Know any Christian Plasma-Physicists?

I now do thanks to Jake Evans’ well executed Veritas Forum last week at KU.  What do you even begin to say to an MIT professor of nuclear physics who has taught and researched his entire career on plasma containment and nuclear fusion?  Several of Jake’s colleagues welcomed Ian to the Oread Christian Studies Center for a meet and greet dinner before his lecture on campus.

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Jake and I with Dr. Ian Hutchinson in Woodruff Auditorium at KU

I punted.  “So Mr. Hutchinson, what is the question you’re most asked by people who aren’t scientists?”

“I’m most often asked whether or not nuclear fusion will ever become a viable source of clean energy.”

Generating electricity from nuclear fission (splitting heavier atoms) is the only form of nuclear power we know.  Fusion energy (fusing lighter atoms) is vastly more potent.  Yet the containment of fusion reactions is still highly impractical.  “I don’t believe it will happen in my lifetime.  I am reasonably certain it will happen in the not too distant future, however.”

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Ian says of his faith “Since I became a believer in my college years at Cambridge University, my faith and my science grew up together.  There never really was enmity between the two for me, though I felt the struggle with many around me.”  As Hutchinson grew in his understanding of the relationship between faith and science he began writing and speaking on the topic.  For over 25 years he’s done events like this Veritas Forum all over the country and around the world.

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What did Ian talk about?

  • Is there truth beyond Science?  Does Science answer everything?
  • What is Scientism and what distinguishes it from Natural Science?
  • What has the relationship between Science and Religion been like historically?
  • Where did the tension between the two arise given that so many of heros of scientific discovery were devout Christians?
  • What Christian voices have unnecessarily created friction around this issue?
  • Why did modern Natural Science develop more in the west where the Christian world view was it’s philosophical context?
  • What aspects of Christian theism are amiable to the scientific method?

Over 220 students and faculty gathered in Woodruff Auditorium.  The evening stretched on after his 25 minute presentation.  He interacted with a faculty member who moderated questions from the audience.  Below are a few screen shots of the questions people texted in.  Each participant also filled out a Veritas Forum 60 Second Survey.  Jake tells me based on the survey that the audience was largely Christian with several atheist and agnostic participants as well.

VT response card 01

What does a Veritas Forum do for GFM groups on campus?

Events help catalyze relationships and identity.  Among graduate students and faculty members, there is such a high premium on time.  If someone is bringing a significant voice to the campus, it’s worth all the work of publicizing and collaborating in order to get significant numbers of people to the event.  The quality of the event lends visibility and credibility to the Christian community.  For many students and faculty alike, they are so absorbed in their work, it almost requires a compelling public event to bring people out.  In the process, the speaker’s credentials and academic work speak for themselves.  Once the event is over the local graduate and faculty fellowships benefit from the momentum the event has given them.  Groups and further events can grow as conversations and networking happen.

Some resources you may want to glance at:

ian hutchinson book

Ian mentioned two books of his that would be of interest.  Can a Scientist Believe in Maracles  In this his latest release,  Hutchinson has organized and answered about every question he’s ever been asked at a forum.  Its almost a like a reference book that’s organized by categories.  I’ll make an offer to any of my donors reading this.  Email me right now and let me know if you want this book.  I’ll need you to tell me who you are and where to send your book!  I’ll be glad to make it available to you.  It would also be an excellent book to put in the hands of an undergrad or graduate student you know in the sciences.

In a previously published book entitled Monopolizing Knowledge, Hutchinson describes Scientism and its overreaching claims to speak for every kind of knowledge possible.  Once one understands that science has limits on what it can fully describe, a more constructive conversation can happen about Christianity’s contribution to science and it’s unique claims about truth.

Thanks for tracking with our work down in Kansas!  God is doing great things through my staff members.  More to follow on what others of my team have been up to this Spring.  Please pray for Jake as he logs dozens and dozens of feedback cards and connects with graduate students who indicated interest in a fellowship.

Here’s a sample of some of the questions Ian was grilled with.  I especially liked the one requesting that Ian read to them at bed-time with his delightful English accent!

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