An Introduction to Science and Religion with Denis Lamoureux

Denis Lamoureux, author of Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution and I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution–and who also recently completed a series of posts here on the latter (the final post is here)–teaches an online course at St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta, “Science and Religion: An Introduction.”

A 20+ minute overview of the course (slides and audio overlay) can be found here. The course homepage is here. The course consists of 23 hours of slides with audio overlay, 200 pages of notes, handouts, along with quizzes and exams just to maximize the fun.

For those of you able to take this course, it would be a great opportunity to hear an extended presentation of the relationship between science and religion from a Christian, trained in both fields, who has taught this course over 60x at a public university.

Lamoureux’s focus is on moving students past the “warfare” model of science and religion, held to by both extremists on either side, and looking for other models that students can appropriate as they construct their own way of thinking through this issue.

The course is divided into three parts: philosophical, historical, and theological issues concerning the relationship between science and religion. Each part clears away misconceptions and gives students direction in finding better paths for investigating this issue.

The overview and course homepage should answer all your questions, but I’m sure Lamoureux would be happy to hear from you if you would like more information.

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  • Question: Evolution is, by definition, an unguided process, so for Christians who claim God was involved in the evolutionary process, twiddling the knobs and selecting mutations so to speak, how do they then jump to the conclusion that it is the Christian God? Why not leprechauns or a whole pantheon of deities? I’ve always wondered this.

    • DonaldByronJohnson

      It is in Scripture that “chaos monsters” (in our terms, randomness) are a part of God’s plan, but it is also not often taught and easy to miss, like so many other parts of Scripture that are not taught much. See the recent book with the term “chaos monsters” in the title.

      • DonaldByronJohnson

        The Return of the Chaos
        Monsters: and Other Backstories of the Bible [Paperback]

        by Gregory Mobley

        This is not to suggest some kind of concordism in the Bible with science, just that the ancient Hebrew Scripture said that God created everything and providentially watched over it.

        • Donald,

          Are you saying the principles of natural selection are referenced in the Bible? Isn’t that anachronism of the highest order?

          I also once read an exegesis not too long ago that asserted the multiverse hypothesis has “clear, biblical support”.

          Sometimes I wonder if the people engaged in this sort of thing actually believe the things they say.

          – Doug

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            No, of course I am not suggesting that. The Bible was written in terms understood at the time, that is, God accommodated to the understanding of the original hearers/readers.

          • Brian P.

            We could use some accommodation today.

          • Lars

            That ship has sailed, right off the edge of the earth. The only accommodation you’ll get now is interpretive. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

        • David Thompson

          That scripture thing is just a circular reference. What validates the scripture other than your particular faith. Scripture has been falsified, if you take it literally, hundreds of times. And if you don’t take it literally, what’s the point; you can make it say anything you want.

          How come people who are not religious can explain the process without invoking a supernatural entity? There’s absolutely nothing compelling about a god infested model of the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis.

    • Brian P.

      Doug, I wondered similarly about this one as well on this presentation. I simply took Dr Lamoureax’s prevention as an inside-out story, one oriented inside the faith looking outside onto the landscape of evidence discovered in the world. I didn’t take this presentation to have too much to say starting outside-in, from the pre-existing understanding of the basics of evolutionary biology, other findings, and the shared truth-determining methodological assumptions and then peering into the claims/doctrines/hopes of an orthodox Christian faith. Your question is interesting, I just don’t think it’s one addressed with principle interest by this specific project of Dr Lamoureax’s.

    • Muff Potter

      Good question Doug. I’ve often wondered the same thing. Why go through a long and round about process (evolutionary tweaking over time) when it’s well within the power of the Almighty to use common materials and structures to build life forms in real time by specific design in situ? Don’t pop any champagne corks just yet because I also reject large swaths of Augustinian theology and the tenets of the medieval scholastics who followed.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Sorry, not my view of evolution.
      And evolution is not “by definition, an unguided process.” That’s a metaphysical assumption.

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    I really like what DL has done. He has thought long and deep in this area.
    One possible area of improvement is he mostly uses 19th century science and he could at least hint how 21st century science can be incorporated along the same lines, though this may complicate things too much for some.

    • Brian P.

      I was kind of curious about that too. Yet, I wondered if the exegetical method presented might leave behind roughly the same as Thomas Jefferson’s 1820 Bible as he too eschewed anything that he perceived as “contrary to reason.” Anyhow, it would be an interesting exercise to both deconstruct the presuppositions that Lamoureax puts at the hinging decision point of his exegetical method and then also apply the method more broader across the full breath of Scripture to see what is produced, not just merely to the texts concerning Adam and latter theological interpretations of his unique meaning. I’d think this exegetical method needs more analysis .

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      19th century science? What?
      How can one who has published 5 scientific papers in the 21st century be using 19th century science.

      • DonaldByronJohnson

        The astronomy you use is all pre-20th century. That is not a horrible choice to make and is what most people are familiar with, but it could be updated to discuss 21st century astronomy and its implications.

        • Denis O. Lamoureux

          Not true. I deal with Big Bang, multiple worlds, anthropic, Hubble deep field, etc, etc. Remember that was a 20 min overview of my course, NOT the entire course.

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            Yes, an overview cannot cover everything. I guess I really noticed the Galileo astronomy stuff, but Einstein says there is no privileged observer, so all observers are equally valid. Specifically, this means an earth centered view is as valid as a sun centered view. The coordinate transformations may be different, but that is a so-what.

          • Nancy R.

            But it does make a difference whether the sun revolves around the earth, or vice versa.

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            Not according to the theory of relativity by Einstein.

          • Nancy R.

            In my perspective, I am the center of the universe. Same as anyone else in the universe. But in terms of the controversies regarding biblical interpretation and our understanding of the natural world, it’s highly significant.

  • Brian P.

    Pete, I watched and listened to the course. One of the things that I found interesting was the exegetical framework used of the decision point and things above the line and below the line, as a mechanism to separate out the ancient science/worldview/naturalistic presuppositions vs. the authors’ possible meaning making to which the “inerrancy” is deftly ascribed in this creative kidnapping and possible rescuing of this word of a rather storied past. Not too much detail was point into the exegetical how though and I also noticed that what would get put above the line vs. below the line would significantly hinge on one’s background knowledge, that two persons with different presuppositions and scientific knowledge might produce different results between what’s above the line and what’s below the line of the “obviously” cultural vs. the timelessly inerrant truth. Also–in some ways–methodologically this approach reminded me of Dembski’s “explanatory filter” in his The Design Inference. Anyhow… the key one I didn’t get of the examples in Prof Lamoureax’s presentation was that of the bodily resurrection. It was a time and a place when beliefs in resurrections were more common place (Sadducees aside) and possibly theological de rigueur for any messianic or incarnational claim. To me, the address of the bodily resurrection seemed a necessitated case of special pleading a methodologically artificial buttressing on a slippery slope, a theologically-driven need. Pete, as you know there are all many of exegetical methods. I personally wonder how this exegetical fork-in-the-meaning-making-road method will get much traction as/if/when Evangelicalism takes up any sort of broader-than-Adam reconciliation between not just evolution, but it’s truth-determining presuppositions and the handling of meaning making of Christian Scripture.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Lots of words here. Not sure if there’s any substance.

  • ajl

    I wonder if DL is planning to write a book on all of this information? The reason I ask is because I would prefer to have this information in the form of a book that I can read in the car, bed, or the beach.

    Also, does anyone recommend a book that covers similar information. I find this to be fairly unique in terms off the subject matter, so I’m not sure there is a single book.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      First draft is written. Will return to polish it in the fall.

  • Nancy R.

    I am not quite half-way through the slides and I am finding them to be very enlightening – the sections on hermeneutics are especially useful. If you’re looking for proof to back up your beliefs, as in air-tight apologetics arguments, you won’t find them here. What this is, rather, is an approach to reading the Bible and in “reading” the evidence around us in nature – how to read the Bible seriously and avoid the traps of literalism that have infected conservative Christianity, and how to appreciate modern science without falling into the trap of materialism. I find it has expanded my thinking without giving me absolute answers. And the material is very approachable as well. As a non-expert in both theology and science, I appreciate Lamoureux’s accommodation to a general audience.

  • Jean

    Peter – Thank you so much for posting these lectures by Denis Lamoureux. Denis is a high quality thinker and teacher.

  • rvs

    Yes, this is great stuff. Thanks. I like the constructivist approach to pedagogy in this context (mentioned in the intro.) and in every other context, public and private. Maybe there is a place for “indoctrination” somewhere, but the word has a creepy connotation these days, does it not?

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Forcing students to believe anything is wrong. I tell them my views, but these are always marked off by lines in the notes and my views never appear on exams. If they want to use them, that’s their choice.

  • yvonnewu

    Another Author who also speaks on this subject is Daniel Friedmann, he is in agreement with Denis Lamoureux.

    “moving students past the warfare model of science and religion”

    You can learn more about his work here