Dr. Hardin currently serves as Department Chair, Director of the Zoology core curriculum, as faculty in the Religious Studies Department at UW, and a member of the Isthmus Society, an organization that facilitates discussion about religion and the sciences. He is a good friend of InterVarsity Faculty Ministry, serving on our faculty advisory board.
The first two segments we present here are a bit longer, six and nine minutes. In the first, Jeff defines what he means by “doxological fascination” and indicates something of its importance and power for Christian academics.
In the second, he reflects on the danger of fascination in the marvelous and beautiful creatures around us slipping into idolatry and offers an antidote to this common affliction.
The last three are much briefer and also suggest practices that develop from a fascination with God’s world that aims to bring glory to God. The third segment offers us a description of the way Dr. Hardin presents himself to his students at Wisconsin in his basic class.
The fourth segment responds to a question from the audience on the challenges that come our way when the book of Scripture and the book of nature seem to be on a collision course.
The fifth, Jeff’s conclusion, offers thanks to the Lord for the “dream job” that being a professor is for a serious disciple of the Lord Jesus.
We are delighted to offer these video clips to our readers because we believe Jeff Hardin’s presentation offers Christian faculty who teach and pursue research in the sciences and technology an important perspective on their work. Most of the science done by contemporary scientists, Christians as much as others, proceeds under the assumptions of “methodological naturalism.” As an operational convention, academics in the natural sciences limit their research activity to identifying immanent, physical causes and effects, without invoking either teleological or agential considerations. Scientific explanations and conclusions and theories and discourse reflect this operational convention, and the reach and power and productivity of that discourse is one of the glories of our culture. We mean no caricature or dismissal of science in the name of religion, and if you detect anything of the sort, we would be helped by your pointing it out to us.
However, the focused activity of scientists frequently slips, for no compelling reason, into what Dr. Hardin calls “metaphysical overreach,” into the assumption of naturalism per se as a first principle of science. Dr. Hardin offers several examples of this overreach in the second segment above. All who live in the contemporary world of the sciences live in a world that is powerfully naturalizing, that powerfully presses us to become at least effective philosophical naturalists
A pressing set of questions for serious Christians in the sciences, then, would be:
- “How do we who live in this world with great intensity avoid this overreach?”
- “How do we resist drifting into effective philosophical naturalism when we operate day in and day out under the assumption of methodological naturalism?”
- “Is there anything within our practice of science that helps us resist this naturalizing pressure?”
Certainly, the regular practice of spiritual disciplines must be a part of our response. Serious Christians in the sciences ought to seek out opportunities for prayer, Scripture reading, and Christian fellowship to maintain our balance. But our efforts to resist naturalizing pressure would be greatly enhanced by realities that arise within our practice of science. We would suggest that encouraging doxological fascination, adopting an active posture of thanksgiving to our Creator for the beauty and order we encounter as a regular part of our investigations would be an important and neglected answer to these questions.
What is more, regular rejoicing in the beauty and order of the Lord’s works in creation will serve to remind us that the creatures around us are the Lord’s gifts to us. Our knowledge of the world is in this way embedded in the same kind of exchange of gifts as our worship. The Lord in his goodness gives us beautiful and orderly and fascinating creatures to stimulate and draw forth our interest and our desire to learn and the joy of discovery and understanding. We respond to those gifts by giving thanks and standing in awe of the exceeding greatness of the Creator who could make this kind of world filled with these kinds of creatures. In at least this way our desire for knowledge and our seeking understanding is rooted in thanksgiving. It produces joy and not the cynical or banal world-weariness visible in so much of academic life.
It is our hope that this lecture of Jeff’s will bring you thanksgiving and joy right at the heart of your vocation as a faculty member in the sciences. And, we would be delighted to hear your feedback to these segments and to the whole lecture. You can locate the complete video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvxSk8309zU.