Our understanding of the secular has evolved in significant ways over the past century, and this can often lead to confusion. Within modernity, how do those who most strongly identify as religious and this who view themselves as secular discover their common cause? In this talk, Dr. Heilke will drill down into that language and its surprising history. He will sharpen our understanding and propose creative ways of engaging with one another fruitfully across different visions of societal life. Vital issues of justice, public morality, civic and religious liberties are at stake as we seek sustainable ways forward for human flourishing and the common good. Rejecting the ideological culture wars, Dr. Heilke holds out hope to find a symbiotic interface between the secular and the religious voice. We all see from a limited perspective, and we can all discover our identity and public engagement afresh through constructive dialogue and artful cooperation.
Thomas Heilke received his Ph.D. 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.
Research Interests: Political philosophy and theory; classical political thought; modern political thought; political theology; religion and politics; political ideologies; international relations in political philosophy
Teaching: Political philosophy; history of political thought; religion and politics; international relations in political philosophy
Future Prospects for Higher Education: Key Drivers of Sustainability
November 17, 2015 @ 4:00 p.m. Woodward (IRC) Room 1
Jens Zimmermann, Canada Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture, Trinity Western University
Emily Osborne, PhD Cambridge, Postdoctoral Fellow UBC English
Bruce Hindmarsh, James Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College
Ron Dart, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, University of the Fraser Valley
Recording of the Discussion
In a recent Globe and Mail article, CNN’s reporter Farheed Zakaria posits the tough question, “Is liberal-arts education more than a nostalgia for a bygone era of higher learning, now out of sync with today’s hyper-competitive skills-based economies?” Such questions are also posed by many powerful influencers today. In a different issue of the Globe, Alan Wildeman, President and vice-chancellor of University of Windsor, adjures us in an article entitled “We ignore liberal arts at our peril” where he argues that the liberal arts is essential for civility, democracy, wise decision-making and competence in the job world. As a multicultural country playing in the global arena, Canada needs a citizenry that learns and studies human differences, social behaviors and cultural traditions. Indeed, does higher education encourage the pursuit of character development together with academic excellence? Is it innovative, socially relevant and sustainable? Does it prepare students for negotiating an increasingly complex and competitive globalized world? What will inspire and engage their imagination in the pursuit of active citizenship and civil discourse? Post-secondary education has a huge cultural and economic influence in Canada. It shapes the future, while building on a critical appreciation of the past. In its community, UBC Vancouver has 10,000 postgraduate and 41,000 undergraduate students from around the world. They come with high hopes for skill and credential development, and long to contribute to meaningful research and to acquire good future careers. A large percentage hope to make a better world. Education seems essential for both self-awareness and global awareness. At the same time, globally education is under intense pressure from various forces (intrinsic and extrinsic), currently pulling it in different directions, amidst conflicting public and political expectations. In the early history of universities like Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, Queen’s and McGill, character development was a central priority. It is timely for this panel to reflect upon the purpose and trajectory of the contemporary university, and the goods it is to pursue.
Jens Zimmermann, Canada Research Chair for Interpretation, Religion, and Culture at Trinity Western University, received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UBC and his Doctorate in Philosophy from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. His research interests in include continental philosophy (especially hermeneutics), theological anthropology, the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Christian humanism. He is author of Humanism and Religion: A Call For the Renewal of Western Culture (OUP 2012), and more recently of Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction, also with Oxford University Press.
Dr. Emily Osborne is currently a SSHRC-postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English, University of British Columbia. She received her PhD and MPhil from Cambridge University, where she studied medieval English, Icelandic and Scandinavian languages and literature. Her current research is interdisciplinary and transcultural, spanning literature from the seventh to fifteenth centuries in four languages, and engaging with sociolinguistics and philosophy of mind. Her academic publications and research projects are concerned with the history of rhetoric, poetic theory and metaphor theory, intentionality, and speech acts.
Bruce Hindmarsh took his D.Phil. degree in theology at Oxford University in 1993. From 1995 to 1997 he was also a research fellow at Christ Church, Oxford. He has since published and spoken widely to international audiences on the history of early British evangelicalism. He is the author of two major books: John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1996) and The Evangelical Conversion Narrative (Oxford University Press, 2005). Bruce has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards, research grants and fellowships. He has been a Mayers Research Fellow at the Huntington Library and a holder of the Henry Luce III Theological Fellowship. A fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is also a past-president of the American Society of Church History. He teaches the history of Christian spirituality at Regent College.
Ron Dart has taught in the department of political science, philosophy, religious studies at University of the Fraser Valley since 1990. He was on staff with Amnesty International in the 1980s. Ron has published more than 30 books/booklets, including books on Stephen Leacock, George Grant and the classical Canadian Red Tory tradition.
R. Scott Smith, Associate Professor of Ethics, Biola University
Dr. Scott Smith is keenly interested in our abilities to have knowledge of reality, particularly in the areas of ethics and religion. He also is very interested in the needed ontology to have knowledge. He addresses “constructivism,” the fact-value split, and issues with our being able to have knowledge on the basis of naturalism, postmodernism, and nominalism.
October 7 and 8, 2015
A. Can Scientific Naturalism Fully Explain Ethics?Woodward IRC Room 5 @ 4:00 p.m. October 7, 2015
In the west, until the Enlightenment, both ethics and religion tended to be seen as areas in which we could have knowledge. But that changed with the historical rise of 1) the view that the universe is a closed, mechanistic, and material system, 2) the view that science is the pinnacle of the disciplines, and 3) the rise of empiricism, science came to be viewed as the unique set of disciplines that gives us knowledge of facts. Instead, ethics and religion were relegated to the realm of mere values, personal preferences, and opinions. Before the rise of naturalism to prominence in the modern era, morals tended to be seen as the kind of thing that can be universal, objectively real, and transcendent, being knowable by reason and revelation. But under naturalism, morals have to be the kind of thing amenable to a physicalist ontology. Despite numerous alternatives proposed by naturalists (e.g., that morals are just a biological adaptation), Dr. Smith will argue that naturalism lacks the ontology to make sense of ethics. Moreover, he will argue that the fact-value split is false – i.e. that if naturalism is true, we cannot know anything (even in science, business, etc.). But we do know many things, even in ethics, and so naturalism is called into serious question. It lacks the explanatory power we need for moral knowledge. But that means a radically different worldview, and ontology, must be sought out and examined.
B. Does Postmodernism Offer a Better Alternative to Naturalism in Ethics?Woodward IRC Room 1 @ 4:00 p.m., October 8, 2015
Audio of Talk B.
If we cannot have any knowledge based on what naturalism allows as real, perhaps postmodernism (as explained by Wittgenstein or Derrida) might provide a favorable alternative. On this view, everything is interpretation, for there is no direct access to reality itself. To even have an experience requires interpretation. Thus postmodernism deconstructs and shows how science’s claim to a unique ability to give us knowledge of facts as they actually are in reality, is just another modern myth. Several ethicists have proposed more postmodern approaches to ethics, and a major figure is Alasdair MacIntyre. He proposes a return to Aristotle’s virtue ethics, modified in key ways, as a means to recover from the loss of moral knowledge precipitated by the Enlightenment. Yet knowledge now is to be understood as always from under a particular aspect; no one has an ahistorical, blind-to-nothing standpoint. For many scholars, the “postmodern condition” is axiomatic and reflects how we should move forward in ethics. But one may ask whether that indeed is the case. Professor Smith will argue that while postmoderns are right to draw our attention to the ways our situatedness affects how we interpret our experience, they are mistaken in their claims that everything is interpretation. Instead, he argue that we can know reality directly, and yet that does not mean we are blind-to-nothing, or can have a “God’s eye view”, or attain exhaustive knowledge. Postmodern attempts, moreover, cannot make adequate sense of what kind of things are some core moral principles and virtues (e.g. love and justice). If naturalist and postmodern approaches fail us regarding moral knowledge, is there a better explanation? Dr. Smith will argue that the best explanation is that moral principles and virtues exist objectively, and that they have a religious grounding – in God or theism. In this way, we can make robust sense of ethics.
Professor R. Scott Smith received his PhD in Religion and Social Ethics from University of Southern California in 2000. He has been Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at Biola University since 2000. His academic interest is in Husserl, Phenomenology and Constructivism, Philosophy of Religion and Ethics. Deeply curious about the interrelationship of epistemology and metaphysics particularly in the area of ethics, he teaches graduate courses in ethics, philosophy of religion, metaphysics and epistemology. He is a member of the American Philosophical Association (APA). Dr. Smith is the author of a number of important books including In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy (IVP Academic, 2014), Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality: Testing Religious Truth-claims (Ashgate, 2012), and Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge: Philosophy of Language after MacIntyre and Hauerwas (Ashgate, 2003), along with many articles and chapters of books, including “Could We Know Reality, Given Physicalism? Nancey Murphy’s Views as Test Case,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 64:3 (September, 2012). He was honored with the Biola Award for Excellence in Scholarship in the year 2007-2008.
Online Christian Ethics & Moral Theology Research Bibliographies
Compiled and Annotated by James Bretzke
Professor Moral Theology Boston College School of Theology & Ministry 140 Commonwealth Ave. Chestnut Hill, MA 02467 http://www.bc.edu/stm
Latest Addition or Update to the Web-site: August 18, 2015 See below for individual bibliography update information
See also the following published 3 Research Bibliographies by James T. Bretzke, S.J.
A Research Bibliography in Christian Ethics and Catholic Moral Theology. Lewiston NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2006.
A book-length annotated and thoroughly indexed bibliography arranged topically, covering both Roman Catholic and Protestant themes and authors with titles in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian.
Bibliography on Scripture and Christian Ethics. Studies in Religion and Society, 39. Lewiston NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997.
Arranged both according to the Old and New Testament, as well as the individual books and/or authors of the New Testament. Entries are also given according to certain key thematic issues, such as methodology of the interplay and usage of the Bible in ethics, liberation theology and Scripture, biblical authority, feminist issues in biblical hermeneutics, as well as a number of theological themes such as justice and righteousness, the love command, law and gospel, sin and reconciliation, etc. Finally, entries are provided which cover a number of particular ethical themes such as ecology, economics, medical ethics, sexual ethics and gender issues, war and peace. A final section gathers titles which were published prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962- 1965) which marked a watershed for the greater appropriation of Scripture in the discipline of Roman Catholic moral theology.
Bibliography on East Asian Religion and Philosophy. Studies in Asian Thought and Religion, 23. Lewiston NY: Mellen Press, 2001.
Compiles, annotates, indexes and cross-references resources in the principal Western languages of English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish which focus on East Asia (principally China, Japan, and Korea) in the primary areas of philosophy and religious studies, with supporting resources in theology, history, culture, and related social sciences.
Astronomer from Calvin College and President of BioLogos
God and the Multiverse
Wednesday, May 6 @ 4:00 p.m.
Woodward (IRC) Room 1
The last 100 years have transformed our understanding of the universe. We now know that the universe is ancient, beginning in a Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, and that it continues to expand today, at an ever-increasing rate. We’ve also seen amazing evidence that some physical laws and constants are fine-tuned for life, as well as hints that our universe is part of a much bigger multiverse. What does all this have to do with God? This talk will give an overview of a range of religious and non-religious responses to these exciting discoveries.
Deborah Haarsma earned a PhD in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in1997. An experienced research scientist, she was Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College from 2009-2012, Professor of Astronomy from 1999-2012. She has several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. Dr. Haarsma has studied very large galaxies (at the centers of galaxy clusters), very young galaxies (undergoing rapid star formation in the early universe), and gravitational lenses (where spacetime is curved by a massive object). Her work uses data from several major telescopes, including the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico, the Southern Astrophysical Research optical and infrared telescope in Cerro Pachon, Chile, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory in orbit around the earth. Since January 2013, Dr. Haarsma has served as President of BioLogos (biologos.org) a serious academic dialogue between current world-class science and Christian faith. BioLogos was founded by Dr. Francis Collins of the National Institute of Health in the USA, and runs annual conferences for scientists and church leaders. In this subject area, Haarsma published Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design with her husband and fellow physicist, Loren Haarsma. She also edited the anthology Delight in Creation: Scientists Share Their Work with the Church with Rev. Scott Hoezee.
See also: Satyan Devados at Cal Tech God, Math and the Multiverse
See also: Alister McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe: the Quest for God in Science and Theology. (2009).
Are there viable pathways from nature to God? Natural theology is making a 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. So how can Christian theology relate to these new developments?
In this landmark work, based on his 2009 Gifford lectures, 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.
The celebrated Gifford Lectures have long been recognized as making landmark contributions to the discussion of natural theology. A Fine-Tuned Universe will contribute significantly to that discussion by developing a rich Trinitarian approach to natural theology that allows deep engagement with the intellectual and moral complexities of the natural world. It will be essential reading to those looking for a rigorous engagement between science and the Christian faith. – Amazon
C. S. Lewis noted that he was shaken by reading Anders Nygren’s famous book Agape and Eros(1932) while in his thirties. Nygren’s antithetical juxtaposition of eros and agape had become enormously influential in twentieth century Protestant theology. Among other controversial claims, Nygren argued that human love is always selfish. In The Four Loves(1960), C. S. Lewis vehemently denies this claim, and constructs his own theology of love. The lecture will evaluate this most important disagreement between these two prominent scholars, including its profound implications. Contrary to what Nygren thought, Lewis contends that the pursuit of happiness is not morally culpable and even eros has the dawn of agape. While arguing for this view, however, Lewis was driven to some exaggeration.
Jason Lepojärvi is a Junior Research Fellow in theology at St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford, a Ph.D. Candidate with a dissertation to be defended in early 2015, and a former President of the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society. Born to a Canadian mother and a Finnish father, he studied theology and philosophy at the University of Helsinki. His master’s thesis (2008) on the theology of the body and sexuality by John Paul II was later published as the first introduction to the subject in Finnish (2012), and his upcoming doctoral dissertation (2015) is on C. S. Lewis’s theology of love. His research interests lie in Roman Catholic and Protestant philosophy and theology, more specifically, philosophy and theology of love, the body, sexuality, worship, and idolatry. In 2014, he won the Karl Schlecht Award. http://www.st-benets.ox.ac.uk/-fellows.
Alister McGrath, C. S. Lewis–A Life: eccentric genius, reluctant prophet.
Report: Jason Lepojarvi, gave a careful and thoughtful exposition of the difference in view on the meaning of love (agape versus eros) in the work of Swedish scholar Anders Nygren and Oxford English scholar C.S. Lewis. Essentially, Lewis legitimizes various types of human love (including eros), whereas Nygren only accepts God’s love through the person (agape) as legitimate and holy. The individual human is eradicated in Nygren, who sees eros or romantic love as selfish (denigrated) love; it is always eudaemonistic, egocentric or happiness-seeking. Nygren’s division has greatly impacted modern Christian theology, which has not sufficiently engaged with the potential diversity in expressions of human love towards other humans and the divine. Jason Lepojarvi explored how Lewis seeks to correct this bi-partite view of love, seeing an agapic opening in eros. Lewis believed that eros had nothing to do with seeking happiness, although Lewis’ position is perhaps an exaggeration in order to counter Nygren. Critical dialogue in this area opens a space for Christian academics to engage scholars from across disciplines (including theology, philosophy and sociology) as to the motivations behind human love and relationships. After Jason’s nuanced talk, many attendees joined him at dinner and enjoyed further discussion. Jason holds great promise as a young scholar; everyone appreciated his visit and the grace of his persona. He also lectured at Regent College the previous evening.
In this presentation Dr. Craig Mitton will begin by describing the structure of the Canadian health care system and outline where Canada sits globally on several international outcome measures. In assessing the economic dimensions of the system, Craig will review two common myths related to aging and new technologies and will show that more resources for health care are not the answer. He will then put forward two key challenges, one related to the public and one related to physicians and finally he will offer a pragmatic solution to ensure excellence in Canadian health care that includes a number of immediate policy responses. The debate will be lively and the session will offer much time for interaction and audience participation.
Dr. Craig Mitton is an internationally recognized leader in the field of health care priority setting. He is a Senior Scientist in the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation and is both Division Head of Health Services and Policy and Director of the Master of Health Administration program within the School of Population and Public Health at UBC. Craig is the lead author on a book titled “The Priority Setting Toolkit: a guide to the use of economics in health care priority setting” and is the lead or co-author on over 100 peer reviewed journal articles. He has delivered over 150 presentations across many different countries and regularly runs short courses in health economics. He completed both his PhD and MSc at the University of Calgary and holds a BSc from UBC. Craig lives in Vancouver with his wife and two young daughters.
There are many arguments against materialism that take the general form: “Materialism is false because it cannot account for X”, where X might be consciousness, rational understanding, human free will, or the evolution of life. Such arguments are advanced today by philosophers such as Thomas Nagel, David Chalmers and Alvin Plantinga. Dr. Johns sees the last two arguments as linked, since free will and evolution both require creativity, in a sense that seems to be incompatible with both determinism and randomness (or a combination of them). In this talk our speaker will define what it means for a process to be creative, and show that free will and biological evolution (as well as engineering) require creativity in this sense. He will then look at arguments that material systems cannot be creative, and consider objections to them.
Dr. Richard Johns was born in the UK, and did his undergraduate training in mathematics and engineering before switching to logic and philosophy of science in graduate school. He moved to Vancouver, B.C. to finish his PhD in philosophy at UBC. Since then he taught philosophy courses at UBC and SFU before accepting a permanent position at Langara College. His main research interest concerns the objective meaning of “probability”, as used in physical theories, which is the topic of his book, A Theory of Physical Probability (U. of T. Press, 2002). He is also interested in the limits of self-organisation in physics, the question of whether material systems can have understanding, the possibility of free will in a material universe, and the recent emergence of “safety” as an overriding moral imperative.
Possible Reading:Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies; Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos; David Chalmers, The Character of Consciousness (2010). Oxford University Press
Summary of the Argument: Can Matter be Creative? by Richard Johns
It is commonplace to compare living organisms to human technology. William Paley, for example, compared organisms to watches, in virtue of containing parts with obvious purposes that meshed together to produce a functioning whole. Richard Dawkins compared bats to spy planes, bristling with advanced technology. Also note that biologists consider human technologies such as cell phones and airplanes to be products of evolution, since their creators are themselves such products.
While life and technology are similarly functional, their origins are thought to be very different. The development of new technologies requires that engineers understand the problem to be solved, and have knowledge of physical laws, the properties of materials, and so on. In short, creative engineering requires understanding. This is especially crucial when solving very difficult problems, which may take many generations of engineers. The Wright brothers, smart fellows though they were, could not have made a supersonic jet. Solving the problem of supersonic flight required a long cumulative process of somewhat gradual improvements, involving many people, who each had to understand the successes as well as the limitations of earlier designs.
Evolution on the other hand is not an intentional process, according to the standard evolutionary theory (SET). (SET refers rather loosely to contemporary versions of the ‘Modern Synthesis’, or ‘Neo-Darwinism’, developed in the 1940s by Fisher, Haldane, Wright, etc.) Evolution is a purely physical process on this view, and no thought or understanding is involved, until perhaps humans arrive on the scene. Nevertheless evolution is often described as a ‘creative’ process, on account of the fantastic technologies it has produced. I will argue, however, that no physical process can be creative in the required sense.
Engineers have, we might say, a ‘bias’ towards functional structures. If you produced a vast number of structures randomly, all with the same probability, very few of them would be functional. Very few would ‘do something useful’, such as walking, swimming, flying, detecting remote objects, producing light, generating electric currents, etc. Random processes are therefore unlikely to produce anything functional. Engineers however don’t produce objects randomly. They’re much more likely to produce a functional object than a random process would be.
Can physical processes have a similar bias toward functional structures? Evolutionary biologists say, “Yes indeed!” (Richard Dawkins is especially clear on this point.) Were this not the case, evolution – a physical process – could never have produced the complex life we see around us in so short a time.
Here’s the difficulty. The process of evolution must have a strong bias toward making new functional structures, or it cannot explain life as we find it. On the other hand, the laws of physics themselves have no bias toward functionality. The laws of physics are very simple and symmetric, and have been shown to produce only objects that are either simple and repetitive, or complex but random-looking and haphazard (or a mixture of the two). Such objects are never functional to any significant degree. A bias toward functionality arises only, SET claims, with the first appearance of a self-replicating entity, whose descendants differ from one another in minor ways. This leads to a struggle for existence, a competition for resources among these variants, and an automatic ‘selection’ of the more functional types.
So SET is committed to four claims:
(i) The laws of physics have no bias toward producing ‘technology’, or functional structures.
(ii) The process of evolution, which begins with the appearance of self-replicators, has a strong bias toward functionality.
(iii) Evolution is a purely physical process.
(iv) The spontaneous appearance of a self-replicator may be improbable, but it isn’t fantastically improbable (or evolution would require a miracle to get going).
The conjunction of these claims is however in conflict with probability theory. The first claim entails that complex life is fantastically improbable relative to the laws of physics, too improbable to be a realistic possibility, even in billions of years. (In the Markov chain formalism that can be used to represent a physical system, it has very low ‘stationary probability’.) If this probability becomes much larger, upon the appearance of a self-replicator, then probability theory tells us that the appearance of a self-replicator must also be fantastically improbable, contradicting claim (iv) above. In technical language, if Prob(A) is some low number , but Prob(A | B) is some much larger value q, then Prob(B) is no greater than /q. In effect, the probabilities of events in a physical system are fixed by the laws of physics, and the initial state, and cannot change much thereafter. For an improbable event to become probable, an equally improbable event must occur first.
There is no possible escape to this problem, as long as the probability of functional organisms is indeed very low at the beginning of time. But to drop this assumption (i) commits us to the view that the laws of physics themselves have a very strong bias toward functional objects, including computers and bicycles. Apart from there being no evidence for this at all (and much opposing evidence), it would seem to remove the need for SET in the first place.
In summary, if evolution is a physical process, then it can produce living organisms only if the laws of physics and initial state are ‘pre-programmed’ (so to speak) to do so. There is no question of a physical process creating such a disposition toward technology on its own. Physical systems, whether deterministic or not, are ruled by their laws and initial conditions.