Monday, May 27, 2013

ACMS Conference Talk Preview

In a couple of days I'm off to Bethel University in Minnesota for the biennial conference of the Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences, whose purpose is "to encourage Christians in the mathematical sciences to explore the relationship of their faith to their discipline".  As a young scholar in Oxford I found the mere existence of the ACMS a great encouragement. Even though I hardly expected to meet any other members (I think there was a time that I was the only one in the UK), it was good to know that others were wondering, as I was, how the "aha!" of mathematical insight and the steamroller power of logical reasoning fit with the confession that "all things hold together" in Christ (Colossians 1:17). 

In due course I moved to the US and met some of the ACMS people (such as Bob Brabenec, whose vision the whole thing was, I think) and this year they were rash enough to elect me to their board. Much of the ACMS's membership is drawn from faculty at Christian colleges, but, remembering my own experience, I expect that there are also many "Christians in the mathematical sciences" in industry and government and secular academia who could find encouragement in the ACMS and bring new perspectives.  If this is you (undergraduate or graduate student, researcher, teacher, or skilled user of mathematics) feel free to get in touch!

Anyhow, I will be giving a short talk on Thursday at the conference entitled  "Creation Care As a Focus for a General Mathematics Course."  Regular readers will know that I'm putting together a Mathematics of Sustainability course which I hope to teach at Penn State soon.  But I feel that the themes of that course are, if anything, even more suitable for a math course at a Christian college or university.  The phrase "integration of faith and learning" gets used a lot at these institutions, meaning that faculty and students are charged to take seriously the verse I quoted from Colossians above - "all things hold together in Christ" - and to try to make its implications precise in the context of their specific academic discipline.  It's easy to imagine that professors of mathematics find this more challenging than some of their colleagues!  In my talk I want to suggest that the theme of "creation care" or "creation stewardship" provides an excellent perspective on such integration.  On the one hand, it is deeply linked with big theological questions about creation, redemption, and the nature of hope; on the other, its is linked with essentially mathematical questions about scale, change, randomness and connectivity.  That's my pitch, for which I have 15 minutes.  I'm looking forward to it!

1 comment:

John Roe said...

Several people asked me after the talk to make public the unit on the Betz limit: here it is...