Schedule for the June meeting, “What Have We Learned from COVID?”

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.

SCHEDULE

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.

10:40 Discussion

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.

2:10 Discussion

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 selected additional members to be announced.

 

Uncategorized

News items February 2022

    • 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 book Who Was Adam? and Jack Collins’ book Did 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.
    • There is increasing evidence that mutations are almost never purely random; instead organisms switch on and off mechanisms to allow random mutation only in certain parts of their genomes. In this they are doing essentially what an immune system does with antibodies: solving a problem quickly by generating all possible solutions.
    • 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.
Uncategorized

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 www.ibri.org. 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: https://www.foxnews.com/science/astrophysicist-explains-why-reported-ufos-fail-to-impress-him. 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