October 22, 2015

Dear WesleyNexus Colleague:

November will be a busy month for all of us as we look forward to Thanksgiving and the Christmas
holidays.  So we at WesleyNexus are trying to get a jump on things by distributing our newsletter a bit
earlier than last month.  In this edition, we have a variety of content including links to videos you may not
have seen, announcements of upcoming events and some thought provoking articles.  We also want to
highlight the upcoming WesleyNexus event as we participate in our fourth Evolution Weekend this coming

We are an all-volunteer organization and rely on our participants to continue our presence on the web and
to develop in-person programs, all of which are open to the public – to anyone who wants to engage in the
science & religion dialogue. We hope that you will consider supporting us this holiday season with a
contribution of any size.  It is a cliché but also a truth that our goals are not matched by our funds.  So, we
continue to ask for your support.  THANK YOU TO THOSE OF YOU WHO ACTUALLY SENT
RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS. We want to stress that all funds that we collect are spent on maintaining
our web presence, sponsoring programs, distributing the newsletter and promoting activities of other
organizations within the science and religion space  
All contributions are acknowledged for tax reporting
purposes either through PayPal receipt or by letter
. Please consider supporting us with a contribution either
through the PayPal DONATE link below, or, by sending a check to:   

WesleyNexus, Inc.  
24500 Fossen Road
Damascus, MD 20872

Thanks in advance for your support.

God Bless,

Rick, Maynard, and the rest of the
WesleyNexus Board of Directors

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The Uncontrolling Love of God by Tom Oord

This month, we would like to highlight a new book by Tom Oord, a member
of the WesleyNexus Advisory Board and a longtime supporter of the science
and religion dialogue.  In this book, Tom tackles what is known theologically as
the problem of theodicy … or more colloquially, why do bad things happen and
what does that imply about our understanding of God.  For Oord, this means
that we need to be open to the idea that God is not the One who is always in
control but, if God is love then God inherently is uncontrolling and that through
this understanding we just might be able to begin to understand theodicy and
what we as Christians are called to be.  As Oord puts it, perhaps we need to
“believe in and cooperate with the uncontrolling love of God”.   Here is a short video that introduces the
The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence.  Theologically,
Tom refers to himself as an open-relational theologian, a perspective which is behind the notion of the
Uncontrolling Love of God.  The video can be found here.

As many of you may know, Tom was laid off from his teaching position at Northwest Nazarene
University.  While the issues surrounding his dismissal are complex and varied, one thing is clear.  Tom has
been a leader in his denomination in promoting a compatibilist view of science and religion which has not
been well received by the powers that be in the Church of the Nazarene.  The link below provides Tom’s
response to these events.


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Science & Religion: Evolution & the Retelling of Our Spiritual Story
In the fall of 2014, Adult Education at Northaven UMC (Dallas) sponsored
and filmed a 13-week program during the Sunday school hour to explore the
present state and future of religion by looking at: the story of creation from
an evolutionary perspective and how it can become our spiritual creation
-        the science of the brain and the connections between its function and the religious/spiritual life;
-        the intertwined evolution of cultures and religions from their beginning until now;
-        the paradigm shift in our cosmology as it occurs in religion over the centuries and what that means
for our understanding of God.

This program was led by Tom Timmins, Ernie Stokely and Ben Marshall, and each 40-45 minute
presentation was followed by a 15-20 minute Q&A discussion (also filmed).  Topic titles and descriptions
are shown on the webpage; video, just click on the links for each topic.  A list of references for all
presentations is also shown.  

The webpage containing all the materials for the program can be found

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On October 28, at the Washington Ethical Society, Nancy Ellen
Abrams gave a public lecture on this theme, which is also the title
of her newest book. Abrams, an attorney, philosopher of science and
lecturer at University of California Santa Cruz, brings a long-term
interest in science policy, having worked for an international law firm,
a European environmental think tank, the Ford Foundation and the
Office of Technology Assessment at the U.S. Congress. She has
consulted with the governments of Sweden, California and Wisconsin, with ExxonNuclear, and others. She
and husband, Dr. Joel Primack, team-taught a course for more than a decade at Santa Cruz called
“Cosmology and Culture,” which won awards from the American Council of Learned Societies and the
Templeton Foundation. Abrams and Primack have co-authored two previous books that any of us in the
Science & Religion dialogue should purchase and study: The View from the Center of the Universe (2006,
Riverhead Penguin) and The New Universe and the Human Future (2011 Yale U Press). Primack,
astrophysicist at University of California Santa Cruz, who just received the 2016 Leo Szilard award, for his
ground-breaking work studying dark matter, accompanied Abrams, and the discussion was vigorous among
the attendees. Abrams begins with a compelling point, that to be "real," anything referenced must exhibit
qualities that reflect a broad consensus among scientists, philosophers, theologians and those who reflect
upon daily personal interactions in the world. And with the discoveries of astrophysics in the last 50 years,
we first must consider that "reality" (our new cosmic home) is the framework for these reflections to make
sense. All previous concepts about deity and cosmic purpose now must be reconceptualized to make sense.
This being stipulated, as it were, Abrams goes on to show how we must trash the common claims that we
(humans) are insignificant blips in a vast time scale and that the Earth of a tiny spec at the edge of an
insignificant galxay among billions of others in the universe. Abrams shows how scale is critical, not just in
physics but in all that we think and do. She illustrates this by reference to the ancient concept of the cosmic
Uroboros, showing how the universe itself is a continuity of differering size-scales, down to the tiniest
particles (which may be the quarks which we cannot see but only infer). As it happens (not by accident) we
(humans) are at the exact midpoint on this scale, the Midgard, the only point where intelligent life can
emerge and persist. Moreover, wherever we are in the universe (here and now), the expanding forces (dark
energy/dark matter) are driving the universe into new space at an ever-increasing speed. In the centuries to
come, just our our ancestors could not possibly have had any comprehension of this universe-at-scale, our
descendents (human or otherwise) will have no access to those elements now at the "edge" of reality. Our
records and documentation will be all that is. This is our new reality. The cosmic Uroboros is a bridge
between the spiritual and the physical. This is the only context in which we can find meaning. The fact that
we are the "Midgard" is the only way we can understand "the Ultimate" and our own "centrality" to the
universe. The Universe is always becoming, and experiencing the universe from inside (our only option),
we are "enfolded" in time (midway between our past and our future), the great NOW being all that we
have. But our constraints are also our source for inspiration: our challenge is to develop imagery that
bridges the "incomprehensible gap" between the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, all the while
upholding the principles of Order, Harmony, and Truth. Ours is a sacred opportunity to see everything
afresh through a new cosmic lens. And, as Abrams reminds us, it is an opportunity that we will not get
again. Her new book,
A God that Could be Real, published by Beacon Press, is available from bookstores;
a paperback edition is scheduled for March 2016.

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4850 Feet Below – The Hunt for Dark Matter

Fans of the Big Bang Theory will remember the episode where Sheldon and
Raj decide to apply to a research project that is searching for dark matter in
an abandoned mine thousands of feet below the earth’s surface.  To simulate
the experience and test their ability to withstand the harsh underground setting
of a mine, they decide to go “underground” in a university sub-basement that houses heating and cooling
ducts, water lines and rats!  They don’t last very long.  In a video posted by Science Friday, you can get a
look at what it would really be like.  “4850 Feet Below” captures a look a South Dakota mine that is being
used to find the most elusive of all physical entities, dark matter.

You can find this fascinating video

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Re-conceptualizing the Origin of Life

On Monday November 9, at the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC, 100 of the world's pre-eminent
scientists convened for a week-long discussion concerning the origin of life. As implied by the title of the
consultation, the idea was to break the old patterns of thinking about this mystery, and to explore some of
the implications of research that are being pursued in laboratories and planetaria around the world. It was
an opportunity for scientists to speak at depth with each other beyond the normal boundaries of dialogue.
As President of the Carnegie Institution Matthew P. Scott said, scientists have begun “to seriously question
that chance alone was responsible.... Some go so far as to say that life is a 'cosmic imperative.'” This
conference was the outgrowth of a grassroots movement called "Modeling Origins of Life", MOL for short,
which sprang up from a number of informal workshops that were organized in the US and in Japan in
2014. The conference goal is to host discussions of broad scope but with targeted impact on key questions
and core concepts about the origins of life on Earth, the organization of the biosphere, and the nature of the
living state. Speakers included: Christoph Adami, University of Michigan; Laurie Barge, Jet Propulsion
Laboratory; John Baross, University of Washington; Henderson Cleaves, Institute for Advanced Study;
Lee Cronin, University of Glasgow; Jessica Flack, Santa Fe Institute; Takashi Ikegami, University of
Tokyo; Betul Kaçar, Harvard University, and a host of others from around the world.
Physics and chemistry have arrived at a deep understanding of the non-living world. Can we expect to
reach similar insights, integrating concepts and quantitative explanation, in chemistry and biology? Life at its
origin should be particularly amenable to discovery through scientific laws governing biology, since it marks
the point of departure from a predictable physical/chemical world to the novel and history-dependent living
world. The origin of life problem is difficult because even the simplest living cell is highly evolved from the
first steps toward life, of which little direct evidence remains. This conference aimed to explore ways to
build a deeper understanding of the nature of biology, by modeling the origins of life on a sufficiently
abstract level, starting from prebiotic conditions on Earth and possibly on other planets.

Dr. Robert Hazen, founder and director of Carnegie's Deep-Carbon Observatory, established in 2008
through a generous ten-year grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, gave a sold-out public lecture on
November 12, entitled “Chance, Necessity and the Origins of Life.” The lecture, profusely illustrated with
informative slides, was structured in three parts: (1) an overview of the current status of scientific research
on the origins of life on Earth, based on the assumption that life is carbon-based and originated from a
process of chemical reactions involving water and rocks; (2) an affirmation that the question of “chance or
necessity” is a false dichotomy, the alternative being that life, given the requisite deep time frame and the
diversity of minerals on Earth (now numbering 6,437 and counting) is, in fact, biologically “inevitable,” and
(3) a statistical demonstration that laboratory experiments (such as those carried on for the last 60 years)
can only yield a “probability” for life's origins being discovered. Dr. Hazen concludes that the best clues
will be the microbes found in deep thermal vents within the Earth and any cosmic discovery of life
elsewhere in the solar system. If “life” is discovered on Mars or perhaps on Europa or Titan, the questions
is: will life have the same molecular structure as life on Earth? If yes, then it is likely that we are alone in
the universe, but if not, then it is likely that there is abundant life throughout the universe.  As of now, we
can only speculate.

The conferees examined the origin of life as part of a larger concern with the origins of organization,
including major transitions in the living state and structure formation in complex systems science. The
results of the discussions will likely be published by Carnegie – inquiries may be directed to the conference
administrator at the link:

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                                               UPCOMING EVENTS

“Science of Mindfulness: What we know and don’t know”

Monday, November 16, 2015:
The Institute for Religion and Science, Hosted by Chestnut Hill College,
invites everyone to an Evening Discussion with Marc Schulz, PhD,
Hale Professor in Science and Mathematics, Bryn Mawr College –

Monday, November 16, 2015:
“Science of Mindfulness: What we know and don’t know”
Location: Commonwealth Chateau on the SugarLoaf Campus of Chestnut Hill College,                    
9230 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118

Meditation and other mindfulness practices are hot commodities in contemporary American popular culture.
Ever widening circles of people are becoming interested in the benefits that mindfulness can offer in stress-
relief, well-being and physical health. This talk will highlight modern conceptualizations and implementation
of mindfulness practices that have arisen in the west, and will review scientific research that examines the
potential health benefits of these practices. For more information, go to

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ASA Posted Events

The American Scientific Affiliation is maintaining a long list of events
that will be taking place within the next few months.  The list begins
with ““Keeping the Conversation Going in Churches,” an online
presentation of the concluding program in the“Faith & Science in the 21st
Century” presented  by Luke Powery, Associate Prof. of Homiletics at Duke University on the 15th of
November and ends in June with “Transformations in Care,”a conference in Deerfield, IL for  The Center
for Bioethics and Human Dignity.  

Of particular note is the recurring program presented at St Paul’s United Methodist Church in Socorro,
NM.  From November 19, 2015 through April 21, 2016, they will be presenting a series of four programs
ranging from a personal reflection by Paul Shoemaker, staff scientist at Sandia Lab; "Evolution of a Canon"
- a personal journey from being a non-believer to becoming and serving as a Lay Canon in the Episcopal
Church in November to “A Finely Tuned Universe: Its Age and Beginnings” by Glenn Magelssen of Los
Alamos Lab.   The ASA event list can be found

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For those is the Washington DC region, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the
American Scientific Affiliation meets on Saturday, December 5, at 7:00
pm at the Cosmos Club (2121 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC).  
Please RSVP to both meeting and pre-meeting dinner.

Dr. Roy Clouser, Professor Emeritus of the College of New Jersey, will
speak on the early chapters (1-7) of the Book of Genesis, upon which most
of the alleged conflict between Scripture and science focuses, with the result
being multiple readings of the text ranging from extreme literalism to complete
allegory.  Dr. Clouser seeks to establish the best reading possible by taking Genesis on its own terms, that
is, understanding the text as "canon," a religious document intended to instruct believers about the promises
and demands of God’s covenant.  In doing this, Dr. Clouser will not only be wary of reading science into
the creation account but will also bring into question assumptions that have enjoyed nearly universal
acceptance in the Western church since Augustine, but which neither Jewish nor Eastern Orthodox readings
accept.  Dr. Clouser will argue that the shared Jewish and Orthodox understanding makes more sense.

You can learn more about Dr. Clouser here:  

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November 20, 2015 in Atlanta, GA
Symposium: The Science for Seminaries Project

AAAS, through its Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion program, will partner with the Association of
Theological Schools (ATS) and the International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) to present
"Science and the Next Generation of Religious Leaders: The Science for Seminaries Project" in conjunction
with the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature. This event is
designed to showcase the grant-winning seminaries currently working with AAAS and the ATS and to invite
participation in the next stage of the project. What have these 10 pilot seminaries learned about how to
integrate science into core seminary curricula? How can religious and theological education be enhanced by
science? How can future religious leaders best be exposed to science?

The keynote event of the Symposium will be a dialogue between Jennifer Wiseman, AAAS/DoSER
program director, and Philip Clayton, Ingraham Professor of Theology at Claremont School of Theology.  
(Note: Philip Clayton is on the WesleyNexus Advisory Board.)  

For more information on this event go to

For more information about the Science for Seminaries project, visit

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Science & Religion Roundtable
December 3, 2015 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Hennepin Church, Minneapolis, MN

The Science & Theology Network and Hennepin Avenue United Methodist
Church co-sponsor a monthly Science & Religion Roundtable that explores a
wide variety of topics. If you are interested in how science and religion can
be partners in the quest for truth, this book club may be for you. The Thursday
evening gatherings are marked with great questions, lively discussions, occasional
debates, and frequent laughter. All of the meetings are free, and newcomers
are always welcome.  
See more at:

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February 13-14, 2016:
Evolution Weekend
, sponsored nationwide by the Clergy Letter Project.
WesleyNexus is pleased to announce that we once again will be hosting the premier event in Maryland, at
the Baltimore-Washington Conference Mission Center in Fulton, Maryland. For the fourth year we will be
live-streaming the event from our webpage. We encourage all in our network who are in the near vicinity to
plan on attending and bring a large delegation from your congregation. In 2016 our focus will be on Medical
Ethics: How will the New Technologies Change the Way we Think about Ourselves and Social
Responsibilities? We are confirming our speakers now for this interfaith event, which will be moderated by
Professor Sondra Wheeler, bioethicist and Professor of Christian Ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in
Washington. More information will be on our webpage shortly, but we hope you will make your plans now
to be present, and if out of the area, organize a church viewing that week-end and have your own
discussion by participating in our webcast.

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 Articles on the Web

Choosing Empathy: A Conversation With Jamil Zaki (Edge.org)

A recent interview posted on Edge.org tackles the phenomenon of empathy
as Jamil Zaki, assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University and
the director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab convenes a conversation
with Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale
University and author of the book Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil
and David DeSteno,  Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University.   Zaki’s lab at Stanford uses the
techniques available to modern brain research such fMRI to identify what is going on neurologically when
one feels empathy. As Zaki states, “When I see you experience some state—make a movement, feel pain,
or exhibit some emotion—my brain generates a pattern of activity consistent with what you're experiencing,
not with what I'm experiencing. It's as though my brain rehearses your experience for me so that I can
understand it implicitly. We, and lots of other folks, have demonstrated that this happens, even absent any
instruction to empathize and even when you distract people. This suggests that even this neural signature
empathy might be occurring outside of our awareness or control”.   However, his current research seems to
suggest that there is also a volitional aspect to empathy, to seek to experience it and to avoid it.  But as Paul
Bloom and others have noted, “empathy generates kind and moral behaviors, but in fundamentally skewed
ways, for instance, only towards members of your own group and not in ways that maximize well-being
across the largest number of people. On this account, empathy is an inflexible emotional engine for driving
moral behavior and if you want to do the right thing, you should focus on more objective principles to guide
your decision-making.”  

This discussion raises significant issues of what it means to be human as beings that experience and act
upon the feeling of empathy.  Though not discussed within the context of the article (or within Edge.org in
general), religion and faith are certainly related to this evolving understanding.  The article can be found

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Defeating Anxiety by J. L. Cowles (NY Times)

In a personal reflection by J. L. Cowles, the author describes his challenge of
coping with chronic anxiety which began when the stock market crashed seven
years ago.  Since then, he has treated his condition with pharmaceuticals,
psychotherapy, and mindfulness techniques.  In addition, he has used this time
to reconnect to his Catholic heritage.  He remains a skeptical American but found
that it made him feel good.  And then he makes a fascinating statement: “I was
aware of the irony that I had taken control of my ability to choose to have religious feelings which, in turn,
required me to relinquish control to the notion of a higher power. And a funny thing happened: I found joy
in being part of the congregation, a group which I had previously not respected because I thought of them
as mindless sheep being led around by a questionable liturgy. Now I was one of the flock. Relinquishing
control felt wonderful”.   Faith becomes a part of an integrated approach including bio-chemistry, modern
psychology and meditative techniques as well as belonging to a faith community.

As the theologian Diana Butler Bass has proposed, the new model of faith is to first belong, in this case by
just showing up, then behaving differently by participation in faith action and then through belonging and
participation, ones beliefs may change.  The article can be found

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Science and Religion in Latin America by Ignatio Silva.  
The state of the debate surrounding issues on science and religion in
Latin America is mostly unknown, both to regional and extra-regional scholars.
This paper presents and reviews in some detail the developments made since
2000, when the first symposium on science and religion was held in Mexico,
up to date. I briefly introduce some features of Latin American academia and
higher education institutions, as well as some trends on the public reception of
these debates and atheist engagement with it in Mexico and Argentina.
The primary conclusion of this paper is that, even though the discussion is new
to Latin American academic circles, it is gaining traction and will certainly grow in the coming years.

The article was posted on Academia.com
here but can also be found here on Wesnex.org

Ignatio Silva is Director of "Science, Philosophy and Theology in Latin America", at the Ian Ramsey
Centre, Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford.

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Open Theology

Open Theology is a new academic journal based on the open access model
(no charge!).  Their most recent postings are devoted to differing areas within
the overall science and religion space.  Below you will find the contents of
this issue.  (Note: it is found towards the bottom of the webpage.)    

Science and Religion: Issues and Trends, Watts, Fraser / Khalili, Shiva (Editorial)
The Secret Sympathy: New Atheism, Protestant Fundamentalism, and Evolution, Fraser, Liam Jerrold
Ernan McMullin’s Thought on Science and Theology: An Appreciation, Barzaghi, Amerigo / Corcó,
The Higgs Boson, The God Particle, and the Correlation Between Scientific and Religious
Stahlberg, Lorns-Olaf
Transcendent Mind, Emergent Universe in the Thought of Michael Polanyi, Smiles, Vincent M.
Science and Spirit: A Critical Examination of Amos Yong’s Pneumatological Theology of
Leidenhag, Mikael / Leidenhag, Joanna
Downward Causation – The Way How Mind and Matter Interact?, Losch, Andreas
Cultural Influences on the Brain Science and Theology on Human Specificity, Colagè, Ivan / Oviedo,
God, Genetics, and Event Phenomenology, Love, Carolyn J.
Self-Evident Experience: A Challenge to the Empirical Study of Religion, Renner, Walter
Science and/or Miracle? The System Approach to Miracle Events, Świeżyński, Adam

The journal can be found at:
November 15, 2015