Abstracts for the Biola meeting, “In Defense of Truth”

Below are the final abstracts and bios for the meeting.

9:00 AM

SESSION 1: “Thinking about Truth”

9:00 AM. David Snoke, University of Pittsburgh

“How did we get here? A brief overview of modernism, postmodernism, and post-post-modernism”

Abstract: Many people are reacting against “critical theory” at present, and to the general attack on the legacy of European science with its concept of truth. But this modern world view did not arise out of nowhere. I will give a very broad overview of the history of science as it has interacted with society.

Bio: David Snoke is a Distinguished Professor of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh, where he has been since 1994. His training include a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, Germany. He is an elder and licensed preacher in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and president of the Christian Scientific Society. He is the author of A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Baker, 2006) and several technical books on solid state physics and electronics, as well as about 160 scientific journal publications.

9:40 AM. Daniel Hitchcock, Regent University

“Interpreting Truth: Schemata, Paradigms, and Worldviews”

Abstract: My talk explores the issue of interpretive frameworks by interrelating insights from psychology, philosophy of science, and Christianity. Following a three-fold strategy I will first highlight how subjectivity takes place at the level of the individual as explained by cognitive schema theory. Recent insights suggesting a possible neural basis of our interpretive frameworks will also be discussed. Second, I will show that, fundamentally, the same cognitive process lies at the heart of human social efforts and collaboration. Interpretive frameworks not only function for us as individuals but also in collective ways. This will take us into the domain of the philosophy of science which has shown that subjectivity manifests via shared interpretive frameworks. The process has been labeled in a variety of ways with the most recognized being ‘paradigms’. Third, I will address the implication that arises from all of this subjectivity. If we interpret the world via subjective frameworks, is not this a position of relativism? Is not this antithetical to the Christian faith which upholds the notion of objective absolute truth? Several articulations of Christian worldview philosophy have provided an answer to help resolve the apparent conflict. It is based upon the biblical insight that the way we see and understand stems ultimately from the condition of our heart. In conclusion, I will argue that interpretive frameworks are fundamental to our God-given human nature and that to affirm their role in human functioning poses no threat to a biblical view of truth and reality.

Bio: Dr. Danny Hitchcock is Associate Professor of Psychology at Regent University. He is originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and has lived in many places over his career, including New Jersey, Iowa, Pennsylvania, France and Switzerland. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in developmental psychology and behavioral neuroscience from Rutgers University in New Jersey, studied in Switzerland at the University of Geneva and completed his undergraduate education at The Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He is passionate about his faith in Jesus Christ and how faith plays an important role in human psychological functioning. Dr. Hitchcock’s joy is to see students connect the dots to see how psychology integrated with biblical wisdom can bring true understanding, insight, and healing in people’s lives. Dr. Hitchcock and his wife have 4 adult children which they homeschooled, two of which are still in college. Dr. Hitchcock loves fishing, singing, swimming, his 1964 VW and spending time with his family. The Hitchcocks live in Chesapeake, Virginia.

10:40 AM. Mihretu Guta, Biola University

“Why Truth Matters in Scientific Pursuits”

Abstract: At the heart of the controversies between scientific realists and scientific anti-realists lies the question of whether or not truth matters for scientific theories. According to scientific realists, true scientific theories genuinely reflect the nature of reality which is grounded in mind independent facts. According to scientific anti-realists, the goal of scientific theories has nothing to do with figuring out mind independen truths regarding the nature of reality. Rather, scientific theories are meant to provide us with securing adequate empirical data which help us to manipulate nature for our benefit. For others in the anti-realist camp, scientific theories are just tools that can be used to solve practical problems with no further commitment to the notion of truth. Other anti-realists even suggest that scientific theories can be considered in a fictional sense, that is, the theories in question are not meant to be true in an actual sense but only in a fictional sense. The goal of this paper is to raise a number of serious metaphysical, scientific and theological objections (problems) against the anti-realists’ conception of the role of scientific theories thereby making a strong case for scientific realism.

Bio: Mihretu Guta is Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from Durham University, UK. He subsequently worked as postdoctoral research fellow within the Durham Emergence Project (funded by the John Templeton Foundation). His main research focuses on metaphysics, philosophy of mind, the philosophy of neuroscience, with special emphasis on the emergence of consciousness and its relation to the brain, the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of Artificial Intelligence. His recent publications include: Selfhood, Autism, and Thought Insertion edited with Sophie Gibb (Academic Imprint, UK, 20210); Studies); “E. J. Lowe’s Metaphysics and Philosophical Theology,” a Special Issue edited with Eric LaRock (TheoLogica, 2021); Consciousness and the Ontology of Properties (Routledge, 2019); and Taking Persons Seriously: Where Philosophy and Bioethics Intersect edited with Scott Rae (forthcoming, Pickwick Publications, Wipf and Stock Publishers). Guta has presented research/public lectures over 80 times in Europe, USA and Africa. Currently, he teaches analytic philosophy and ethics/bioethics both at graduate and undergraduate levels at Biola University and at Azusa Pacific University. Guta is an Associate Fellow at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity of the Academy of Fellows at Trinity International University. He is also working on a manuscript entitled: The Metaphysics of Substance and Personhood: A Non-Theory Laden Approach.

1:00 PM

SESSION 2: “Case studies”

1:00 PM. Richard Jones, University of Connecticut

“Sometimes the majority is right: Evidence for the Big Bang”

Abstract: Recently there have been reports that new astronomical observations from the James Webb telescope call into question the Big Bang theory (and the Standard Model). I will argue that while there are interesting new observations, the Big Bang model of the universe is still on very solid footing.

Bio: Richard Jones is professor of physics at the University of Connecticut. His Ph.D. in Physics is from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and he spent many years as a researcher at CERN at Geneva.His primary research interest is in experiments that probe the spectrum and properties of strongly-interacting matter, and he oversees several projects with particle-beam experiments at Jefferson Lab in Virginia. As an educator, He is an enthusiastic advisor and promotor of undergraduate and high school team research. He is an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

1:50 PM Doug Axe, Biola University

“Sometimes the majority is wrong: Evidence for intelligent design”

Abstract: It is an improper understanding of science to argue that the beliefs of the majority or “vast majority” of scientists determines scientific truth. However, if one is going to go against the majority, one must be really sure. I will summarize my own experience in research that led me to believe strongly that the great majority of scientists are indeed ignoring very strong arguments from the data.

Bio: Douglas Axe is the Maxwell Professor of Molecular Biology at Biola University, the founding Director of Biologic Institute, the founding Editor of BIO-Complexity, and the author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed. After completing his Ph.D. at Caltech, he held postdoctoral and research scientist positions at the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge Medical Research Council Centre. His research, which examines the functional and structural constraints on the evolution of proteins and protein systems, has been featured in many scientific journals, including the Journal of Molecular Biology, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, BIO-Complexity, and Nature, and in such books as Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer and Life’s Solution by Simon Conway Morris.

2:40 PM. Greg Shearer, The Pennsylvania State University

“Do design hypotheses work as guides for scientific inquiry? My personal experience”

Abstract: A central element of scientific practice is the formulation of rationale theories verified using testable hypotheses. Hence, it would be surprising if a designer were inconsequential to effective theory formulation. While there is implicit agreement, Darwinists posit that the effect of belief in a designer on scientific success is negative. Further, the Darwinists argue the effect is strongly negative, and design is entirely inferior as a guide for scientific inquiry. My analysis demonstrates a positive role of a designer in formulation of scientific theories, and establishes that a worldview including a designer is a robust guide and a rich source of testable hypotheses, useful for expanding knowledge.

Bio: Gregory Shearer received his PhD in human physiology from UC Davis in 2000, and has worked for the Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs, Sanford Research/USD, and the Sanford School of Medicine. He is currently a Professor of Nutrition and Physiology at The Pennsylvania State University where he is in charge of the Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences and runs an internationally successful research lab focusing on regulatory lipid signaling molecules. His interest is in how they regulate adaptive responses, especially in relation to cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and cognitive decline. He has active research projects funded by the National Institute of Health and is a Fellow of the American Heart Association. He has over 60 peer-reviewed publications and is a sought after consultant for industry and pharmaceutical interests.

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