Location: Twentieth Century Club, 4201 Bigelow Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA. For details on how to register, see this link.
Friday night, April 15
7:30 PM David Snoke, President of the CSS, “Introduction to the CSS and Overview of the Problem of Fine Tuning”
8:10 PM Robin Collins, Department of Philosophy, Messiah College, “The Fine Tuning of the Cosmos for Life: Evidence of Divine Creation”
Saturday morning, April 16
9:00 AM Fazale (“Fuz”) Rana, Reasons to Believe, “Fine Tuning in Biology”
9:45 AM Robert Mann, University of Waterloo, “Cosmic Particularity: a Universal Puzzle”
10:30 AM Wayne Rossiter, Waynesburg University, “Fine-tuning Faux Pas: Design Arguments from Biology”
11:15 AM Jerry Bergman, Northwest State College, “Good Design or Bad Design in Biology?”
12:00 PM Open panel discussion
1:00 PM Lunch
Abstracts and Biographical Information
David Snoke, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh
“Introduction to the CSS and the Overview of the Problem of Fine Tuning”
After a brief introduction to the Christian Scientific Society and its purpose, I will discuss the problem of fine tuning in cosmology and biology. Several prominent voices in the religion and science debate, such as Francis Collins and John Polkinghorne, have explicitly embraced the appearance of fine tuning in cosmology as supporting evidence for the existence of God, but explicitly reject all intelligent design arguments, which can be cast as fine tuning arguments of the same nature in the realm of biology. I will introduce the similar structure of these arguments.
Bio: David Snoke is Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, after which he was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, Germany. After a brief stint in the aerospace industry, he moved to the University of Pittsburgh in 1994. He was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2006 and recently was named an Outstanding Referee for Physical Review. He has authored or coauthored over 120 articles in scientific journals, and has published four scientific books (two with Cambridge University Press and two with Addison-Wesley), with another one from Cambridge University Press on the way. His research focuses on fundamental quantum mechanical effects in solid state systems, and his laser laboratory has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, DARPA, and Army Research Office. He is also an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and licensed to preach by that denomination. He has long pursued science and faith issues, and published A Biblical Case for an Old Earth with Baker Books in 2006, as well as several articles on science and religion.
Robin Collins, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Messiah College
“The Fine-tuning of the Cosmos for Life: Evidence of Divine Creation”
According to recent findings in physics, almost everything about the basic structure of the universe is finely tuned for life to occur. For example, if the gravitational attraction between fundamental particles as given by Newton’s gravitational constant G were one part in a billion, trillion, trillion times stronger, intelligent life forms such as us could not exist anywhere in the universe. Similar things can be said about the strength of the strong nuclear force, the strength of the electromagnetic force, the masses of the proton and neutron, and other features of the universe. I will show how this fine-tuning constitutes strong evidence for the existence of God. I will also briefly present the ways in which the universe is fine-tuned so that we can do science, and the profound implications of this fine-tuning.
Bio: Professor Robin Collins is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Messiah College in Pennsylvania and chair of the philosophy department. He earned his PhD in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and has graduate-level training in theoretical physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He has written over forty substantial articles and book chapters in philosophy with some of the leading academic presses and has given invited talks at many colleges and universities, such as Oxford University, Cambridge University, Stanford University, and Yale University. He has appeared on several nationally broadcast programs such as the PBS show Closer to Truth. Professor Collins has recently been working on showing that the universe is not only fine-tuned for life, but also fine-tuned to optimize our ability to do science. He recently received a $217,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation for finishing work in this original area of research.
Fazale (“Fuz”) Rana, Vice President of Research and Apologetics, Reasons to Believe
“Is There a Biochemical Anthropic Principle?”
The anthropic principle stands as one of the most provocative discoveries in astrophysics. According to this idea, the dimensionless constants that define the universe must be exquisitely fine-tuned for life to exist. Theists often co-opt this idea to argue for design and a purpose to the universe. Does the anthropic principle extend into the realms of chemistry and biology? The first suggestion of this possibility dates back to the early 1900s, in L. J. Henderson’s classic work The Fitness of the Environment. In this volume, Henderson argues that the elements, inorganic compounds such as water and carbon dioxide, and organic molecules display properties that make them uniquely suitable for life. Growing interest in astrobiology has inspired questions that directly bear on whether or not the anthropic principle applies to biochemistry. Life scientists are starting to ask, why are terrestrial biochemical systems the way they are? And are there alternate biochemistries? Based on the results of these queries, it appears that biochemical systems are specified by the laws of nature, and consequently, may well be universal systems. To put it another way, there don’t appear to be alternate biochemistries. Terrestrial biochemical systems possess properties that make them uniquely and ideally fit for life.
In this presentation, I will use the central dogma of molecular biology and protein structure as two interrelated examples to illustrate the biochemical anthropic principle. I will present evidence that the central dogma of molecular biology is not the product of a contingent evolutionary history, but instead reflects a deeper, underlying molecular logic demanded by the laws of nature. In like manner, I will demonstrate that the standard set of amino acids used to build proteins are optimal, and protein secondary, supersecondary, tertiary, and quaternary structures found in nature appear to be dictated by the laws of physics and chemistry. And this hierarchy of structures appears to be uniquely fit to support life. I will conclude by discussing the scientific, philosophical, and theological implications of the biochemical anthropic principle.
Bio: Fazale (“Fuz”) Rana is Vice President of Research and Apologetics at Reasons to Believe, an independent non-profit apologetics organization, and is Adjunct Professor in the Master of Arts degree in Science and Religion Program, Biola University, and Adjunct Professor for the Certificate Program in Scientific Apologetics, Southern Evangelical Seminary. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Ohio University, where he as twice awarded the Donald Clippinger Research Award. He was for many years a senior scientist at Proctor and Gamble. Fuz converted to Christianity during graduate school. Though he initially embraced the evolutionary paradigm, Fuz eventually drew the conclusion that only a Creator’s involvement could explain the elegance of biochemical systems. But it was only after his fiancee’s pastor challenged him to read the Bible that Fuz became convinced of the validity of Christ’s claims and of his own need for a Savior. The death of his Muslim father some years later helped Fuz appreciate the necessity of evangelism and Christian apologetics and led to his joining the RTB team in 1999. Today, Fuz addresses science-faith hot topics through numerous books, articles, videos, podcasts, television and radio interviews and speaking engagements around the world.
Robert Mann, Professor of Physics and Applied Mathematics, University of Waterloo
“Cosmic Particularity: a Universal Puzzle”
It is now clear that our cosmos is riddled with considerable degree of particularity. In responding to this a number of scientists have in recent years advocated a “super Copernican” revolution, in which our universe is regarded as a small part of a much larger structure known as the multiverse. Scientifically, this entails an unprecedented combination of broadened theoretical perspective with severe empirical limitations, implicitly redefining what is meant by science. Theologically, it introduces a new question: why is there something instead of everything? This talk will give an overview of the epistemic costs the multiverse extracts for both science and theology. I will also explore what alternatives there might be for understanding the atypicality of our observable universe.
Bio: Robert Mann, P.Phys., recently completed a term as chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He did his undergraduate work at McMaster University, and obtained his MSc. and Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. He then spent 2 years as an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University, after which he joined the University of Toronto in 1984 as an NSERC University Research Fellow. He moved to the University of Waterloo in 1987, where he became a full professor in 1991. He served as the Director of the Guelph Waterloo Physics Institute for two years before becoming Chair in 2001. Dr. Mann’s research interests are in gravitation, cosmology and particle physics. with particular interests in black hole thermodynamics quantum gravity, particle physics, quantum information, chaotic phenomena, and the relationship between science and religion. He has published over 200 refereed articles in scientific journals, has given over 150 invited talks and made several media appearances. He has taught physics at all levels, from high school to graduate school, and has supervised ovr 40 graduate students in his career. An affiliate member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, he has served a variety of academic and scientific advisory boards, including the Ontario College of Graduate Studies, the founding board of the Institute for Quantum Computing, and the Ontario Photonics Consortium.
Wayne Rossiter, Assistant Professor of Biology, Waynesburg University
“Fine-tuning Faux Pas: Design Arguments from Biology”
The use of so-called “fine-tuning” arguments in cosmology has become increasingly popular, and is now widely accepted among the faithful as a scientific argument for the existence of a cosmic designer (God). So powerful are these arguments, that some leading atheists believe them to be “the best arguments” in favor of a scientific defense of God’s existence. The basic structure of such arguments rely on the discovery that many of the values for parameters found in the fundamental laws of nature rest upon a razor’s edge, and even infinitesimally small deviations from their current settings would not permit the material universe we find ourselves in, let alone intelligent life. It follows that the fine-tuning of these parameters is better explained by intentionality, not chance. Still, when stated as I have (i.e., that fine-tuning exists in the fundamental laws of nature), there is no obvious reason to separate fine-tuning in cosmology from the fine-tuning seen in astrobiology, the origins of life, or the biological sciences in general. Where there is broad acceptance of fine-tuning arguments in cosmology and theoretical physics, there is decidedly no consensus regarding their usage in these other areas. Even among those scientists and philosophers defending fine-tuning arguments in biology, there is no apparent consensus in the timing, ontogeny or degree of fine-tuning.
My view is that arguments for design—like the fine-tuning arguments—might actually be more soundly defended from biology than cosmology, but that there are caveats and special concerns when using them. Moreover, because we have immediate access to biological examples, and are increasingly able to explain, describe and manipulate them, we can more confidently convert the precision seen our examples of fine-tuning into probability statements, which are required to ground all such arguments. That is, design arguments in biology lend themselves to testability, direct observation, and more robust argumentation. Finally, our knowledge of biological systems (in terms of their evolutionary histories, comparative structures, and mechanical functions) should permit the establishment of consensus views on some fronts. Agreement on these fronts is necessary, because they have diverse and far-reaching implications for both science (as a body of knowledge that is usable and teachable) and theology (in which the “facts” regarding creation define the nature of the Creator and His relationship to the creation).
Bio: Wayne Rossiter is Assistant Professor of Biology at Waynesburg University, Pennsylvania. He received his PhD in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University and his M.S. in Zoology from Ohio State University. He is also the director of the Marine Biology Program at Waynesburg University and Adjunct Professor of Biology and Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
Jerry Bergman, Northest State College
“The Poor Design Argument Refuted”
A common Darwinist’s claim is that the human body is poorly designed, thus negating the intelligent designer claim. A detailed evaluation of the most common claims effectively refutes this claim. Examples covered include the backward retina, the vas deferens, the left recurrent laryngeal nerve, the human back, the epiglottis, the appendix, and several others.
Bio: Dr. Bergman teaches biology, chemistry, and anatomy at Northwest State College in Archbold, Ohio and is an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Toledo Medical College. He has 9 degrees, including a doctorate from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He has published over 1,000 publications in both scholarly and popular science journals, and he has published 38 books and monographs. Dr. Bergman’s work has been translated into 12 languages including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Polish and Swedish. So far over 80,000 copies of the 38 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. His other work experience includes over ten years experience at various Mental Health/Psychology clinics as a licensed professional clinical counselor and three years full time corrections research for a large county circuit court in Michigan and inside the walls of Jackson Prison (SPSM), the largest walled prison in the world. He has also served as a consultant for CBS News, ABC News, Reader’s Digest, Amnesty International, several government agencies, and for two Nobel Prize winners.