Schedule for the November meeting, “Fifty years of science/faith interaction: A Tribute to Bob Newman”

To register for this event, go to this link.

Friday night, November 5. Dinner for full and contributing members. Contact the organizers for details.

Saturday, November 6.

Venue: Trinity Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville, Virginia. (For directions see this page.) The event will also be webcast to members of the CSS (in all categories) who register in advance.

10:00 AM. Plenary talk: Michael Behe, Lehigh University. “Relentless Science, Fathomless Design”

In the past fifty years, science has made stupendous progress in elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms undergirding life. In this talk I will discuss the paramount lesson of that work: The more science learns, the deeper into life purposeful, intelligent design is seen to extend.

Bio: Michael J. Behe was awarded the Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978 and is currently a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University. He is the author of four books: Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996); The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (2007); Darwin Devolves: The New Science of DNA That Challenges Evolution (2019); and A Mousetrap for Darwin: Michael J. Behe Answers His Critics (2020). The books have been reviewed by the New York Times, Nature, Philosophy of Science, Christianity Today, and many other periodicals.

11:00 AM. Invited talk: Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe. (by video link) “More Than Myth: The Science of Genesis”

Most Christian scholars have abandoned Genesis 1 as a literal historical account of material reality because they see hopeless conflicts between its claims and those of established science. These conflicts arise out of a failure to apply the biblical testing method (aka scientific method) to both Genesis 1 and scientific findings. When applied, the biblical testing method transforms Genesis 1 into the strongest scientific case for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Since most non-Christians view Genesis 1 as Christianity’s Achilles heel, Christians need to become equipped to use it as one of their primary witnessing tools.

Bio: Astrophysicist Hugh Ross is the founder and president of Reasons to Believe (RTB), an organization dedicated to demonstrating the compatibility of science and the Christian faith. He completed his BSc in physics at the University of British Columbia and MS and PhD in astronomy at the University of Toronto. For postdoctoral studies, the National Research Council of Canada sent him to the California Institute of Technology, where he researched galaxies and quasars. In 2012, Ross, together with Dr. Gerald Schroeder, received the Ide P. Trotter Prize presented by Texas A&M University in recognition of his work in demonstrating connections between science and religion.

12:00 PM. Lunch

1:00 PM. Invited talk: Perry Phillips, “Does Astronomy Point to Design?”

Life on earth has existed for more than three billion years. Of course, earth’s location-not too far from, not to near the sun-has a lot to do with a stable temperature that makes life possible. But is this all it takes? Other factors such as a large, nearby moon and large planets in the outer solar system heavily influence the stability of life on our planet. Add to this our special location in the galaxy and our long-lived star, and we have a number of disparate factors contributing to the maintaining of life on earth. Does all this point to the truth of Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament his handiwork?”

Bio: Perry Phillips is a graduate of Beloit College (BA in physics), Cornell University (Ph.D. in astrophysics) and Jerusalem University (MA in Hebrew). He taught at the college level over 15 years and lately has been a senior quality assurance engineer with Comverse, a high-tech firm in the Boston area. He is the director of the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute (IBRI) and has published numerous articles, some of which are available at He is a coauthor of the classic book, Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth with Bob Newman and Herman Eckelmann.

2:00 PM. President’s review: David Snoke, “When Should We Trust Scientists?”

Trust in science has all but broken down in our society, on issues as wide-ranging as COVID and other vaccines, global warming, evolution and creation, child rearing, sexual identity, life in the womb, and so on. As a society of scientists, we want people to trust good science, but we also know of areas where we have significant differences with claims made in the name of science. How should the “layman” make decisions about what claims to trust in the area of science? I will present some general principles for how to approach the problem of credibility in science.

Bio: David Snoke is Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Pittsburgh. His undergraduate degree in physics is from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in physics is from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the early 1990’s, he was an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, Germany, after which he worked briefly at The Aerospace Corporation before coming to the University of Pittsburgh in 1994. He is the author of two textbooks, on electronics and solid state physics, as well as an editor of several other scientific books. He is the president of the Christian Scientific Society, and has published A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Baker, 2006) and several other articles on science and faith topics.

2:45 PM.  Contributed talk: Claudia C. Cotca, “Judeo-Christian Principles Impact Clinical and Scientific Research Potential”

The scope of this presentation is to highlight aetiologic diagnosis as separate from and superior to differential diagnosis, as it is written in the ancient scrolls, “separating the pure from impure.” The inherent superiority of aetiologic sequence reveals resulting vectors with optimal therapeutic index and minimal toxicity index. Hence, the acknowledgement of the established sequence of creation and intended inherent physiological function cannot be ignored, circumvented nor mitigated as it reflects on healing or creating healing. This at core reflects the Biblical scrolls’ concept of evidence-based theoretics and standards of practice for attaining expected healing results and for recognizing scientific discoveries.

Bio: Dr. Claudia C Cotca received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Cellular Molecular Biology, Master of Public Health in Toxicology, and Doctor of Dental Surgery all from the University of Michigan. She is an international lecturer and aesthetic restorative dentist, and founded the Washington Institute for Dentistry & Laser Surgery in the DC Metro area, a private practice Institute and C3 Think Tank, where she develops real time oral systemic aesthetic advanced clinical protocols. She is a subject matter expert in dentistry, lasers, toxicology, environmental sciences and public health with ADA SCDP, AAMI, and ANSI standards, and USA Delegate to ISO and IEC, among others. She is Fellow of the American Academy of Oral Medicine, the Pierre Fauchard Academy, International College of Dentists and a member of the International College of Prosthodontists. She has testified before United States Congress and has contributed on ABC, NBC and other media.

3:15 PM. Break

3:45 PM. An interview with Robert (Bob) Newman. Interviewer: Dr. John Bloom.

Bio: John A. Bloom is the director of the MA, Science and Religion Program and Professor of Physics at Biola University in La Mirada, CA, where he has taught for 28 years. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Ancient Near Eastern Studies from the Annenberg Research Institute (formerly Dropsie College, now part of the University of Pennsylvania). He has an M.Div. from Biblical Theological Seminary and was a student of Robert Newman there. While at Cornell, he attended the Faith Bible Church, as Robert Newman did when he attended Cornell. Bloom published The Natural Sciences: A Student’s Guide with Crossway in 2015, and has numerous other articles and book chapters relating to apologetics, and Christianity and science topics.

4:30 PM. Robert Newman, “The Landscape of the Origins Question”

A quick look at the common views of origins, namely secular evolution, theistic evolution, old-earth creation, and young-earth creation: their prevailing features, their biblical hermeneutics, and their scientific hermeneutics, Can the data tell us anything?

Bio: Robert C. Newman is Emeritus Professor of New Testament and Christian Evidences at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and Emeritus Director of the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute. His doctorate is in theoretical astrophysics from Cornell University; he has an M.Div. from Faith Theological Seminary, and an S.T.M. in Old Testament from Biblical Theological Seminary. He is a past President of the Evangelical Theological Society, a professional society of nearly 3000 theologians. He is coauthor of Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (InterVarsity Press, 1977; IBRI, 2007), and editor and contributor to many other books on science and faith issues and articles in The Astrophysical Journal, Planetary and Space Science, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, The Westminster Theological Journal, and many others.He is a frequent speaker at churches and colleges on evidences for the truth of Christianity and on the interaction between science and the Bible. He has been on TV on several occasions, including guest appearances on the programs “700 Club,” “100 Huntley Street” and the A&E network program “Mysteries of the Bible.”


Astrophysics, Biblical Interpretation, Ethics, Events

Review of the meeting on extraterrestrials

I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from those who attended the meeting on Saturday. For those who missed it, the video should be available in a few weeks. Here are some of my impressions and responses.

  • We heard good scientific arguments from Bijan Nemati and Jay Richards that from a purely naturalistic standpoint, the conditions needed for life are so difficult to satisfy that it is unlikely that life evolved elsewhere in our galaxy.  If there is other life nearby, it would have to be miraculously originated.
  • Ken Samples drew an important distinction  between reports of “aerial phenomena” and reports of “alien encounters/abduction”. The latter might actually be interaction with demonic spirits. In general, in the meeting there was consensus that we should take seriously the fact that the Bible says there are angels and demons, and Ken Samples showed that much of the literature of believers in aliens overlaps with the occult.
  • Regarding aerial phenomena, new life has been given to these stories in recent years by a number of recent reports of video cameras picking up flying objects that seem to violate the laws of physics, including disappearing. My first impression as someone who works with CCD cameras was that there are many ways to have false images on them; in the meeting on Saturday I wondered why other experts had not considered this. It turns out that some have; see this story: This story also notes the possibility of other countries releasing decoys/drones to cause our military to switch on radar, to detect our radar capabilities. There is a long history of nations making false radar images to confuse enemies.
    To really have a confirmed event, I would want to see several things together:  a) simultaneous data from more than one camera, or from a camera and radar, of the same object. One camera or one radar can fail and give false images (especially blurry blobs that disappear) but it is unlikely two would fail in the same way at the same time, looking at one object from different angles;  b) I would want to see that under the conditions of (a), the object actually exceeds human-designed capability (after all, by Occam’s razor the most likely source of a flying object is human construction). To my knowledge, we don’t have this yet.
  • Jonathan Barlow made the case for taking “exotheology” seriously as a field of theology, even if only for how to think about flora and fauna on other planets. In regard to intelligent life, he made the point that we know from Scripture that having rationality and moral responsibility is *not* sufficient to say that a type of life has the image of God, since we know angels and demons have both rationality and a moral nature. This led to interesting discussion about how this also may relate to possible artificial intelligence and hominids who might have existed before or concurrently with Adam and Eve.
  • Gavin Ortlund made a good point that people who invoke many-worlds are invoking something unknown and mysterious to explain things, and so are pretty much on the same playing field as Christians who believe in God. He, Ken Samples, and other speakers discussed how for many people, aliens give them “hope” and belief in something transcendent beyond our world.
  • Jay Richards made a good point that atheists like Carl Sagan seem to make a “heads I win, tails you lose argument”— if there is no alien life, this counts as evidence against Christianity because it makes us alone in an uncaring universe, but if there is alien life, it counts as evidence against Christianity, because their view of Christianity is that it is entirely anthropocentric. In essence, their argument is purely from volume— spatial small size implies metaphysical insignificance.
    Several speakers made the point that historically, Christian theologians going back to the early church viewed it as natural to assume that the heavenly spheres are filled with beings. These might include angels and demons but also other beings we don’t know about. Jonathan Barlow showed that it would have been a majority view, however, to not think there was another earth like ours. In general, historical Christianity is not nearly as anthropocentric as atheists would tend to say, and would be comfortable with the idea of vast reaches of space and time that glorify God, without people there.
  • Christology would say that Christ shares human blood and dies only once, not many times, which makes any theory of salvation and redemption for non-human aliens problematic. But this doesn’t rule out alien life as such.
Astrophysics, Cosmology, Darwinism, Human exceptionalism, Intelligent Design, Materialism, SETI

Aliens in the news everywhere!

Our topic of “Is there intelligent life in outer space?” for our upcoming webinar (see this link) seems to be very timely, as alien life is popping up all over the news in the past few months.

Astrophysics, News, SETI

Schedule and details for the May 29 meeting on “Is there intelligent life in outer space? What are the stakes?”

“Is there intelligent life in outer space? What are the stakes?”

May 29, 2021. Webinar only. To register, go to this page.

All times Eastern Time

10:00 AM   Bijan Nemati

“Waiting for ETI: A Christian Scientific Perspective on Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence”

In 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus published his heliocentric theory in the classic work “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres.” His idea challenged the long-standing geocentric cosmology that had reigned since the days of Aristotle. The modern-day “Copernican Principle,” meant to generalize that famous paradigm shift, holds that neither humanity nor the Earth which it inhabits can be “special.” Rather, these must be mere examples of what is repeated innumerable times in the Universe. An extension of this principle, to include the history of life on Earth, led most 20th century scientists to believe that extra-terrestrial life must be ubiquitous. It was against this expectation that by 1950, in a lunchtime conversation with colleagues, physicist Enrico Fermi famously quipped “Where is everybody?” The search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, or SETI, project has spent the last half-century looking for a telltale signal, and has come up short. In this talk, we examine from a Christian perspective the likelihood for extra-terrestrial life, taking into account what we have learned about extra-solar planets over the last two decades.

Bio: Bijan Nemati left Iran, his country of birth, in the weeks before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. He finished high school in the U.S. and studied physics in college. He received his Ph.D. in high energy physics from the University of Washington, and it was also there that he became a Christian. During his post-doctoral work at Cornell’s particle accelerator facility, he became interested in scientific apologetics, and has appeared in various documentaries on intelligent design, including the Privileged Planet and Science Uprising. For the last 20 years, he has been working on advanced space telescopes for astrophysics and exoplanet detection, mostly at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and most recently as a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

10:50 AM   Kenneth Samples

“A Christian Perspective on the Space Aliens of the UFO Phenomenon”

This talk will briefly examine the UFO phenomenon identifying the three broad explanatory theories concerning “ufology.” The talk will also exam the general view of space aliens as set forth in common UFO experience and religion.

Bio: Kenneth Richard Samples is a senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe, an organization dedicated to demonstrating the compatibility of science and Christianity. Kenneth earned a BA in social science with an emphasis in history and philosophy from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. He worked for several years as senior research consultant and correspondence editor at the Christian Research Institute and regularly cohosted popular call-in radio program The Bible Answer Man. Today, Kenneth is author of several books, including Classic Christian Thinkers, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, and his latest book, Christianity Cross Examined.

11:40 AM   Jay Richards

“The Privileged Planet and the Rarity of Habitable Planets”

A common way of organizing our speculations about extraterrestrial life is with the Drake Equation. The problem, as someone once quipped, that it is, in effect, a way of compressing a great deal of ignorance in a small amount of space. That is, there’s little certainty about the various factors. Still, we do know enough already, from both our knowledge of chemistry and astrobiology, to suspect that habitable planets are likely to be extremely rare, relative to uninhabitable ones. Moreover, we should suspect that any habitable planets will be highly earthlike. This alone is an interesting conclusion, but there’s more to it. It appears that habitable, earthlike planets, are also the best platforms, overall, for a diverse array of scientific discoveries. This suggests that the universe is not only fine tuned for life, but for scientific discovery as well.

Bio: Jay Richards, Ph.D., O.P., is a Research Assistant Professor in the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, and the Executive Editor of The Stream. He is author of more than a dozen books including the New York Times bestsellers Infiltrated (2013) and Indivisible (2012), as well as Money, Greed, and God (winner of a 2010 Templeton Enterprise Award). He is also co-author of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery (2004) with astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez. He is also creator and executive producer of several documentaries, including three that have appeared widely on PBS. Richards’ articles and essays have been published in The Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Washington Post, Forbes, Fox News, National Review Online, The Hill, Investor’s Business Daily, Washington Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Huffington Post, The Federalist, The American Spectator, The Daily Caller, and many other publications. He has written and lectured on a wide range of topics, including culture, economics, public policy, natural science, technology, and the environment.

12:30 PM   Jonathan Barlow

“Towards a Protestant Christian Exotheology”

Thinking theologically about the possibility of plant, animal, or even sentient life native to non-earth locations impacts every Christian systematic theological category. From controversial ontological questions (e.g., what kinds of created beings exist?), to tamer questions about the centrality of human life in the larger created cosmos and the ethics of space travel, the nascent field known as exotheology provides a fascinating perspective from which to consider traditional theological commonplaces. Protestant systematic theology, especially of a variety that emphasizes the authority, sufficiency, and perspicuity of scripture, constrains speculation and establishes certain guardrails within which answers may be given to these questions. In this presentation, Barlow will discuss the history of Christian exotheology and attempt to sketch the meta-theological contours of a systematic exotheology that is both Christian and Protestant.

Bio: Jonathan Barlow holds a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Saint Louis University and a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary. He serves as an Associate Director at a research center at Mississippi State University that applies data science to education, workforce, human services, and economic development projects. Barlow serves as a ruling elder at Grace Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. He grew up in south Mississippi where he enjoyed countless conversations about space exploration with his father, a career NASA employee.

1:20 PM   Panel Discussion

Beside the above speakers, we will include the following additional panelists:

David Snoke (PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh.

Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Ojai in Ojai, California. He is the author of several books, including Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation and Why God Makes Sense in a World That Doesn’t.

Astrophysics, Biblical Interpretation, Human exceptionalism, SETI

News items January/February 2021

Call for speaker nominations. On this last item, the proposed theme for an upcoming CSS meeting is “Is there intelligent life in outer space, and what are the theological stakes?” If you know someone well qualified to talk on this topic either scientifically, philosophically, or theologically, send an email to