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Integration of Faith & Learning > Examples of Integrative Questions by Discipline

Integration Questions for the Discipline of Physics

CCCU Regional New Faculty Workshop- Southeast
Dr. David Ward, Associate Professor of Physics
Union University

Student Questions

From the expected-

How do I reconcile a Big Bang cosmology with my Christianity?

Joyously!! Initially the church was happy, as a BB cosmology implied a unique one-time creation. It was many in the scientific community that were unhappy. Current work seems to imply that the universe will not oscillate- that indeed the expansion will occur forever. A BB cosmology is no threat to the integrity of the Scriptures, in my view.

What is the Intelligent Design Movement?

A scientific movement that seeks to investigate the design that seems in-built in nature.  At the cellular level there are organisms that cannot function without all their parts- how could such a thing arise from random processes? The famous analogy is a mousetrap- all the parts must be present for it to operate- if just one part is missing, the mousetrap is useless. This movement is related to a science called "Information Theory" which has its roots in the communications engineering of the 1940's and 1950's with the pioneering work of Claude Shannon. Nature possesses an information content- as in DNA. Where did that information come from? A Designer!

Do you believe in the theory of evolution?

No, I don't. At least, not macroevolution. I agree that there are modifications within species, but I don't believe new species arise without a creative act by the Designer- God. Macroevolution would, to me, require far too much time- astronomers and geologists tell us the Earth has only been here 4-5 billion years. While this seems a long time, the Phanerozoic rocks (major fossil-bearing rocks) are only about 570 million years old!

To the unexpected-

Did the astronauts really land on the Moon?

Yes! Let me address some major objections- (1) There are no stars visible at the landing sites! OF course not! The camera was set to deal with the brightness of the lunar surface- it could not reveal the much dimmer stars! (2) There's no blast crater below the lander! Of course not- the pressure of the thrusters was only 1.5 psi, and the gases expand readily in a vacuum! (3) The shadows aren't completely blank! OF COURSE NOT- there are other light sources than the Sun, like the Earth and the remaining lunar landscape. Refer 'em to www.badastronomy.com for more details.

Of course, this is also a testimony issue- we believe the landing because of the testimony of many folks that we trust, rather than the rabble-rousing of a few. We believe the ressurection account because of the testimony of honest people, some of whom went to their graves- in many cases a martyr's grave.

Did the walls of Jericho fall down because the trumpet frequency matched the resonant frequency of the walls?

NO! Please- let's let God be God. The scriptures indicate that the deepest reality is beyond our natural world- hence, supernatural. Let's admit that God sometimes intervenes in miraculous ways in the world of man. And he did so at Jericho.

My mom seems to be communicating with my deceased brother- how can that be, since we are no more than animated flesh?

If we are no more than flesh and electricity, why do you care? What gave him any value? Your brother is simply shut down, broken. Your mom is then simply stressed and anxious to find something to hold on to in this tragedy. But is it a tragedy, for matter to only to change form? [There was much more dialog, and after I discussed scripture, she fairly ran from my office. She was seeking a scientific materialist (this event didn't happen at Union), and she walked into my office… I was simply trying to push her to the consequences of her own presuppositions- which is what Francis Schaeffer admonishes us to do in love.]

Questions I Specifically Address

What is the nature of science? Is science at odds with Christianity?

The nature of science involves: (1) cataloging, (2) describing, (3) model building, (4) checking the models, (5) refining the models, (6) remaining open-minded and abandoning a model when it fails and being willing to start again. Remember, the model is just that- it is man-made and fallible.

Quantum Mechanics and relativity have helped to show us that the universe isn't odder than we suppose, it is probably odder than we CAN suppose.

Can a Christian be an effective scientist?

Absolutely! Consider Newton, Kepler, Boyle, Kelvin, Pasteur, Faraday….to Polkinghorne, Dembski, my PhD advisor, my dept. chairman at NCSU…There are ample examples. (Discuss some of them in your course!)

Why do some scientists just rule out the Bible?

Because of a commitment to naturalism. It's a worldview that is inculcated into many scientists. The miraculous just isn't allowed. If you ever invoke God, you will be accused of creating a "god of the gaps" mythology. Scientists ALWAYS seek a materialistic answer- even those who are Christians will always first seek to find the order and laws imposed by the Creator.

Why should I major in a science? I want to serve the Lord!!

You can serve the Lord by bringing a Christian world view into the scientific realm. You can help to spread the good news that the Scriptures are not antithetical to science. And you might even help develop vaccines, drugs, textiles, water purification units, and medical devices to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and comfort the broken-hearted. This is the Lord's work- He can be found in many places outside the church!

Compel students to assemble their own answers

PHY 111: Physical Science Your job is to write a paper to answer the question: Science and Faith: Friends of Foes? You must take a position and defend it. You may answer the question within the framework of discussing a specific topic, such as relativity, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, the Intelligent Design Movement, the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics", cosmological models, etc. You must support your point of view with references: (1) Scripture, (2) Internet websites, (3) Journal articles, (4) Books. You must consult a minimum of 4 references (in addition to the Scriptures) with no more than 1 website being among these 4 references. The paper should be a minimum of 5 pages.

PHY 112: Earth and Space Science You are to write a paper dealing with a controversial area at the interface between Earth and Space Science and the Scriptures. Examples: Dinosaurs, SETI, Geologic Time, the Big Bang cosmology, Violent Weather, Noah's Flood (catastrophism). If in doubt about a topic, be sure to discuss it with me. You must support your point of view with references: (1) Scripture, (2) Internet websites, (3) Journal articles, (4) Books. You must consult a minimum of 4 references (in addition to the Scriptures) with no more than 1 website being among these 4 references. The paper should be a minimum of 5 pages.






"Study is a specific kind of experience in which through careful observation of objective structures we cause thought processes to move in a certain way . . . When done with concentration, perception and repetition, ingrained habits of thought are formed."
-Richard Foster; Celebration of Discipline