Below are the final abstracts and bios for the meeting. For the detailed schedule and to register, see go to this link.
SESSION 1:“Thinking about Truth”
9:00 AM. David Snoke, University of Pittsburgh
“How did we get here? A brief overview of modernism, postmodernism, and post-post-modernism”
Abstract: Many people are reacting against “critical theory” at present, and to the general attack on the legacy of European science with its concept of truth. But this modern world view did not arise out of nowhere. I will give a very broad overview of the history of science as it has interacted with society.
The scientific enterprise has historically rested on the belief that objective truth can be found, or at least well approximated, with sufficient effort and care. The Christian world view also embraces this view. Yet in the past 100 years, our society has moved toward other views, which see this approach as a power play by Western European controlling classes. While these alternate approaches have mostly gotten traction in the social sciences and humanities, they are having increasing traction in the “hard” sciences, as seen, for example, at this link.
This meeting will examine both the concept of truth in general, as well as specific arguments on what is true in the scientific world.
All talks will be at the Biola University Business Building, Room 109. The meeting will also be webcast on Zoom. The schedule is below. To register for the meeting (and to get the webcast link), go to this registration page.
The videos of the talks at the recent meeting in Pittsburgh on COVID are now available for free on YouTube. The links can be found at this page, also easily found by going to the Resources/Videos tab on the CSS site. The bios of the speakers can be found at this post.
Unfortunately, video of the speakers was not recorded, but we have the audio and slides, with Q&A. We do have video of the panel discussion, which will be posted on the CSS site soon.
All who attended the meeting appreciated the spirit of the meeting and the wealth of information imparted. My own brief review is the following:
Greg Poland(Mayo Clinic). Probably the biggest takeaway for me was the seriousness of COVID symptoms for many people, that it is not just to be taken like a tough seasonal flu. I was already fairly familiar with some of the ethical questions, but if you have not studied this, he gave a good survey of the ethics of vaccines in general.
Rick Zimmerman (Pitt School of Medicine). Among other things, he directly addressed the ethical question of past use of fetal tissue and stem cell lines in vaccine development. He also gave us an inside look at how the CDC makes decisions. Along with Tim Girard’s talk, (and Jonathan Uy’s discussion as part of the panel) we got a very good look at how there are many checks and balances in the “system.”
Tim Girard (Pitt School of Medicine). Tim gave a very good overview of how scientists establish whether something really works, and how doctors who work in clinics can be fooled into thinking certain things work when they don’t. He also discussed how it personally hurts Christians in medical research when their findings are dismissed by other Christians based on a few blog posts or hearsay.
David Snoke (Pitt). I got good feedback from several people that my grid for decision making based relative certainty versus consequences was helpful. No medical info as such, but a general discussion of how we are ethical responsible to act in some cases even when we don’t know the whole story.
We’re excited to announce the schedule of the upcoming meeting of the Christian Scientific Society, to be held from 10 AM to 5 PM on Saturday, June 11, in Thaw Hall, University of Pittsburgh. We have a blue-chip set of Christian medical researchers who have been involved in many aspects of the national response to COVID. This will be an in-person meeting with simultaneous Zoom webcast.
Note that this is not a “debate” or a “balanced” forum; our speakers all represent the “medical establishment” in one way or another. But ample time will be made for moderated discussion to allow the speakers to respond to honest questions.
There is no charge to attend the meeting (though donations are welcome, which continue to allows us to offer meetings for free), but advance registration is strictly required in order to be allowed into Pitt’s university buildings. To register, click here.
10:00 AM Dr. Gregory Poland, Mayo Clinic
“The COVID-19 Pandemic: Infection, Vaccines, Adverse Events and the Circle of Least Confusion”
Abstract: While the COVID-19 pandemic unraveled in a highly kinetic manner, nonetheless data on the risks of infection and the benefits and risks of vaccines were rapidly accumulated and disseminated. Using the metaphor of the circle of least confusion, I will review the risks and benefits of infection versus vaccine as a method to engage in rational decision-making, as well as touch on cognitive biases in decision-making. Finally, I shall put forward the thesis that the Western church failed in its missio ecclesiae in regards to Scriptural imperatives by adopting and accommodating unbiblical cultural and anthropocentric pressures. Possible antidotes to such thinking can include education and catechesis, reformation, and the use of the concepts of explanatory poverty and subversive fulfillment.
Bio: Gregory A. Poland, M.D., FIDSA, MACP, FRCP (London) is Mary Lowell Leary Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Distiguished Investigator of the Mayo Clinic. The Poland lab developed the field of viral vaccine immunogenetics, the immune response network theory, and the field of vaccinomics and adversomics. He has been awarded over $220 million in research funding, and he is the Editor-in-Chief for the journal Vaccine. Among his many awards, responsibilities, and accomplishments, he is the immediate past president of the Department of Defense’s Defense Health Board and the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, served on the Infectious Diseases Society of America Taskforce on Pandemic Influenza, and chaired the American College of Physician’s Adult Immunization Advisory Board; in 2012, Dr. Poland was named in the top 25 list of vaccine influencers in the world.
11:00 AM Dr. Richard Zimmerman, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
“COVID-19 Vaccination and Public Health Policy Making: Is it a Duty or an Issue of Conscience?”
Abstract. The field of Bioethics has long debated appropriate uses of technology from a variety of world views. The primary technology to prevent COVID-19 is vaccination, which has become surprisingly controversial in the face of the pandemic. A fundamental valuing of each life can be used to justify vaccine mandates, duty to vaccinate or vaccine refusal, depending on the interpretations of scripture, the scientific facts, and personal values. In this presentation, based on first-hand experience with CDC’s process in national vaccine policy decisions, I will review CDC’s evidence-based approach, including selection of the policy question (i.e., PICO), the scientific evidence evaluation (i.e., GRADE) and the explicitly defined decision process (i.e., Evidence to recommendations framework). Then, I will show my synthesis of the biblical and ethical foundations for prevention and duty to others. Next, I will discuss my response to ethical concerns about vaccines in light of fetal cell lines used in some, but not all, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing processes. Then, I will consider the issues of conscience, least restrictive alternative, and duty with respect to vaccination in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, I will share my own conclusions about the ethics of COVID-19 vaccination.
Bio: Dr. Richard K Zimmerman, MD MPH MA (Bioethics) MS FIDSA FAAFP, is Professor of Family Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, as an infectious disease epidemiologist, researching the epidemiology of respiratory viruses including influenza, SARS-CoV2, and RSV. He is the Pittsburgh site principal investigator for the CDC’s Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network which also studies COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness. Dr. Zimmerman also practices part-time in a faith-based federally qualified health center in the inner city of Pittsburgh. He served on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) as a voting member in 2002-4 and, at the CDC’s request, has continued to be a consultant to the working group on pneumococcal vaccines. He currently is an ACIP liaison from the Association of Prevention, Teaching and Research.
11:40 AM Discussion
12:00 PM Lunch (restaurants in the area)
1:30 PM Dr. Timothy Girard, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Randomized Controlled Trials: Why Do We Need Them and Can We Trust Them?
Abstract: Randomized controlled trials are widely considered the most reliable study design by which to determine the efficacy of medications and other clinical interventions. Thus, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, numerous randomized controlled trials were designed and conducted throughout the world to evaluate vaccines and potential treatments. The results of these trials quickly became the subject of controversy for a number of reasons, including a lack of familiarity with the purpose and value of the randomized controlled trial design. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, I will describe the reasons that randomized controlled trials are needed, how they address the limitations of other study designs, and the safeguards that have been implemented to ensure reliable results. I will also review the limitations of randomized controlled trials and describe recent advances intended to address these limitations.
Bio: Timothy D. Girard, MD, MSCI, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Care Medicine and Director of the University’s Clinical Research, Investigation, and Systems Modeling of Acute Illnesses (CRISMA) Center at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. His National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded research program seeks to understand and enhance long-term recovery from critical illness with a specific focus on cognitive impairment due to critical illness; delirium and sedation in the ICU; and liberation from mechanical ventilation.
2:30 Dr. David Snoke, University of Pittsburgh
“The ethics of decision making with partial information”
Abstract: In the end, most debates come down to epistemology: what do we really know and who can we trust? How can we make ethical decisions when we only have partial information, or incomplete confidence that we have been told the truth by others? I will discuss general principles for how to think about this, which relate to issues as diverse as COVID, global warming, and creation and evolution.
Bio: David Snoke is Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Pittsburgh, and runs a laser laboratory funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense. His research focuses on fundamental quantum effects in optics. He is the president of the Christian Scientific Society, and licensed to preach in the Presbyterian Church in America, and has written numerous articles on topics of science and Christian faith.
3:15 PM Break
3:30 Panel Discussion
The speakers will participate as well as the following additional panelists:
Jonathan Uy, MD, is the Senior Global Medical Affairs Leader for Respiratory Infections at Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Johnson & Johnson). As an industry physician, he has worked across multiple therapeutic areas in diverse settings from biotech to large pharmaceuticals with a focus on clinical trials and real-world evidence.
Claudia C Cotca, BSc, MPH, DDS, researches dentistry and facial reconstruction at the Washington Institute For Dentistry & Laser Surgery. She has given thought to the effectiveness of face masks over the past few years.
Panel moderator: Jason Rampelt, Ph.D., Th.M., is a specialist in history and philosophy of science. He has taught courses in the HPS department at Pitt, and is presently archivist for the University of Pittsburgh collection on science history. In 2006–2009 he was a research fellow at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge, UK; in 2011–2014, he worked in neuroscience labs at Pitt doing surgery, histology, and imaging.
Fox News had an extended story on their website about whether the genetic and fossil record can be reconciled with the existence of a single Adam and Eve pair. Among others, CSS member Fuz Rana was quoted in the article. The story centers around two recent books by Josh Swamidimass and William Lane Craig. Swamidass presents the view that hominids evolved for millions of years, and then Adam and Eve were specially created around 6000 BC, but by interbreeding with pre-existing hominids, all existing people today are descended from Adam and Eve. Craig presents the view that Adam and Eve existed a very long time ago, at the head of all hominids, and the story of the garden of Eden is primarily metaphor. For more reading on this topic, see books my members of the CSS, namely Fuz Rana’s bookWho Was Adam? and Jack Collins’ bookDid Adam and Eve Really Exist? See also my short article, “Examining the options on when Adam and Eve lived.”
Francis Collins has come under attack by right-leaning websites in recent weeks. Not the Bee has posted several polemic articles including this and this, based on reporting by Meghan Basham. Note that these stories are polemic and the CSS does not take a position on their viewpoints, but as far as I know the facts reported about Collins, in particular that he has supported fetal research, are not disputed. Regarding the embracing of Francis Collins by evangelicals, there is no conspiracy; it is well known that evangelicals give an ear to highly successful Christians such as Collins.
Those of us over a certain age remember when we were constantly told of the dangers of overpopulation. Numerous scientific studies now predict the opposite: a population collapse. Simply put, a majority of people around the world now see child rearing as one of many options that must complete with other options such as career, travel, etc.