients that addiction is a treatable disease and that people get better when they take steps to address it. I am very hopeful for my patients because I’ve seen the difference that recovery can make in their lives.”
Jadine Cairns, Registered Dietician, MSc. Nutrition

Jadine Cairns has worked as a registered dietitian for over 30 years and completed her masters in Human Nutrition at the University of British Columbia in 2003.  She has published and presented at national and international conferences in the area of eating disorders.  She was the President of the Eating Disorders Association of Canada and Chaired the National Eating Disorders Conference in 2014. Currently, Jadine works with the BC Children’s Hospital Eating Program for almost 30 years. She also has a private practice specializing in weight management, eating disorder and disordered eating issues.

Eating Disorders

“Causes of Eating Disorders, simply put, is multi-factorial.  It has been described as a combination of genetics, internal personal factors and external (environmental) factors.  Not much can be done with genetics, but the goal of treatment would be to address the internal space of being human and to be aware of the environment where we live.  Is an eating disorder the result from our “addiction to health”, “perfectionism”, performance, or our need to preserve our self-image in the only way we know how?  The latest thoughts and research around what is helpful and has good prognostic outcomes include psychoeducation, dialectical behavior therapy, family base therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and self-compassion.”

Jay C. Wang, MD
PGYIII Psychiatry Resident, Doctor of Medicine, University of British Columbia under Dr. Evan Wood, Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver.
Dr. Jay Wang Is a graduate of the University of British Columbia School of Medicine. Currently, he is completing his specialty training in psychiatry. Having seen the effects of drugs and addiction on psychiatric patients, he is interested in the interface between psychiatry and addiction, and will be completing subspecialty training in addiction psychiatry in the following academic year. In his opinion, the treatment of addiction emphasizes the biopsychosocial approach, where medications, therapy, and social factors all have a role to play in helping a patient recover.
Live Recording of Panel https://ubcgcu.org/2018/03/05/expert-panel-on-addiction-march-14-ubc/
Some Questions to Ponder
 

Is addiction a brain disease or a chosen habit or something in between?  If we call addiction a disease does that absolve individuals from moral responsibility?

Do you think decriminalization (rather than legalization) of opioids would increase or decrease the present addiction crisis?

Is there a danger that widespread use of opioid antagonists  might merely encourage greater use of opioids?   

Nicotine is far deadlier and more addictive than cannabis. Should the government be taking greater steps to prevent nicotine addiction? 

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Thoughts on Addiction by Dr. Judith Toronchuk, Neuropsychologist

In order for organisms to learn and successfully repeat behaviours that result in survival of the individual and the social encounters necessary for survival of the species, certain brain mechanisms for motivation, emotion and executive control must be activated.  Addiction occurs when these normal mechanisms become hijacked by particular substances. The common mechanism for this hijacking involves increased sensitivity to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Pleasurable behaviors including eating, drinking, music, video games, social and sexual interactions are all accompanied by dopamine release in an area deep in the frontal brain called the nucleus accumbens.   Substances that are abused also directly or indirectly activate this area, but psychostimulants, opiates, ethanol, cannabinoids and nicotine all result in bursts of dopamine release 3 to 5 times greater than that provided by normal reinforcers.

Dopamine release in this brain area flags whatever produced this dopamine spike as worth attending to, and any cues associated with it as worth learning. This is the normal brain mechanism which promotes learning of the behaviours necessary for survival.  Initial bursts of dopamine during successful behaviours causes positive reinforcement and results in the  longterm structural changes in synapses and dendritic spines which underlie learning. The mechanism works as it should if the organism learns, for example, where food is available. The problem arises with the supra-physiological amounts of dopamine produced by addictive substances. This learning of drug associated cues and pleasurable feelings leads to addiction.

Sensitization of the nucleus accumbens occurs during this addiction process. Drugs, alcohol and nicotine can restructure the synaptic pathways so they stimulate more dendrites than previously, but other normal reinforcers stimulate fewer dendrites. This action hijacks motivational processes and the person becomes focused only on the drug. Now the brain is sensitized to the drug cues and any reminder of the drug can cause craving and drug seeking even in abstinent former users. Cues associated with the drug such as paraphernalia or even specific places and people increase anticipatory activity in the sensitized nucleus accumbens and related areas and bring back the craving.

Now we have set the stage for long-term changes in motivation, emotion and executive control of behavior that occur in addiction. Due to physiological adaptation to the high levels of dopamine, chronic use leads to a decrease in the  subjective feeling of pleasure provided by the drug by a mechanism referred to as tolerance. Tolerance means an increasingly greater amount of the drug is necessary to produce the same “high”. Eventually drug users seek to avoid the distress, irritability and restlessness of the withdrawal symptoms produced when dopamine release in the accumbens is decreased if they do not continue to take the drug regularly. To prevent withdrawal with its resulting negative sensations and feelings, individuals become focussed on compulsively seeking more of the drug. Thus, in addition to changes in motivation, there are changes in emotional mechanisms. The memory of reinforcement also decreases the activity in the cortical executive circuits which normally provide inhibitory control over all adult behaviour and allow us to make wise decisions. Thus ability to regulate behaviour thus becomes impaired due to altered cortical control circuits.

~ Dr. Judith Toronchuk, Neuropsychologist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKkUtrL6B18 Hacking of the American Mind, Dr. Robert Lustig, His book: The Hacking of the American Mind: the science behind the corporate takeover of our minds and bodies.

 

 

GFCF Program for Academic Year 2017-18

William Newsome, Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 @ 4:00 p.m., Irving Barber Learning Centre –

 Of Two Minds: A Neuroscientist Balances Science and Faith

Abstract

The ‘central dogma’ of neuroscience is that all our behavior and mental life—including our sense of a conscious, continuing self—is inextricably linked to the biology of the brain.  Neuroscience ‘explanations’, therefore, tend to account for mental phenomena such as thought, emotion and belief in terms of the basic elements of cellular communication within the brain—action potentials, synapses and neuromodulation.  Such mechanistic accounts, which appear increasingly powerful, have been cited as evidence that ‘folk psychological’ explanations of behavior—including beliefs, values and faith—will be replaced ultimately by deeper and more accurate neuroscientific explanations.  In contrast, I argue that the deepest and most accurate accounts of behavior necessarily involve multiple levels of explanation.  Within neuroscience itself, the best explanations are inherently multilevel, appealing simultaneously to behavioral, circuit-level, cellular and genetic insights.  Outside the domain of neuroscience proper, human behavior depends additionally on multiple levels of social and cultural organization and insight.  Each level of explanation complements and corrects, but does not replace, the others.  More than ever in our world, beliefs, values and faith matter.

Biography

William “Bill” Newsome is the Harman Family Provostial Professor, Vincent V.C. Woo Director of the Stanford Neuroscience Institute and Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University. His PhD is from California Institute of Technology. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards including being elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society, the Dan David Prize and being elected to Membership in the National Academy of Science. His research aims to understand the neuronal processes that mediate visual perception and visually guided behaviour.

Next @ GFCF: Expert Medical Panel Discussion on Mitigating the Addiction Crisis

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 4:00 p.m. Woodward IRC, Room 5 

  • John Koehn, Addiction Medical Practitioner, New Westminster, Royal Columbia Hospital, completed a Fellowship under Dr. Evan Wood, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
  • Jay Wong, Psychiatry Resident UBC—St. Paul’s Hospital, Providence Health.
  • Jadine Cairns, Nutritionist, Children’s Hospital, Specialist in Eating Disorders
  • Gabriel Loh, Doctor of Pharmacology UBC—Clinical Coordinator Pharmacy Proctice, Richmond Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health, Clinical Assistant Professor UBC

 

 

Rabbi Lord Jonathan SacksScreen Shot 2017-09-20 at 1.31.03 PM

The Dignity of Difference: the Critical Moral Contribution of Religion in our Globalized World.

Wednesday, October 25 @ 4:00 p.m., Chemistry D200, 2036 Main Mall, UBC 

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, philosopher, theologian, politician, one of the UK’s top public intellectuals, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth 1991-2013. Baron Sacks will be brought to us by video.

Online Location: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrQ75meskWI

Responses 

Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus Geography, UBC and Dr. Jason Byassee, Professor of Hermeneutics and Homiletics, Vancouver School of Theology.

 

Abstract

Jonathan Sacks affirms that religion is indeed part of human controversy today, but he wants to emphasize that it most certainly can and should be a big part of the solution to contemporary tensions and conflicts. Especially true for him, the morality carried by religious traditions has a vital contribution with respect to the powerful forces of globalization in late capitalism. He wants us to celebrate the differences among religious traditions and use them to preserve and enlarge, not stunt, our humanity. Sacks, a man of conservative temperament, following a very orthodox version of Judaism, is a large-hearted person who has come to respect the different ways humans have expressed their search for meaning and identity. The liberating thing about this lecture, also a theme in two key books (The Dignity of Difference, and Not in God’s Name), is that he uses it to open the wisdom of the Hebrew tradition, especially the Genesis narrative. He does this because he believes it will help us find a way to heal the troubles that beset us, including terrible violence and injustice. The astonishing thing about this achievement is that his application of the Hebrew religious genius to the human condition works, whether you believe in God or not. He posits a world where all can participate on a level economic playing field, and where there can be respect for the Other. Judaism has always had a healthy attitude towards the world, it has always sought moderation in its adherents and a strong sense of responsibility toward the less fortunate. It is for this reason that Rabbi Sacks’ analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the global market economy is so compelling and hopeful. He attends to important nuances of the human condition and the variety of our motives. His genius involves a re-thinking of the narrative of the relationships between the three great Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This posture resonates with people concerned to pursue peace and the global common good, heal fragmented relationships and end violence.

Biography

An international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author and respected moral voice, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was awarded the 2016 Templeton Prize in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” Described by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales as “a light unto this nation” and by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as “an intellectual giant”, Rabbi Sacks is a frequent and sought after contributor to radio, television and the press both in Britain and around the world. Since stepping down as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth – a position he served for 22 years between 1991 and 2013 – Rabbi Sacks has held a number of professorships at several academic institutions including Yeshiva University and King’s College London. He currently serves as the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. Rabbi Sacks has been awarded 17 honorary doctorates including a Doctor of Divinity conferred to mark his first ten years in office as Chief Rabbi, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.

Much has been said and written in recent years about the connection between religion and violence. Three answers have emerged. The first: Religion is the major source of violence. Therefore, if we seek a more peaceful world we should abolish religion. The second: Religion is not a source of violence. People are made violent, as Hobbes said, by fear, glory and the ‘perpetual and restless desire for power after power that ceaseth only in death’. Religion has nothing to do with it. It may be used by manipulative leaders to motivate people to wage wars precisely because it inspires people to heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but religion itself teaches us to love and forgive, not to hate and fight. The third answer is: Their religion, yes; our religion, no. We are for peace. They are for war. ~Jonathan Sacks

Now is the time for Jews, Christians and Muslims to say what they failed to say in the past: We are all children of Abraham. And whether we are Isaac or Ishmael, Jacob or Esau, Leah or Rachel, Joseph or his brothers, we are precious in the sight of God. We are blessed. And to be blessed, no one has to be cursed. God’s love does not work that way. Today God is calling us, Jew, Christian and Muslim, to let go of hate and the preaching of hate, and live at last as brothers and sisters, true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith, honouring God’s name by honouring his image, humankind. ~Jonathan Sacks

Responses to the Video: Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus from UBC Geography, Dr. Jason Byassee, from Vancouver School of Theology, will respond to the lecture and take questions.

Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus, UBC Geography  

University of Cambridge, King’s College, BA Honours, Geography; Harvard University, AM, Geology; University of Cambridge, 1968, PhD, Geomorphology; 1968-2004: Assistant, Associate and Full Professor, Geography, UBC; 2004-Present: Professor Emeritus, Geography, UBC

The focus of Olav’s teaching and research has been on understanding landscape science and, particularly, on water and sediment budgets as fundamental geomorphological knowledge. His regional focus has been on mountain environments, especially in British Columbia, Scandinavia, the Austrian Alps, Japan, Ethiopia and Taiwan. His wider interest extends to global physical geography and to stewardship of mountain regions. In recent years, he has broadened his interests further to embrace the meta-problems of global environmental change and environmental sustainability. He has served the International Geographical Union as Chair and member of several Commissions and as a coopted member of its Executive Committee; he was Head of Geography (1982-1991) and an Executive Committee member of the International Association of Geomorphologists from 1989-2001 (President, 1997-2001). He was President of the Canadian Association of Geographers (1991-1992) and Associate Vice-President of UBC (1991-1995). In the wider world, he was Governor of the International Development Research Centre, a major Canadian initiative to build capacity for sustainability in less developed countries (1994-2002). Since his retirement in 2004 he has been Visiting Professor at the University of Vienna. Honours: Member of the Order of Canada; Foreign Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science; DSc honoris causa, University of Wales.

Comments During the Event by Dr Slaymaker

                                                            

The Dignity of Difference: the Intrinsic Value of Diversity in the Light of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ Call for Monotheists to Claim their Common Heritage

  1. What is the dignity of difference?

The expression “Dignity of Difference” was coined by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in describing the glory of the created world in its astonishing multiplicity: the thousands of different languages spoken by mankind, the proliferation of cultures, the sheer variety of the imaginative expressions of the human spirit in most of which the voice of wisdom can be heard. The world is not a single machine but it is more like a complex interactive ecology in which diversity is of the essence. At the very least, that realization should make us better listeners. No civilization has the right to impose itself on others by force. This is why God asks us to respect the freedom and dignity of those who are not like us. “Do not oppress a stranger for you know what it feels like to be a stranger, for you yourselves were once strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23, v.9) 

  1. Engaging the discussion: is there some intrinsic value in diversity?

In contemporary Canada there is a strong emphasis on embracing diversity, with the underlying assumption that diversity is a good thing. Intrinsic value of diversity can be argued from geodiversity, biodiversity and cultural/religious diversity, but a separate lecture would be required to do these ideas justice. The worlds of inorganic objects (GEODIVERSITY), of living organisms (BIODIVERSITY) and human traditions (CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY) exemplify the value of diversity by underlining concepts such as complexity, keystone species and resilience that relate to the sustainability of the human species. Cultural and religious diversity gives colour and a sense of security to people whereas globalization flattens the globe and leads to alienation. Cultural and religious diversity is often overwhelmed by the global market. Nevertheless, cultural and religious diversity reflects biodiversity and geodiversity and is important to preserve for its own sake because it is a part of God’s creative work..

It is undoubtedly true that the immense power of globalization has positive  aspects, including notably the defeat of fascism and communism and globalization is also thought to be a good thing as it enables a sense of the global community. On the face of it, the global and the national priorities cannot be resolved and lie at the root of many civil unrests and protests surrounding, for example, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs.

Books of substance have been written on this topic but relatively little to my knowledge has been written by the religious community

  1. What does the Bible have to say about the national versus the global according to Sacks?

In my view, though I am open to correction, Rabbi Sacks is the first heavy weight religious person to take aim at the end of history (Fukuyama, 1992) and end of geography (Friedman, 2005) arguments. Significantly, he points out that in each case, God is left out of the discussion. He proposes that Judaism uniquely among the monotheisms has seriously grappled with the tension between the global and the national.  Specifically, he directs attention to the first eleven chapters of Genesis as a trial run for globalism that failed. The rest of Genesis emphasizes family, tribe and nation (Genesis 15). Judaism, he says, is strictly national. It is an explicitly Judaic interpretation of diversity that, he says, has relevance to humanity, secular or religious and creates a new paradigm of mutual acceptance instead of factionalism. He argues from Genesis that God has created difference, through the creation of many cultures, the diversity of faiths and individual civilizations, all with only one place to live, our blue planet Earth. Can we make space for difference? There need to be two theologies Sacks argues: a theology of commonality and a theology of difference (p.21 of the Dignity of Difference) and that is exactly what Judaism has done by contrast with Islam and Christianity. “God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians and Islam to Muslims – no one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth. “The God of Abraham is the God of all mankind but the faith of Abraham is not the faith of all mankind” (p.53).  He also suggests that Christianity and Islam have failed to resolve this tension because of their emphasis on globalism and their disrespect for difference. But the thoughtful reader will ask whether the details of Sacks’ argument can ever sit comfortably with the reality of God’s activity in the unique history of Judaism and the reality of the incarnation.

Rabbi Sacks proceeds to recommend a deeper exegesis of the book of Genesis, a book that is common to all three monotheisms. His argument, that difference is always good, is endorsed by the uniqueness of the history of Judaism.  He asks why our common book (Genesis) emphasizes story-telling and not philosophy (in the way that classical Western thinking has evolved)? The central point of his discussion is that we have all misread the book of Genesis by focusing on superficial exegesis. Sacks recommends reading Genesis at five levels. This is a more intricate argument that looks at the stories of the main characters from five vantage points:

  • Superficial reading: primogeniture overturned: Ishmael and Esau deprived of birthrights: this is the standard reading
  • From the vantage point of fathers: Abraham loved Ishmael and Isaac loved Esau
  • Where are your sympathies drawn? Hagar and Ishmael; Isaac and Esau.
  • What is the final scene in each story? Isaac and Ishmael standing side by side at their Dad’s funeral; Jacob and Esau reconciled; Joseph and his brothers reconciled
  • How do Jews read? How do Christians read? How do Muslims read?

Conclusion.

The sustainability of humanity probably depends on the understanding of difference through compassion, conservation, resilience and eventual reconciliation. We could think of these as being keystone principles without which humanity is unlikely to survive.  Systemic discrimination has arisen through undue emphasis on the differences between monotheisms. The recommendation to read more carefully and at many levels of interpretation to discover the commonalities in monotheism’s traditions is a profound and hope-filled theme. The call for a conversation that recognizes the common heritage of Judaism, Islam and Christianity is timely and well made. Apart from the obvious and central difficulty around the fact of the Incarnation, much wisdom could be gained from reading our common book (in this case specifically Genesis) together. At the very least, such a proposal would inform monotheists of the importance of hermeneutics and potentially reduce violence between religious fundamentalists.

 

Olav Slaymaker’s presentation at the Graduate and Faculty Christian Forum on Wednesday, October 25, 2017.

 

______________________________

Jason Byassee is the inaugural holder of the Butler Chair in Homiletics and Biblical Hermeneutics at Vancouver School of Theology. His primary vocation is to reinvigorate today’s church with the best of ancient and contemporary wisdom for creatively faithful living. He was previously senior pastor of Boone United Methodist Church in Boone, North Carolina. There he directed eight other pastoral staff members and pastored a congregation of 1500 from five worshiping communities.

He studied at Davidson College and Duke University, where he earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology in 2005. He is also a contributing editor to Christian Century magazine, where he served as an assistant editor from 2004-2008. He is a Fellow in Theology and Leadership at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School. He has served previously as a Research Fellow in the New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He is the author or editor of nine books, most recently Trinity: The God We Don’t Know (Abingdon, 2015). He is at work co-editing or co-authoring books on clergy health in North Carolina, mentoring as a Christian practice, and growing United Methodist church plants. Future solo volumes include a commentary on the last third of the Psalter and a book on reading the bible with the church fathers. His work has also appeared in Christianity Today, Theology Today, Books & Culture, Sojourners, and First Things.

At Vancouver School of Theology he teaches subjects as various as preaching, biblical interpretation, leadership, church history, and writing. He has previously taught as an adjunct at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, North Park Theological Seminary, Northern Seminary, and Wheaton College.

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  1. Wednesday, November 29 @ 4:00 p.m., MacLeod Building Room 254, 2356 Main Mall – Dr. Thomas Heilke, Professor of Political Science, and Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, UBC Okanagan

 A Close Examination of the Foundations of Democracy: Religion and the Current Crisis

Abstract

Limitless human potential and progress will result in this-worldly, pan-humanist fulfilment for all people groups. Inclusive pluralism, tolerance and respect will rule the day. Human possibilities will extend into a perfected and still perfecting future, supported by and supporting human autonomy, equality, and freedom. These expectations (or values) form one stream of the Western political tradition—liberal democracy. It functions as a political “myth” that regulates our thinking about public discourse, political leadership and perhaps reality itself. The myth has often been thought to originate within religious sensibilities and thought-ways, especially (but not exclusively) those of Christianity. Recent national and international political shock events have cast doubt on this myth and its inherent hopes for democratic polities like Canada. Therefore, we want to circumspectly probe: What indeed are the foundations of such a myth? Can a rigorous examination of current events help us think more clearly about the meaning of such foundations in the light of institutions and emotions, virtues and vices? Included in this inquiry, we contend, is the understanding that they are arguably based in the same religious sensibilities that underpin the hope of human progress. Professor Thomas Heilke will argue that the sources can be fruitfully examined, but also that their theological origins—alongside the parallel theological origins of progressivist thinking— must be more clearly discerned.

Biography

Thomas Heilke received his PhD from Duke University in 1990. After 23 years as a faculty member and a variety of administrative positions at the University of Kansas, he has been Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies UBC Okanagan since January, 2014. He is the recipient of three teaching awards, and has written on a variety of topics in political philosophy, including civic friendship, political theology, the political thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, Eric Voegelin, John Howard Yoder, and Thucydides, and Anabaptist political thought. He has authored or co-authored four books and edited or co-edited six further volumes. His work has appeared in journals that include American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Polity, The Review of Politics, and Modern Theology. Among his published books are Voegelin on the Idea of Race: An Analysis of Modern European Racism (1990); Nietzsche’s Tragic Regime: Culture, Aesthetics, and Political Education (1998); Eric Voegelin: In Quest of Reality (1999). He co-edited with Ashley Woodwiss The Re-Enchantment of Political Science: Christian Scholars Engage Their Discipline, (2001). He belongs to the American Political Science Association and the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars.

 DInteresting Interview with Dr. Robert Lustig University of California San Francisco, author of The Hacking of the American Mind  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKkUtrL6B18

More details to follow: Your GFCF Committee