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Science & Theology Dialogues: "Do we truly have Free-Will to change our lives?"

Something to ponder: "Do we truly have a free-will to make decisions that change the course of our lives?  A surprising number of theologians and scientists say, NO!  Some theologians say Providence determines our actions, while some scientists says we are biologically determined to act in certain ways.  Does that surprise you? What do you think?  And what do you think about the fact that so many conservative theologians and free-thinking scientists (polar opposites on other issues) actually reach the same conclusion (even though they use different arguments to reach that same conclusion)?  Finally, what exactly is free-will and why is it such a hotly contested concept in both behavioral science and theology?”  That's the cluster of questions this March's Science & Theology Dialogues will take up on Sunday, March 9th.  

While we usually pick a topic from the Templeton Foundation (click here), this time we are going to look at a paper from the Faraday Institute in England which works on some of the same issues.  They have published an interesting exploration of the March topic on their website, so participants can just download it and avoid ordering and reading a whole book (click here for the article).  Also, check out these other essays (click here and click here).  For more theological context to this perennial issue, you can also read what Thomas Aquinas wrote about it in his Summa Theologica (click here).  We will use as a reference the following sections: The Providence of God (22), Of Predestination (23) and Of Free-Will (83).  Finally, if you know of other articles or run across a blog posting that may be interesting post in the comments.

As always, our goal is not to simply to critique the thoughts and ideas of others and the articles but to see what relevance these ideas have on our present day interpretation and practice of our personal and community expressions of Christianity. 

Hope you can join us!

Best Wishes,

Larry (Computer science), Mike (Engineering), and Vicki (Geology)

Other important information:

We are switching to essay discussions: With this conversation, we are switching gears a little bit.  Our last few discussions required that we purchase and read a book.  Many indicated to me that they felt like they could not participate since they did not have the time to purchase and or read the book. Because these Templeton & Faraday essays are online they can be downloaded and read on your mobile devices.

Your input is needed and valued: The Templeton and Faraday essays promise to be a great resource for our conversations. If you know of any other sites that have interesting topics that would make a great source for our conversations, please share with the group by placing the links in the comment sections. Also if you are not able to attend this conversation gathering, please vote for your topic choice for our next gathering.


More about the Purpose of the "Science & Theology Dialogues:" We are trying to create a safe space for people to pose basic questions about how their faith background and science training & interests interrelate.  Many people either have given up on this quest (they never could fit the pieces together), or they try to make hard-and-fast rules where there's a lot of ambiguity and mystery.  We, on the other hand, have not given up on the quest to integrate faith and science.  But, to be clear, our group never seeks to "prove" God or any claim, but to "explore" and "evaluate" new ideas and theological models over a beer or meal.  We don't really have debates as much as conversations about new ideas from a range of disciplines (science, social science, theology, literature) that help us make sense of the world and our place in it.

More about our Facilitators of our "Science & Theology Dialogues": Going forward we are hoping Larry Branch and others interested in faith and science issues can host future "Science & Theology Dialogues" through DC Theology Pub & An Emerging Christianity Conversation in DC.  Larry’s interest in science & theology comes from his life experiences in the areas of computer science, social justice, and local church involvement. Larry is a software developer working on a number of projects as a contractor at the US Department of Labor. He lives in Loudoun County where he has chaired the county Board of Social Services. While serving on this influential board, he developed a special passion for providing affordable housing to all county residents. He also has attended a non-denominational church in the county since 1985, and he has served as an elder for several of those years. Larry describes himself as a “sojourner on a spiritual quest like many others in DC; but an unusual person in the District in that I do not have a political affiliation; rather, I enjoy meeting a variety of people. Even though I am committed to the Christian discipline and worldview, I especially love conversations with those of other spiritual disciplines and worldviews.” The diversity of Larry’s experiences makes him an ideal facilitator for this science & theology dialogue.

 

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  • Glenn Z.

    thanks MIke for this update. I will print off and save your references as we plan for future meetups. :-) Best, Glenn

    March 26, 2014

  • Mike

    My head was buzzing after this meetup, I had such a great time. I loved the diversity of views. Our table was evenly split, and I believed we enjoyed hearing of all the different ways to approach the topic.

    I think everyone had a genuine interest to learn more about this subject by the time we were all done. Some of the questions we left at the table include:
    * What do you make of miracles? Either those in the Bible or modern day reports?
    * Does the random nature of quantum physics give rise to free-will? How?
    * How does our theological backgrounds shape our philosophy surrounding the science?

    March 24, 2014

    • Mike

      Also, brand new to the whole conversation, was the "Constructal Law" of physics. This might tie into the randomness-free-will discussion:
      http://en.wikipedia.o...­

      March 24, 2014

    • Mike

      Also, there was an episode of "Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman" about just this subject: Do we have Free Will? It's available on YouTube (and Amazon Prime) for about $2:
      https://www.youtube.co...­

      March 24, 2014

  • Larry B.

    I counted about 13 of us last night. Had fun as usual and got some new perspectives on the issues of free-will and determinism. We broke up into 2 groups and there were several new folks that I did not get to converse with or experience their perspective. Please chime in on your thoughts for future topics. It seemed like several bubbled to top during our conversation. Thank you mike for moderating the other group.

    March 10, 2014

  • Beth G.

    This was a good topic for breaking up the group into smaller numbers, so that everyone had a chance to speak. Thanks, Larry.

    March 10, 2014

  • m p.

    Looking forward to the conversation

    March 9, 2014

  • m p.

    Looking forward to the conversation

    March 8, 2014

  • m p.

    Looking forward to the conversation

    March 8, 2014

  • Larry B.

    Vicki Pursell posted this to the emerging-conversation-dc googlegroup. check out the link and get connected to the group if you like.

    I just found an article in Scientific American that talks about the unconscious mind which I think directly relates to our discussion. I've attached it here.


    And here's the link: http://www.pscience.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/UNCONSCIOUS-unconscious-mind-shapes-our-day-to-day-interactions-Bargh-SciAm-2013.pdf
    Thanks Vicki.

    March 7, 2014

  • Larry B.

    I wanted share this link from a Muslim perspective. This article compares the scientific and the theological view through the Muslim faith concerning Free-Will and Determinism. I think this other perspective may help put the discussion in greater context. Some times we can get lost in the weeds of our traditions or reject other approaches because we have a desire to only walk in the comfort of our worldview. This discussion is relevant for all humans today and is far from settled. The exploration of reality through a faith and a scientific view is our anchor to relative human sanity.

    http://muslimmatters.org/2011/11/23/free-will-and-determinism-from-a-scientific-and-religious-perspective/

    February 25, 2014

  • Larry B.

    One of our group members Eduardo ‘Eddie’ Gonzalez suggested in our last meeting that we could use Thomas Aquinas‘ Summa Theologica as list of topics for our future discussions and his top suggestion was destiny /fate vs. free will. I really enjoy the challenge of looking at the orthodox concepts of Christianity and exploring how science and our understanding of reality are shaping my personal spiritual belief system. Please join us and pass on any links to articles or blog posts that may shed more light on this topic.

    February 21, 2014

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