I’m pleased to announce that the Church Scientific project, which began in Leeds in 2016, is beginning a new phase this month with a series of six workshops about Christian philosophy for scientists. These will improve on the course that was delivered last year – thanks to input from last year’s participants and a number of philosophers of science.
Church Scientific is an independent project with links to FiSch via myself, Dr David Hanson and Prof. Andrew Basden, three of this year’s tutors; it also owes a great deal to the reformational philosophy tradition espoused by Thinking Faith Network. So I thought it might be helpful and interesting to preview some of the planned content of the Church Scientific curriculum here, and to bring it into dialogue with other readers and contributors of FiSch. For example, we’re currently part-way through a series by Richard Vytniorgu on the transactional perspective on science, which resonates well with the Church Scientific perspective and may well influence that project. We also have an ongoing series on Christian perspectives on evolutionary biology, an area that was purposely avoided by Church Scientific last year but may be a little more visible this year. And the new course will also draw upon Christian philosophy in diagrams – probably prompting some additions to that series.
Three key distinctives of Church Scientific were outlined in a post this time last year, but one of them deserves special emphasis here. We are attempting to build a Christian philosophy of science, for scientists. In denial of the memorable view that scientists need philosophy of science as much as birds need ornithology, we assume that scientists can benefit from a kind of philosophy that provides a framework for scientific activity. This kind of philosophy might be seen as “meta-science”: an analysis of what the sciences are and how they seem to work. And it’s important to seek a Christian philosophy of science, linked to good theology, because if Jesus Christ is lord of the cosmos which is upheld by the word of God’s power, then aligning our thinking with His wisdom should help us better understand its structure and workings.
The validity of this approach will be seen in whether it actually helps any practising scientists with their work. So – if you know any scientist Christians in Leeds, or you are one yourself, here’s an opportunity to be part of this investigation (see the website for details). The course overview is as follows:
- Workshop 1: Christian Faith, Worldview and Philosophy of Science: What is science and why pursue it?
- Workshop 2: Introduction to Aspectual Relations (an Ontology): What is there to know? How can we understand the complete dependence of the created order on God?
- Workshop 3: Theorising and its Limits: “Theory” originally means “seeing” – but what can we hope to see without a God’s-eye view? What’s wrong with reductionism?
- Workshop 4: Scientific epistemology and methods: What is scientific knowledge? What approach will align us with Lady Wisdom rather than the rebellion of Eden?
- Workshop 5: Norms and Ethics So what is good science? After all, only God is good…
- Workshop 6: Communicating christianly: How can we talk about scientific work and scientific beliefs in ways that promote harmony, mutual understanding and fellowship?
We’d welcome comments, connections and ideas about this plan. Further detail is available upon request!