Phil Rounseville and Dick Ransom are leading the course. Phil makes telescope lens for a living and possesses and encyclopedic knowledge of astronomy. Dick has great interest in the theological aspects of the beginning of the universe and evolution. Mark Heim will be dropping by from time to time to share his insights on the topic of science and religion, which is one of the areas on which he focuses as the Samuel Abbot Professor of Christian Theology at Andover-Newton Theological School.
A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology by Alister E. McGrath will be read during the fall. McGrath is a professor at Oxford who has earned doctorates in both biophysics and Christian theology. This book explains and promotes natural theology, which seeks to find God primarily through the study of the natural world rather than through divine revelation. Proponents of natural theology have included Thomas Aquinas and C.S. Lewis. Karl Barth and Richard Dawkins have strenuously opposed natural theology.
The “fine-tuning” in the book’s title refers to numerous parameters (the ratio of electromagnetic force to the force of gravity, the strength of the strong nuclear force, the amount of matter in the universe, the strength of cosmic repulsion, the ratio of the gravitational binding force to rest-mass energy, and the number of spatial dimensions) which had to have just the right values for our solar system to be formed as it was and for life to develop and survive. If science makes your head spin, do not fear – this course is going to be an adventure to go on together! And if you happened to understand any of that science just mentioned, you have a moral duty to attend the class and explain the technical stuff.
Winter and Spring Schedule
- At the DNA level, all humans are 99.9% identical.
- Humans and chimpanzees are 96% identical at the DNA level, and there is evidence for a common ancestor.
- There are surprising genetic similarities between humans, dogs, and mice. There are fewer similarities between chickens, fruit flies, and roundworms.
In addition to discussing these books, there will be opportunities for real or virtual field trips, some of which will provide the opportunity for some breathtaking views through telescopes.
See you Sundays!