Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

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christdude
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Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby christdude » Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:53 pm

Well, I graduated from Bob Jones University. A search in this forum led me to a thread where my university was thrown around as a joke, but I shall not get into that. By God's grace I had a very good physics education here, and I actually want to pursue a higher degree in physics research at a top school in the US.

My main worry is how the universities would perceive the degree that I obtained. I know how the university's reputation is out there (we have been warned in general), and I'm worried that I'll be unfairly labelled as a joke the moment they saw I graduated from Bob Jones University (the thread that I found did not help matters). I frankly have close to zero research experience, but I have a perfect GPA of 4.0, and I did very well on the PGRE, getting a 930.

Any thoughts?

vicente
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby vicente » Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:30 pm

There is a Physics professor at a university in Connecticut who did his bachelor's at Bob Jones University. I'd be more concerned about your lack of research experience. I don't know if it will be a culture shock for you to study with students and work with coworkers who are going to hell, but good luck.

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quizivex
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby quizivex » Sat Jan 05, 2013 4:54 am

With a 930 PGRE your physics aptitude will be taken seriously. You'll be fine. Though if you keep pointlessly slipping in phrases like "by God's grace" when you talk to people (and god forbid in your statement of purpose) you might be taken as a joke. No matter how proud you are of your faith, there's no need to say stuff like that to people you don't know.

Bob Jones was probably joked about because of its name... sounds like Joe Shmoe. But it's really no worse on paper than all the other no-name schools in physics. Plenty of students on the profile threads from random liberal arts schools or XYZ state schools get into good graduate programs. There's a student I know at an Ivy from a Christian university. Being the top student at any school will count for something and hopefully you can get some nice recommendations.

You said you had close to zero research... well as long as you can say you had "some research experience", it's much better than none! If you can say you worked with Prof Jones (oops) on some project, that will help. Committees might have some mercy when considering applicants that didn't have research opportunities available at their home institutions.

BTW check out this thread for a discussion about religious backgrounds:

christdude
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby christdude » Sat Jan 05, 2013 2:45 pm

quizivex wrote:With a 930 PGRE your physics aptitude will be taken seriously. You'll be fine. Though if you keep pointlessly slipping in phrases like "by God's grace" when you talk to people (and god forbid in your statement of purpose) you might be taken as a joke. No matter how proud you are of your faith, there's no need to say stuff like that to people you don't know.

Bob Jones was probably joked about because of its name... sounds like Joe Shmoe. But it's really no worse on paper than all the other no-name schools in physics. Plenty of students on the profile threads from random liberal arts schools or XYZ state schools get into good graduate programs. There's a student I know at an Ivy from a Christian university. Being the top student at any school will count for something and hopefully you can get some nice recommendations.

You said you had close to zero research... well as long as you can say you had "some research experience", it's much better than none! If you can say you worked with Prof Jones (oops) on some project, that will help. Committees might have some mercy when considering applicants that didn't have research opportunities available at their home institutions.

BTW check out this thread for a discussion about religious backgrounds:


Well thanks, I guess there isn't much I can do on the research experience front, and to be honest I know nothing of which was available in my university. And I do not use the Lord's name in vain, it's not about pride. It's just reminding me that I need to be grateful to God for all the good things in my life. I understand if you do not have a God, but please do not judge against me for using them when I'm giving thanks. My faith in God is bigger than worrying about all the petty snides I may get from other people.

vicente wrote:There is a Physics professor at a university in Connecticut who did his bachelor's at Bob Jones University. I'd be more concerned about your lack of research experience. I don't know if it will be a culture shock for you to study with students and work with coworkers who are going to hell, but good luck.


It is never too late to obtain salvation and put your trust in God.

esopterodactyl
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby esopterodactyl » Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:00 pm

To both of you: there's no need to turn this into a theism vs. antitheism discussion.

To christdude: No, your application isn't a joke, but without research experience it's highly unlikely you will get admitted to a top program. Consider working at a lab, getting a master's or working with a professor before applying to those schools. If you're considering mid to low level schools, your application would be perfectly acceptable and my only recommendation would be to apply to many safeties just in case.

That being said, make sure everyone involved in the process from your recommenders to the admissions committee reading your SOP knows that your primary interest is physics. No one here knows you but if you want to get a PhD you better be committed to physics and that's an assessment only you can make.

Many physicists are religious and many aren't. Like any other work environment, if you play up religion there will be issues and I recommend learning to blend in, i.e. keep it extracurricular.

bfollinprm
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:07 am

you should have no problem getting into a top 20 program with your grades and scores, but as quizivex says remember your audience when applying. As a group, most scientists (of course not all) are for better or worse agnostic or atheist, and some militantly so. Not saying you should hide your faith, but language understood at your undergrad is going to seem out of place to the committee. It's about communicating and making clear your own personal desires and goals in studying physics; the committee will not understand words like 'calling' or 'Gods will' in the way you intend them.

TakeruK
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby TakeruK » Sun Jan 06, 2013 3:44 pm

I think the others already said that your undergrad degree will be no different than most people from liberal arts colleges.

Choosing whether or not to admit someone solely based on their religion is as silly as choosing whether or not to admit someone solely based on their gender, race, sexuality, favourite flavour of ice cream, etc. However, it could still happen, but that's true for most applicants anyways.

It's not as silly to choose students based on how well they would fit in the department though. I have known many scientists who are very religious and it's not a problem at all. It all depends on how you interact with other people about it. I don't really know you in person so it's hard to say. But based on just one line you posted here, "It is never too late to obtain salvation and put your trust in God.", it might be a concern. I point out that line because I think it sounds like you are being judgemental towards the beliefs of others and you are providing unsolicited advice.

Basically, a department isn't going to admit someone who will make their faculty, staff, and students uncomfortable. This is the same whether it's because you are telling people, without them asking for it, about the greatness of God or why race X is the master race, or why homosexuality is the only true right way, or why drinking whiskey neat is the only way true scholars do it, or why mint chocolate chip is the best ice cream flavour ever.

I'm not saying it's wrong to have your own beliefs and I'm not saying you would go around doing these things. I'm just thinking aloud about the only real way religion can get in the way of grad school admission and I think that's only a problem if the way you express your religion and beliefs infringe on the rights of others. Although a non-religious university will not provide the same culture as a place like Bob Jones (but you might be looking for a different environment anyways), that's not to say you won't have a place to meet like-minded people. Many campuses (I would probably say all but I'm not sure) have student clubs and organizations for all different beliefs and religions. My school is only a couple of thousand of students and there are multiple Christian clubs. In addition, I know students who volunteer their time with local churches and religious youth groups because it's important to them.

So, I wouldn't worry too much about your undergrad school being a joke. Like everyone else (religious or not), it is important to fit into whatever school/organization you want to be joining/working for, so keep that in mind when you are writing your application materials. And remember that you are likely applying to schools that might have a very different culture than your own! Good luck.

admissionprof
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby admissionprof » Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:30 pm

As an admissions committee chair, we have had a few applications from Bob Jones and have treated them fairly. But one has to be very concerned about a "university" whose Physics Department webpage says

The Physics major provides preparation for a career as a physicist or physical scientist, and it lays the foundation for the pursuit of graduate studies in special areas such as astrophysics, medical physics and others. It offers theoretical, laboratory and observational studies of the physical nature of the universe dealing with the behavior of matter, radiation and motion. While offering scientific and philosophical refutation of the theory of evolution, our program teaches each course within a Biblical creationist framework. This program requires 40 hours in the major.


Could a graduate student from Bob Jones teach his/her students about radioactive half-lives, carbon dating, the age of the Universe, the second law, etc.? All of these are potentially problematic. The problem would also arise if there was a university that taught that the Earth was flat -- would a geology department ignore this fact when this university's students applied? Once you have to worry about what courses a potential grad student could be trusted to teach, you have rational grounds for discrimination (although I would tend to simply ask the student what they think about radioactive half-lives, etc.).

mnakusor
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby mnakusor » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:29 pm

This is a complicated issue for me. I grew up in a country where the overwhelming majority takes a certain monotheistic religion literally. In high school, I remember a student refusing to sit through a biology class because he didn't "believe" in evolution. The teacher asked him to learn the theory even if he didn't believe in it. She said, it couldn't harm him if he learnt about alternative views.

During my undergraduate years, a professor once gave a semi-popular lecture on the current cosmological models. At the end of the talk, a mathematics professor told him that these can not possibly be true since her "holy book" (I won't name this book, I don't want to die) said otherwise. The problem is, in a religious society, answering such questions like a physicist is often tricky and people feel intimidated. I hope this is not the case in the States.

Even in Canada, at a moderately well known university, an accomplished physicist (100+ publications) told me that he believed it was possible to levitate by doing yoga. In fact, I was called a "religious fanatic" by a postdoc for saying that irrational things are not real in the scientific sense of reality.

On the one hand, if things ought to be measured in terms of numbers and grades, then surely there should not be any question of "discrimination". On the other hand, since scientific enquiry is not welcome in a church, I don't want dogma in a science class either. Of course there could be a student who wants to learn about physics sincerely with the purpose of trying to refute its theories (one can think of a string theory sceptic learning the theory to figure out its flaws). However, in my own experience of living in both fundamentalist and liberal societies, I often felt threatened when I knew that the person I was talking to was not guided by reason and experiment, but by faith. If a person tells you, that regardless of whatever evidence and compelling arguments you present, nothing will suffice to change his views, isn't debate and scientific inquiry futile already? Also, if a person in my class wears a swastika, for example, and I happen to know the meaning of this symbol, isn't it normal to be intimidated? Similarly, if a person makes blanket statements like: "everyone is born a sinner", I am naturally offended. Then again, I don't think I have the right to never feeling offended. But do these declarations, that amount to display of supremacy or judgement of other people, belong in a physics classroom?

I'm really curious about how this thread turns out. And to the OP, I wish him peace and happiness (as long as it does not come at the expense of pain of others).

Grant
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby Grant » Wed Jan 09, 2013 1:36 pm

admissionprof wrote:Could a graduate student from Bob Jones teach his/her students about radioactive half-lives, carbon dating, the age of the Universe, the second law, etc.?

I would imagine a graduate from Bob Jones has a better knowledge of these issues than a typical graduate from a secular undergraduate institution. It makes sense that if you are going to question the validity of something like evolution, then you have to have a very good understanding of the arguments and assumptions used by evolutionists, especially for things like carbon dating.


christdude wrote:Well, I graduated from Bob Jones University. A search in this forum led me to a thread where my university was thrown around as a joke, but I shall not get into that. By God's grace I had a very good physics education here, and I actually want to pursue a higher degree in physics research at a top school in the US.

My main worry is how the universities would perceive the degree that I obtained. I know how the university's reputation is out there (we have been warned in general), and I'm worried that I'll be unfairly labelled as a joke the moment they saw I graduated from Bob Jones University (the thread that I found did not help matters). I frankly have close to zero research experience, but I have a perfect GPA of 4.0, and I did very well on the PGRE, getting a 930.

Any thoughts?

The general consensus of the other posters seems to be that your degree probably won't be a problem as long as you keep your faith in the closet and as long as the various admissions committees don't have any members who consciously or subconsciously think like a militant atheist or agnostic. In other words, it is a good thing you got a real good score on the physics GRE. :)

I found a quote from John Sanford where he says, "I think the academic environment is very hostile to the very idea of a living and active God, making it almost impossible for a genuine Christian to feel open or welcome." John Sanford's research in genetic entropy directly calls evolution into question so he probably experienced more hostility than you are likely to face. However, I think it is safe to say you will face hostility in an academic environment so I think it is important for you to be very aware of the environment you are transitioning out of and the environment you plan to immerse yourself in. As I'm sure you are familiar with already, when Peter was with Jesus and the other disciples, Peter was vehement that he would not deny Jesus even after Jesus said he would deny him three times (i.e. from Mark 14:30-31). However, when Peter entered an environment that was hostile to Jesus, Peter quickly denied Jesus three times and then wept (i.e. from Mark 14:68-72).

goingnuclear
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby goingnuclear » Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:18 pm

Wait wait wait... the website for the physics department at Bob Jones says they teach modern physics topics like Radiation, but then go on to boast that they actively try to refute evolution? Are you #$@%ing kidding me?! I respect people's beliefs and don't think you have to be agnostic/atheist to be a physicist, but that's crossing a line. That's like earning a degree in chemistry and not believing in the existence of the atom. Evolution is one of the cornerstones of modern science, and the ideas developed from the theory are used everywhere from biology to genetics and modern medicine. The classical depiction of creation, as described in Genesis, is such an outdated theory that most branches of Christianity don't even agree with it anymore.

I pray (no pun intended) that the OP recognizes the insurmountable evidence of evolution in modern science and doesn't subscribe to the Bob Jones mission of refuting it. The idea that there may be people with physics degrees walking among us who don't believe in evolution is too depressing to handle.

mnakusor
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby mnakusor » Wed Jan 09, 2013 5:53 pm

This is in reply to what Grant said above.

"An advocate of intelligent design, in 2005 Sanford testified in the Kansas evolution hearings on behalf of intelligent design, during which he denied the principle of common descent and "humbly offered... that we were created by a special creation, by God." - a quick search on this John Sanford brings this up. As a supporter of Intelligent Falling as opposed to gravity, I show my utmost respect for this Sanford dude.

In 18+ years of academics, I have not seen a single religious person being treated unfairly. It has always been the other way around.

Like I mentioned earlier, there is no control on how people think. However, some ideologies, when spoken aloud, intimidate people who don't subscribe to those ideas. Yes, openly calling dissidents "sinners" and condemning them to hell is, at the least, irritating inside an academic setting.

Having no respect for experimental evidence in support of a theory is also a very serious issue. Regardless of how many equations you can memorize or how fast you can calculate the square root of 13, you are not a good physicist if you don't respect experiments. It is absolutely NOT unfair to ask if a person regards evolution as a valid science or not. What's next, flat-earthers have to be admitted into geophysics programs? I am pretty sure my application to become a priest will be considered a joke simply because I don't have any faith. This is not discrimination. This is simply a matter of meeting the requirements.

Peace!

Grant
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby Grant » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:40 am

mnakusor wrote:In 18+ years of academics, I have not seen a single religious person being treated unfairly. It has always been the other way around.

I thought it was unfair when I read that admissions committees might discriminate against someone who attended a school which had a sentence on their website about refuting the theory of evolution and teaching from a creationist framework. Students don't have to believe they evolved from primordial soup in order to be trusted to teach physics half-life problems.


mnakusor wrote:Having no respect for experimental evidence in support of a theory is also a very serious issue. Regardless of how many equations you can memorize or how fast you can calculate the square root of 13, you are not a good physicist if you don't respect experiments. It is absolutely NOT unfair to ask if a person regards evolution as a valid science or not. What's next, flat-earthers have to be admitted into geophysics programs?

There is obviously no way we can test a theory that says we evolved from primordial soup over the course of a few billion years so believing in evolution isn't a good litmus test to evaluate someone applying to a physics graduate program. I'll give you that there is a lot evidence supporting natural selection such as litter of kittens being born with different colors, but evidence for certain colors cats being more likely to survive and reproduce is not experimental evidence for primordial soup turning into cats. You can get from primordial soup to cats with a lot of imagination, but I don't think experimental evidence gets you there. Also, it should go without saying, but since it has been brought up twice already, I'll mention that I don't think anyone has a problem with a physics or geophysics admission committee rejecting a person who doesn't respect the overwhelming evidence refuting a flat earth.

kangaroo
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby kangaroo » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:41 am

I think you people just confirmed his fears, lolz.

blighter
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby blighter » Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:43 am

Grant wrote:
mnakusor wrote:In 18+ years of academics, I have not seen a single religious person being treated unfairly. It has always been the other way around.

I thought it was unfair when I read that admissions committees might discriminate against someone who attended a school which had a sentence on their website about refuting the theory of evolution and teaching from a creationist framework. Students don't have to believe they evolved from primordial soup in order to be trusted to teach physics half-life problems.


I think it is more unfair that such schools even get accredited.

Grant wrote:
mnakusor wrote:Having no respect for experimental evidence in support of a theory is also a very serious issue. Regardless of how many equations you can memorize or how fast you can calculate the square root of 13, you are not a good physicist if you don't respect experiments. It is absolutely NOT unfair to ask if a person regards evolution as a valid science or not. What's next, flat-earthers have to be admitted into geophysics programs?

There is obviously no way we can test a theory that says we evolved from primordial soup over the course of a few billion years so believing in evolution isn't a good litmus test to evaluate someone applying to a physics graduate program. I'll give you that there is a lot evidence supporting natural selection such as litter of kittens being born with different colors, but evidence for certain colors cats being more likely to survive and reproduce is not experimental evidence for primordial soup turning into cats. You can get from primordial soup to cats with a lot of imagination, but I don't think experimental evidence gets you there. Also, it should go without saying, but since it has been brought up twice already, I'll mention that I don't think anyone has a problem with a physics or geophysics admission committee rejecting a person who doesn't respect the overwhelming evidence refuting a flat earth.


I think you'll find that there is in fact enormous evidence for evolution. Yes, even experimental.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth_evolution

twd
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twd » Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:25 am

I think you'll find that there is in fact enormous evidence for evolution. Yes, even experimental.


Your example is quite consistent with what he said. I think it is fair to say that evolution can not be compared with gravity or flat-earth. You are trying to describe a tremendously complicated process which has happened only once (to the best of our knowledge). To say, there is lot of experimental evidence for 'evolution' is just imprecise.

You can ask whether a certain phenomenon (and the associated experimental evidence) can be explained within the theory of evolution. And actually, various things have far from a satisfactory (or agreed upon) theoretical explanation (as a simple example, the evolution of language). Certainly, I don't think anybody will claim we are anywhere near a complete description of the complexity of life.

In fact, if we deny that the theory of evolution can be refuted we are saying it is no longer a scientific theory. Someone with a physics degree who 'believes in evolution' is equally depressing.

I think it is more important to question whether someone who questions only the theory she doesn't like or explains any complexity by referring to something much more complex and unexplained has or will later be able to convey the spirit of scientific enquiry.

mnakusor
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby mnakusor » Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:33 am

twd wrote:
I think you'll find that there is in fact enormous evidence for evolution. Yes, even experimental.

In fact, if we deny that the theory of evolution can be refuted we are saying it is no longer a scientific theory. Someone with a physics degree who 'believes in evolution' is equally depressing.


I am not an expert on evolution by natural selection, so I might be wrong on certain details. But, if starlight spectroscopy done by Hubble can generate worldwide consensus among physicists that the universe came from a singularity, the experimental evidence for evolution is EVEN MORE overwhelming. Also, if "believing" in evolution for physicists is in deed "depressing", what about people who believe in 6-day Creationism?

If you come up with a better theory than evolution, with MORE experimental evidence to support it, I, as a physicist will accept yours without losing any tear. What is really depressing is that some of us don't apply rationality on any aspect of life other than physics. We apply super critical standards on evolution, which is FINE. But when it comes to creationism, we are soft kitty, warm kitty. Double standards!

Gedanken: how would an admission professor view me if I wrote to them that in my religion Newton's laws are false and my long term goal is to disprove these laws?

Understand the difference between conservative progressives and progressive conservatives.

Peace y'all!

mnakusor
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby mnakusor » Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:51 am

Grant wrote:There is obviously no way we can test a theory that says we evolved from primordial soup over the course of a few billion years so believing in evolution isn't a good litmus test to evaluate someone applying to a physics graduate program. I'll give you that there is a lot evidence supporting natural selection such as litter of kittens being born with different colors, but evidence for certain colors cats being more likely to survive and reproduce is not experimental evidence for primordial soup turning into cats. You can get from primordial soup to cats with a lot of imagination, but I don't think experimental evidence gets you there.


Here's the first step: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2% ... experiment

The rest are just fossils. Good enough to convince me, and that's because I don't bring any baggage in my classroom. Sure, one can't trace the history of every member of every species that ever lived. That's not the goal of evolution. It is a theory of emergent behaviour. If one can't trace every gas molecule, it doesn't render statistical physics not "a good litmus test" to evaluate potential physicists. It still predicts macroscopic behaviours well. Similarly, predictions based on evolution is used every day by biochemists and drug designers. It takes a lot of arrogance and ignorance to disrespect this theory.

Also, the point was not whether there is room for improvement on evolution or not. The point was, if a person does not give due credit to one of the most cherished scientific achievements of humankind, his training as a scientist is highly suspect. However, the OP surely knows how to calculate, as shown by his stellar PGRE scores. So things are not lipid and aqua at this point.

bfollinprm
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby bfollinprm » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:25 pm

I am not an expert on evolution by natural selection, so I might be wrong on certain details. But, if starlight spectroscopy done by Hubble can generate worldwide consensus among physicists that the universe came from a singularity, the experimental evidence for evolution is EVEN MORE overwhelming. Also, if "believing" in evolution for physicists is in deed "depressing", what about people who believe in 6-day Creationism?
Peace y'all!



You think so? In the sense that the explanation is more complete, I believe that the standard cosmological history is better supported by experiment. Almost every aspect of it has passed some sort of test, most of which in the last 25 years or so have become very precise.

Anyhow, remember that it isn't crazy to suppose that evolution (or the big bang) are wrong. Sure, lots of data fit the model, but evidence doesn't just support one model, it supports multiple models. And there are slight problems in both; in the case of evolution, there are biological systems we've yet to be able to break down into simple, numerous slight modifications (for instance, no one can tell you the mutation history that takes protazoa to Ape). That doesn't mean that evolution is wrong, it just means that it's still an open area of science (someone needs to work out that mutation history, or show it can't exist), so healthy discussion is good. What IS unscientific, and the only thing a scientist should be complaining about, is someone holding fast to a theory that does not fit the observed facts (or only do so in a very ad-hoc manner). Models MUST defer to data; this is the tenant of science: thus something like a 6 day creation (or a 4000 year old universe) is hogwash. However, it's perfectly reasonable for a scientist to incorporate a deity into their personal beliefs (even in their science), as long as they're willing to modify their beliefs as more information comes along.

By the way, as a wild tangent: the truth of the matter is I've always found (evangelical) christianity's* views on scientific theories curious. It seems very antithetical to the stated mission of most evangelical people I've met (e.g. to turn people to Jesus or some such mission) to cause a big fight about how many generations there were between Adam and Noah. It's intuitively obvious from reading the Bible that it's not a scientific textbook, so why do some people insist on treating it as one? There are blatant metaphors (e.g. most everything Jesus says) in the Bible and a long oral tradition of teaching parables in the Jewish culture. Is it really that necessary to take every statement about the universe literally (e.g. the 6 day creation), or can we at least entertain the possibility that the history isn't meant to always be literal? If we're looking for truths in the Bible (at least important ones) won't it be found in messages of how to live, not in about what happened in the past?

*As opposed to, say, Catholicism, which I guess has to take the view that if Papal writings and interpretations of the Bible and science disagree, the Pope wins. Evangelical Christians are supposed to be able to read the Bible themselves and make up their own mind, though, right?

admissionprof
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby admissionprof » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:52 pm

There seems to be some confusion here. When I said that one could fairly discriminate against a creationist, I meant a "young earth creationist", who believes that the Universe, Earth, etc. are O(10,000) years old. That is what Bob Jones teaches (not on the physics dept. blurb that I posted, but elsewhere on the site). The fact that the Earth is billions of years old is not seriously challenged, any more than the Copernican theory is challenged. I don't really care what a prospective student thinks about the details of the evolutionary process.

But if they think the Earth is O(10,000) years old, then they are exceptionally poor scientists and I would not want to accept them. Yes, that is religious discrimination, but if someone's religion told them that the Sun went around the Earth, such discrimination would be perfectly justified. Same thing.

Evolution is irrelevant to this issue (unless they claim that the 2nd Law of Thermo conflicts with evolution, in which case they are incompetent physicists).

Grant
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby Grant » Fri Jan 11, 2013 12:26 am

admissionprof wrote:When I said that one could fairly discriminate against a creationist, I meant a "young earth creationist", who believes that the Universe, Earth, etc. are O(10,000) years old.

I created a thought experiment to see of you would discriminate against a certain type of applicant who believes 100% in the literal account of creation in Bible.

Imagine you and an aspiring graduate physics applicant were able to travel back in time to the exact point in time corresponding to the fourth day of creation as described in the Bible. Imagine you brought a saw and were able to cut down one of the trees, and that you were able to observe twelve rings in the tree's cross section. When you ask the applicant how old the tree is they explain that they clearly see twelve rings in the tree and acknowledge that the consensus of the scientific community is that each ring represents a year of growth for the tree which suggests that the tree is around twelve years old. However, they then mention that the word of God says that trees were created on the third day of creation so they are certain that the tree is only one day old. Would you discriminate against an applicant such as this?

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:51 am

Grant wrote:
admissionprof wrote:When I said that one could fairly discriminate against a creationist, I meant a "young earth creationist", who believes that the Universe, Earth, etc. are O(10,000) years old.

I created a thought experiment to see of you would discriminate against a certain type of applicant who believes 100% in the literal account of creation in Bible.

Imagine you and an aspiring graduate physics applicant were able to travel back in time to the exact point in time corresponding to the fourth day of creation as described in the Bible. Imagine you brought a saw and were able to cut down one of the trees, and that you were able to observe twelve rings in the tree's cross section. When you ask the applicant how old the tree is they explain that they clearly see twelve rings in the tree and acknowledge that the consensus of the scientific community is that each ring represents a year of growth for the tree which suggests that the tree is around twelve years old. However, they then mention that the word of God says that trees were created on the third day of creation so they are certain that the tree is only one day old. Would you discriminate against an applicant such as this?


I've gotta say that this post really confuses me. For one thing, it supposes a literal creation story is true and then asks if admissionprof would discriminate against such an applicant. Of course if the story is true, and admissionprof is able to build a time machine to go back in time to 4 days post-Creation (your narrative assumes this has some kind of objective meaning that everyone can agree on) then when he gets there he'll know the Earth is 4 days old despite evidence to the contrary. But your argument is like saying, "If you knew that the Bible were literally true would you then discriminate against him?" Of course he wouldn't; nobody would. But there is no way to know that with any kind of certainty (that's why Christians take it on faith) and all the scientific evidence we have says the story is not literally true. As a budding scientist christdude should be able to put aside his personal beliefs in Biblical literalism and accept the preponderance of evidence. If he can't do that he's not a good scientist, bottom line. Is it okay to keep poor scientists out of a scientific graduate program? I would contend that it is.

Anyhow, remember that it isn't crazy to suppose that evolution (or the big bang) are wrong. Sure, lots of data fit the model, but evidence doesn't just support one model, it supports multiple models.


I don't know of any model other than natural selection that explains the diversity of life on Earth, the geological and chronological distribution of the fossil record, and the relationships among the DNA among Earth's life.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:08 am

twd wrote:
I think you'll find that there is in fact enormous evidence for evolution. Yes, even experimental.


Your example is quite consistent with what he said. I think it is fair to say that evolution can not be compared with gravity or flat-earth. You are trying to describe a tremendously complicated process which has happened only once (to the best of our knowledge). To say, there is lot of experimental evidence for 'evolution' is just imprecise.

You can ask whether a certain phenomenon (and the associated experimental evidence) can be explained within the theory of evolution. And actually, various things have far from a satisfactory (or agreed upon) theoretical explanation (as a simple example, the evolution of language). Certainly, I don't think anybody will claim we are anywhere near a complete description of the complexity of life.

In fact, if we deny that the theory of evolution can be refuted we are saying it is no longer a scientific theory. Someone with a physics degree who 'believes in evolution' is equally depressing.

I think it is more important to question whether someone who questions only the theory she doesn't like or explains any complexity by referring to something much more complex and unexplained has or will later be able to convey the spirit of scientific enquiry.


I'm really surprised at the attitudes toward natural selection that I'm seeing on this forum. Evolution has occurred once? No, it is still occurring -- when the flu virus mutates each season (as we're observing right now), when the AIDS virus mutates to avoid pharmaceutical therapy, when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics (ever heard of MRSA?), when the peppered moth changed from white to black after industrial pollution darkened the trees it lived on, we see current examples of evolution in progress. We can do experiments on natural selection with species that have sufficiently short generation times, like bacteria. It is the only scientific theory which explains the chronological and geological distribution of the fossil record, the great diversity of life.

Anyone who doubts the credibility of evolution is either ignorant or in denial. There is no excuse for ignorance. I would recommend you investigate:

https://class.coursera.org/geneticsevol ... lass/index

for some education on the subject.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twd » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:47 am

The favourite method of argument here seems to be to create arguments for the other person and then attack them. In clarification, the whole broad process from the origin of life to, say, the evolution of language has happened only once (and there is reason to believe a few crucial steps may have happened only once). The argument is that this whole process has not been satisfactorily explained. My post was in reference to the above posts. Obviously it is nonsense to say and very easy to attack 'natural selection or evolution has happened only once'. You said it yourself and attacked it so I dont know why you quoted my post.

Anyway, it is not the validity of the theory of evolution itself which is so relevant here. I don't think anybody here is questioning that it is the current best scientific explanation for the available data.

The point of my post was to say any scientific theory should have scope to be refuted and let's not use bad arguments against people who try. 'You are a bad scientist if you don't believe in evolution and respect the people who work on it' sounds suspiciously like 'You are a bad person if you don't believe in God and respect the people who do'. I prefer that you either attack the 'refutations' or say, 'You are a bad scientist if you believe in the creationist account'.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby Grant » Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:52 am

twistor wrote:I've gotta say that this post really confuses me. For one thing, it supposes a literal creation story is true and then asks if admissionprof would discriminate against such an applicant. Of course if the story is true, and admissionprof is able to build a time machine to go back in time to 4 days post-Creation (your narrative assumes this has some kind of objective meaning that everyone can agree on) then when he gets there he'll know the Earth is 4 days old despite evidence to the contrary. But your argument is like saying, "If you knew that the Bible were literally true would you then discriminate against him?" Of course he wouldn't; nobody would.

In my question to admissionprof he is welcome to change the phrase "exact point in time corresponding to the fourth day of creation" to "exact point in time the applicant believed was the fourth day of creation".


twistor wrote:I'm really surprised at the attitudes toward natural selection that I'm seeing on this forum. Evolution has occurred once? No, it is still occurring -- when the flu virus mutates each season (as we're observing right now), when the AIDS virus mutates to avoid pharmaceutical therapy, when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics (ever heard of MRSA?), when the peppered moth changed from white to black after industrial pollution darkened the trees it lived on, we see current examples of evolution in progress. We can do experiments on natural selection with species that have sufficiently short generation times, like bacteria. It is the only scientific theory which explains the chronological and geological distribution of the fossil record, the great diversity of life.

Nobody is refuting the observations that flu viruses can mutate or that peppered moths can change color. However, it is a huge leap to get from those examples to prebiotic soup evolving into a house cat.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby bfollinprm » Fri Jan 11, 2013 12:06 pm

twistor wrote:
Anyhow, remember that it isn't crazy to suppose that evolution (or the big bang) are wrong. Sure, lots of data fit the model, but evidence doesn't just support one model, it supports multiple models.


I don't know of any model other than natural selection that explains the diversity of life on Earth, the geological and chronological distribution of the fossil record, and the relationships among the DNA among Earth's life.


If I modify your statement to be
I don't know of any model not incorporating natural selection that explains the diversity of life on Earth...
then I agree with you. I'm almost even ready to believe that it isn't possible to construct such a model, since natural selection is such a tidy explanation for experimentally verified micro-evolution. However, it's entirely rational (not that I do this myself) to posit (on top of natural selection) some other mechanism, such as guided evolution, to explain macro-evolution, the details of which have not been worked out in standard evolutionary theory.

There is a similar case with cosmology. You can argue about the specifics of the beginning of the universe (especially during and pre- inflation), and it's perfectly rational to put a creator at the beginning (though not something I think necessary or even useful scientifically, or even a centrally important tenant of the Christian religion). However, it's preposterous to suggest a universe that does not contain billions of years of structure growth, or a surface of last scattering, etc, and any successful scientific theory in some way has to mirror the current standard cosmological history after a certain cosmological epoch (at this point probably reionization), when things become well-measured.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby bfollinprm » Fri Jan 11, 2013 12:17 pm

admissionprof wrote:
Evolution is irrelevant to this issue (unless they claim that the 2nd Law of Thermo conflicts with evolution, in which case they are incompetent physicists).



I don't follow. The problem seems (to me) to be that, as young-earth creationists, they are holding onto a model that is ruled out by the data, and hence aren't behaving as scientists. If they do the same thing with evolution, doesn't that show the same thing? Why should the fact that one is Physics and one is Biology matter in this case? Unless you think that the reason they believe in a young-earth theory is because they've never been exposed to contrary evidence or the standard cosmological model, which I doubt; students are being trained to enter scientific debate at Bob Jones, so the professors have to know they need to interact with the general scientific community at some point. As a result, one would expect they'd have been taught modern scientific theories and the motivations behind them, even if they were also told they're wrong.

To the OP, sorry your thread has become a battleground. Hopefully you got the answers you were seeking. If not, feel free to PM me, or, I'm guessing, anyone else.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:16 pm

Nobody is refuting the observations that flu viruses can mutate or that peppered moths can change color. However, it is a huge leap to get from those examples to prebiotic soup evolving into a house cat.


The domestication of the wolf into the many varieties of domestic dog took only thousands of years, and all domestic dogs are of the same species. It is not much of a leap to extrapolate what can happen in a few thousand years to geological time scales. In any case, the fossil record shows just that, so we're not talking about mere speculation here.

You can't on one hand agree that evolution is currently taking place and on the other deny that it has taken place historically.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:25 pm

bfollinprm wrote:
twistor wrote:
Anyhow, remember that it isn't crazy to suppose that evolution (or the big bang) are wrong. Sure, lots of data fit the model, but evidence doesn't just support one model, it supports multiple models.


I don't know of any model other than natural selection that explains the diversity of life on Earth, the geological and chronological distribution of the fossil record, and the relationships among the DNA among Earth's life.


If I modify your statement to be
I don't know of any model not incorporating natural selection that explains the diversity of life on Earth...
then I agree with you. I'm almost even ready to believe that it isn't possible to construct such a model, since natural selection is such a tidy explanation for experimentally verified micro-evolution. However, it's entirely rational (not that I do this myself) to posit (on top of natural selection) some other mechanism, such as guided evolution, to explain macro-evolution, the details of which have not been worked out in standard evolutionary theory.

There is a similar case with cosmology. You can argue about the specifics of the beginning of the universe (especially during and pre- inflation), and it's perfectly rational to put a creator at the beginning (though not something I think necessary or even useful scientifically, or even a centrally important tenant of the Christian religion). However, it's preposterous to suggest a universe that does not contain billions of years of structure growth, or a surface of last scattering, etc, and any successful scientific theory in some way has to mirror the current standard cosmological history after a certain cosmological epoch (at this point probably reionization), when things become well-measured.


In neither case is it perfectly rational. If you would like to believe in guided evolution, so be it (that's the stance of the Catholic church, anyway), but natural selection is just that, natural, and works without any such intervention. I'm not sure what you mean when you say the details haven't been worked out. The details have been known for quite a long time and are well understood.

As for cosmology, again if you choose to believe in a creator god that's your choice but you can't claim it's a rational one.

In any case, religious beliefs of any kind are hardly rational. That's not to say they're incompatible with being a good scientist. For example, Einstein was religious. However, the point is that BJU is an extremist institution which puts faith before reason and therefore any science degree from there is suspect.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby mnakusor » Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:01 pm

Thank you twistor for the clear explanations. Well played sir!

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby goingnuclear » Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:08 pm

twistor wrote:For example, Einstein was religious.


Einstein considered himself an agnostic. He considered the idea of a personal, loving God (like the one in most mainstream religions) naive and childish, as he had trouble believing an infinite deity would just happen to share the same emotions and goals as the human species. I think anyone who has truly studied the universe on a grand scale has had an existential moment at one point or another. Once you realize how big the universe really is and how insignificantly small we are in comparison, it sort of makes the idea of a God that caters to us seem less realistic. I'm not bashing religion in any way nor am I saying it's wrong, but religions have always been notorious for overestimating our role/significance in the universe.

Also, Einstein disliked atheists as he believed they lacked any sense of humility. After all, a devote catholic is no different than a firm atheist - in their minds, they both "know" they're right and the other one is wrong. Einstein realized that, while cosmology did often imply the classic notion of a God was a bit outdated, we can't know for certain either way.

Atheists and zealots alike need to get off their high horses and stop flaunting around with the mindset that they're absolutely right and everyone else is wrong. No matter how you dress it up, it's ignorant and nothing more.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby vicente » Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:27 pm

Grant wrote:Nobody is refuting the observations that flu viruses can mutate or that peppered moths can change color. However, it is a huge leap to get from those examples to prebiotic soup evolving into a house cat.


You're confusing the theory of evolution with abiogenesis (how life arose from non-life). The theory of evolution through natural selection is a falsifiable scientific theory ("fossil rabbits in the Precambrian") that is currently the most accurate one for explaining biodiversity and genetics. However, scientists do not claim to know much about abiogenesis at the present moment (2013). I feel like attributing God to abiogenesis is just playing "God of the gaps" (in scientific knowledge).

In other words, scientists have a well developed theory of how fish evolved into cats and humans, but not how simple molecules became bacteria.

Most physicists do not need to deal with the theory of evolution on a scientific level so religious physicists can always compartmentalize: physics belongs to the reasoning part of the brain, while biology belongs to the Jesus / Mohammed / "Turtles all the way down" part of the brain. In this sense, you can be a Biblical / Quranic literalist and still be a renowned and respected physicist.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:27 pm

goingnuclear wrote:
twistor wrote:For example, Einstein was religious.


Einstein considered himself an agnostic. He considered the idea of a personal, loving God (like the one in most mainstream religions) naive and childish, as he had trouble believing an infinite deity would just happen to share the same emotions and goals as the human species. I think anyone who has truly studied the universe on a grand scale has had an existential moment at one point or another. Once you realize how big the universe really is and how insignificantly small we are in comparison, it sort of makes the idea of a God that caters to us seem less realistic. I'm not bashing religion in any way nor am I saying it's wrong, but religions have always been notorious for overestimating our role/significance in the universe.

Also, Einstein disliked atheists as he believed they lacked any sense of humility. After all, a devote catholic is no different than a firm atheist - in their minds, they both "know" they're right and the other one is wrong. Einstein realized that, while cosmology did often imply the classic notion of a God was a bit outdated, we can't know for certain either way.

Atheists and zealots alike need to get off their high horses and stop flaunting around with the mindset that they're absolutely right and everyone else is wrong. No matter how you dress it up, it's ignorant and nothing more.


On Einstein, I stand corrected, although I find it hard to believe one would make statements such as "God does not play dice" unless one harbored some kind of belief in god.

On the other hand, atheists are absolutely right.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby goingnuclear » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:16 pm

twistor wrote:
goingnuclear wrote:
twistor wrote:For example, Einstein was religious.


Einstein considered himself an agnostic. He considered the idea of a personal, loving God (like the one in most mainstream religions) naive and childish, as he had trouble believing an infinite deity would just happen to share the same emotions and goals as the human species. I think anyone who has truly studied the universe on a grand scale has had an existential moment at one point or another. Once you realize how big the universe really is and how insignificantly small we are in comparison, it sort of makes the idea of a God that caters to us seem less realistic. I'm not bashing religion in any way nor am I saying it's wrong, but religions have always been notorious for overestimating our role/significance in the universe.

Also, Einstein disliked atheists as he believed they lacked any sense of humility. After all, a devote catholic is no different than a firm atheist - in their minds, they both "know" they're right and the other one is wrong. Einstein realized that, while cosmology did often imply the classic notion of a God was a bit outdated, we can't know for certain either way.

Atheists and zealots alike need to get off their high horses and stop flaunting around with the mindset that they're absolutely right and everyone else is wrong. No matter how you dress it up, it's ignorant and nothing more.


On Einstein, I stand corrected, although I find it hard to believe one would make statements such as "God does not play dice" unless one harbored some kind of belief in god.

On the other hand, atheists are absolutely right.


I don't think he meant God in the literal sense. It was more a metaphor for saying the universe doesn't rely on probabilities and undeterministic causality.

And you're right about atheists. I never thought about it that way.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:52 pm

I don't think he meant God in the literal sense. It was more a metaphor for saying the universe doesn't rely on probabilities and undeterministic causality.

And you're right about atheists. I never thought about it that way.


Agnostics are really just theists who won't be honest with themselves.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby admissionprof » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:40 pm

Grant wrote:Imagine you and an aspiring graduate physics applicant were able to travel back in time to the exact point in time corresponding to the fourth day of creation as described in the Bible. Imagine you brought a saw and were able to cut down one of the trees, and that you were able to observe twelve rings in the tree's cross section. When you ask the applicant how old the tree is they explain that they clearly see twelve rings in the tree and acknowledge that the consensus of the scientific community is that each ring represents a year of growth for the tree which suggests that the tree is around twelve years old. However, they then mention that the word of God says that trees were created on the third day of creation so they are certain that the tree is only one day old. Would you discriminate against an applicant such as this?


This scenario is the same as asking a student whether the light that we see from Andromeda was emitted a million years ago or 10,000 years ago in transit. If they completely acknowledged the scientific consensus, agreed to teach the scientific consensus, but then said that they personally felt that the light was all created in transit and made to look a million years old, then no, I don't believe I would discriminate against them. I would consider them idiotic (since having huge numbers of projectors 10,000 light years away aiming at the Earth is really the same as believing stars are holes poking through the dome of the Sky....i.e. medieval), but that wouldn't affect an admissions decision. If they said they would share this belief with students, then I absolutely would discriminate.

I agree with the poster who said "Anyone who doubts the credibility of evolution is either ignorant or in denial. There is no excuse for ignorance". It is the basis of virtually all of modern science (especially if one defines evolution at starting with the cellular stage -- the actual beginning of life is certainly controversial). I don't know how any rational scientist can accept the fact of microevolution and not accept macroevolution. Hundreds of millions of years is a long time, and a huge number times a small number can be a big number.

But this is besides the point. Evolution is not the real issue. A 10,000 year old Earth is the issue for BJU types. If a student believes that the Grand Canyon was created by a great flood, then they are terrible scientists who don't understand simple fluid mechanics.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:56 pm

Since the OP has not returned to comment I'm guessing he is long gone by now, probably because this is now one of the sites BJU students are forbidden from viewing.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:07 am

twistor wrote:
bfollinprm wrote:
If I modify your statement to be
I don't know of any model not incorporating natural selection that explains the diversity of life on Earth...
then I agree with you. I'm almost even ready to believe that it isn't possible to construct such a model, since natural selection is such a tidy explanation for experimentally verified micro-evolution. However, it's entirely rational (not that I do this myself) to posit (on top of natural selection) some other mechanism, such as guided evolution, to explain macro-evolution, the details of which have not been worked out in standard evolutionary theory.

There is a similar case with cosmology. You can argue about the specifics of the beginning of the universe (especially during and pre- inflation), and it's perfectly rational to put a creator at the beginning (though not something I think necessary or even useful scientifically, or even a centrally important tenant of the Christian religion). However, it's preposterous to suggest a universe that does not contain billions of years of structure growth, or a surface of last scattering, etc, and any successful scientific theory in some way has to mirror the current standard cosmological history after a certain cosmological epoch (at this point probably reionization), when things become well-measured.


In neither case is it perfectly rational. If you would like to believe in guided evolution, so be it (that's the stance of the Catholic church, anyway), but natural selection is just that, natural, and works without any such intervention. I'm not sure what you mean when you say the details haven't been worked out. The details have been known for quite a long time and are well understood.

As for cosmology, again if you choose to believe in a creator god that's your choice but you can't claim it's a rational one.

In any case, religious beliefs of any kind are hardly rational. That's not to say they're incompatible with being a good scientist. For example, Einstein was religious. However, the point is that BJU is an extremist institution which puts faith before reason and therefore any science degree from there is suspect.



Neither theory is completely worked out, that's why there continues to be publications in both disciplines. They're active fields of science (not settled, like, say, atomic theory) and so positing additional or alternative mechanisms to explain the as yet unsettled portions of the theories (in cosmology, this is primarily the epoch of inflation and the origin of the universe; in evolution, it's long-term macro-evolution of complex biological tools like the human mind). I'm not saying that evolution (or cosmology) don't have answers to these questions, I'm just saying that you aren't being impartial if you think it impossible that there are other possibilities in these cases where the data are less clear. And including a creator (or guiding hand for evolution) is rational in the true sense of the word, though ad-hoc as far as a theory of science goes and so of very little scientific use. Rationality simply means without self-inconsistencies (e.g. obeying the rules of logic); it's perfectly possible (though I'd argue not necessary) to construct a self-consistent theory of the universe (or evolution) with a God. I'm not sure what you meant by rational, though I suppose I'd agree with your statements if you meant something along the lines of "based on the preponderance of evidence (e.g. factual)" or "based on the rigorous application of reason (e.g. reasonable)"

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:59 am

bfollinprm wrote:
Neither theory is completely worked out, that's why there continues to be publications in both disciplines. They're active fields of science (not settled, like, say, atomic theory) and so positing additional or alternative mechanisms to explain the as yet unsettled portions of the theories (in cosmology, this is primarily the epoch of inflation and the origin of the universe; in evolution, it's long-term macro-evolution of complex biological tools like the human mind). I'm not saying that evolution (or cosmology) don't have answers to these questions, I'm just saying that you aren't being impartial if you think it impossible that there are other possibilities in these cases where the data are less clear. And including a creator (or guiding hand for evolution) is rational in the true sense of the word, though ad-hoc as far as a theory of science goes and so of very little scientific use. Rationality simply means without self-inconsistencies (e.g. obeying the rules of logic); it's perfectly possible (though I'd argue not necessary) to construct a self-consistent theory of the universe (or evolution) with a God. I'm not sure what you meant by rational, though I suppose I'd agree with your statements if you meant something along the lines of "based on the preponderance of evidence (e.g. factual)" or "based on the rigorous application of reason (e.g. reasonable)"


The fact that there are active publications says nothing about how much debate is going on about the validity of the theory! There are publications in climate science but climate scientists as a matter of course accept the truth of global warming. The same is true with most other disciplines. Just like physicists do not question the validity of general relativity or quantum mechanics, biologists do not question the validity of evolution by natural selection. There are no scientific alternatives to evolution by natural selection, which explains the body of data we have so well that any theory which supersedes it would have to have it as some kind of approximation, just like quantum mechanics supersedes classical Newtonian physics but reduces to it when you deal with macroscopic phenomena.

Rationality doesn't just mean acting without inconsistencies. By that definition it's rational to kill a room full of people that you think are secretly plotting against you. That's rational, right? I mean, if you didn't get them surely they would have gotten you... Of course rational people have to make decisions based on a preponderance of evidence. You might believe a room full of people are plotting against you but unless you have their secret dossier in hand you're probably insane.

The definition of rationality given on Wikipedia is: "A rational decision is one that is not just reasoned, but is also optimal for achieving a goal or solving a problem." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationality

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby Grant » Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:45 am

admissionprof wrote:This scenario is the same as asking a student whether the light that we see from Andromeda was emitted a million years ago or 10,000 years ago in transit. If they completely acknowledged the scientific consensus, agreed to teach the scientific consensus, but then said that they personally felt that the light was all created in transit and made to look a million years old, then no, I don't believe I would discriminate against them. I would consider them idiotic (since having huge numbers of projectors 10,000 light years away aiming at the Earth is really the same as believing stars are holes poking through the dome of the Sky....i.e. medieval), but that wouldn't affect an admissions decision. If they said they would share this belief with students, then I absolutely would discriminate.

Thanks for replying to my question. It is nice to know there are scenarios where someone can believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible without being discriminated against. There are lots of reasons why a student might go to a school like BJU, and the student may or may not agree with everything posted on the BJU website. For example, I'm quite sure the OP won't agree with everything posted on the website of the graduate school they eventually get accepted to.

If someone believes that God made everything, including the laws of physics, then there is no reason to suspect that creating light in transit would pose a problem for God. As physicists know, scientists often run computer simulations that begin with certain initial conditions that are interesting to the scientist. It is logical to leave open the possibility that that God might be doing something similar with His creation.

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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:00 am

Grant wrote:
admissionprof wrote:This scenario is the same as asking a student whether the light that we see from Andromeda was emitted a million years ago or 10,000 years ago in transit. If they completely acknowledged the scientific consensus, agreed to teach the scientific consensus, but then said that they personally felt that the light was all created in transit and made to look a million years old, then no, I don't believe I would discriminate against them. I would consider them idiotic (since having huge numbers of projectors 10,000 light years away aiming at the Earth is really the same as believing stars are holes poking through the dome of the Sky....i.e. medieval), but that wouldn't affect an admissions decision. If they said they would share this belief with students, then I absolutely would discriminate.

Thanks for replying to my question. It is nice to know there are scenarios where someone can believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible without being discriminated against. There are lots of reasons why a student might go to a school like BJU, and the student may or may not agree with everything posted on the BJU website. For example, I'm quite sure the OP won't agree with everything posted on the website of the graduate school they eventually get accepted to.

If someone believes that God made everything, including the laws of physics, then there is no reason to suspect that creating light in transit would pose a problem for God. As physicists know, scientists often run computer simulations that begin with certain initial conditions that are interesting to the scientist. It is logical to leave open the possibility that that God might be doing something similar with His creation.


If I recall correctly this is a similar position to that of the Deists, who believed god created the laws and set the initial conditions and then let the universe evolve.

However, if god is a just an aloof cosmic architect who set up the scenario and left it to play out on its own then to me there might as well be no god at all.

Regarding BJU, it's true a student might not agree with everything they preach but I'd say the kind of person who would choose to go to an authoritarian Christian school is more likely agree with their teachings than not. After all, we're talking about a "university" that tries to control every facet of its students lives, from how they dress to what music they listen to and what movies they are allowed to watch. You don't decide to go to a school like that on a whim.

mnakusor
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby mnakusor » Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:15 am

Grant wrote:It is logical to leave open the possibility that that God might be doing something similar with His creation.


I see you are hell bent on having the final word about the admissibility of the God hypothesis, although the debate clearly isn't about that at all. Admissibility of the God hypothesis, or anything pertaining to interpretation of "holy" scriptures is not part of physics. Hence, mentioning God in a physics classroom is not good physics. No, it isn't physics if you ever say "this is because He made it this way". So, no, it is not logical in any practical way to talk about the possibility that "God might be doing something similar with His creation". (Also, let God do the talking for himself, for a change.)

Nobody here said that the possibility that God exists is not open. The problem is, the solution space is totally unrestricted, rendering the whole notion of the supernatural utterly meaningless and unnecessary. You must also have your possibility open for Santa, Thor, Zeus, Platypus, Goblin, Flying Spaghetti Monster, and last but not least, Mnakusor. Just because I capitalized the first letter of the names of each of these real/imaginary entities, doesn't give their existence any validity. The God you are referring to must be proven to the rest of the world by you, before you ask people to regard it worthy of mention in grad school SOPs. It would sound utterly ridiculous if someone wrote about the Flying Spaghetti Monster in their physics grad school SOP. It would be unfair to the rest of the world, if the same amount of ridicule/apathy is NOT shown to anyone mentioning any other such imaginary entities.

People certainly have the right to preach, but I hope they don't use this forum to do so.
Last edited by mnakusor on Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bfollinprm
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:30 pm

twistor wrote:
bfollinprm wrote:
Neither theory is completely worked out, that's why there continues to be publications in both disciplines. They're active fields of science (not settled, like, say, atomic theory) and so positing additional or alternative mechanisms to explain the as yet unsettled portions of the theories (in cosmology, this is primarily the epoch of inflation and the origin of the universe; in evolution, it's long-term macro-evolution of complex biological tools like the human mind). I'm not saying that evolution (or cosmology) don't have answers to these questions, I'm just saying that you aren't being impartial if you think it impossible that there are other possibilities in these cases where the data are less clear. And including a creator (or guiding hand for evolution) is rational in the true sense of the word, though ad-hoc as far as a theory of science goes and so of very little scientific use. Rationality simply means without self-inconsistencies (e.g. obeying the rules of logic); it's perfectly possible (though I'd argue not necessary) to construct a self-consistent theory of the universe (or evolution) with a God. I'm not sure what you meant by rational, though I suppose I'd agree with your statements if you meant something along the lines of "based on the preponderance of evidence (e.g. factual)" or "based on the rigorous application of reason (e.g. reasonable)"


The fact that there are active publications says nothing about how much debate is going on about the validity of the theory! There are publications in climate science but climate scientists as a matter of course accept the truth of global warming. The same is true with most other disciplines. Just like physicists do not question the validity of general relativity or quantum mechanics, biologists do not question the validity of evolution by natural selection. There are no scientific alternatives to evolution by natural selection, which explains the body of data we have so well that any theory which supersedes it would have to have it as some kind of approximation, just like quantum mechanics supersedes classical Newtonian physics but reduces to it when you deal with macroscopic phenomena.

Rationality doesn't just mean acting without inconsistencies. By that definition it's rational to kill a room full of people that you think are secretly plotting against you. That's rational, right? I mean, if you didn't get them surely they would have gotten you... Of course rational people have to make decisions based on a preponderance of evidence. You might believe a room full of people are plotting against you but unless you have their secret dossier in hand you're probably insane.

The definition of rationality given on Wikipedia is: "A rational decision is one that is not just reasoned, but is also optimal for achieving a goal or solving a problem." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationality


I never said there was debate. I'm just saying there are phenomena that have yet to be worked out in the context of the theory (which is TRUE, and is why you can get a PhD in genetics still). Yes, based on a preponderance of past evidence and extrapolation, I'd fully expect that any leftover problems in evolution will be solved within the existing framework. But as of yet, they haven't. Of course, that's not a problem with the theory, it's just a statement that some problems are intellectually challenging to work out, even when the theory is known. It wasn't completely clear for many years after GR was established by Einstein, for instance, what would happen at the Swartzchild radius in the Swartzchild metric. Most everyone was confident the theory had an internal answer, but in the meanwhile (until someone figured out horizons) it was a scientifically valid thing to look for alternative models. The same is currently true in evolution and the standard cosmology, which is possibly more a statement that these are young theories with grand scope than anything else, but nonetheless as scientists we shouldn't hold either as dogmatic outside their well-established bounds. Both theories claim to answer more phenomena than have been rigorously tested, and we should be honest about that, while still maintaining that the theories are the best-tested, simplest models of those phenomena, and incontrovertible models of those phenomena that have been tested with rigor.

StewieVader
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby StewieVader » Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:37 pm

I think that all of you have just scared the hell out of the OP with your lengthy discussions and debates. While I do find it strange that there are universities which actually discredit evolution, I feel it's kind of harsh to be judged purely by the place you come from. I do believe that college students have a certain amount of resistance to bullshit, even if it comes from their very revered teachers.

christdude
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby christdude » Sat Jan 12, 2013 10:22 pm

Wow I wasn't expecting such a long list of replies. I only get on the internet once a week, so hopefully I can keep up with you guys.

So from what I gather, officially my app shouldn't be a joke, but in actual reality connotations of joke/unworthiness/suspicions (whether conscious or subconscious) are already swirling around me just because of the university I attended. To be honest, I'm already mentally prepared to not mention any of my religious views if I'm going to go to graduate school. But it seems from quite a few of the responses here that I'm already judged to be unworthy just because I have faith in my God, which is kind of ironic because that's the thing that we get accused of the most.


Meteorshower
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby Meteorshower » Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:24 am

christdude wrote:Wow I wasn't expecting such a long list of replies. I only get on the internet once a week, so hopefully I can keep up with you guys.

So from what I gather, officially my app shouldn't be a joke, but in actual reality connotations of joke/unworthiness/suspicions (whether conscious or subconscious) are already swirling around me just because of the university I attended. To be honest, I'm already mentally prepared to not mention any of my religious views if I'm going to go to graduate school. But it seems from quite a few of the responses here that I'm already judged to be unworthy just because I have faith in my God, which is kind of ironic because that's the thing that we get accused of the most.


No-one is arguing that you are unworthy of grad school. People have mildly criticized that you talk about god in your posts. Slight difference ;)

admissionprof
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby admissionprof » Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:12 am

christdude wrote:Wow I wasn't expecting such a long list of replies. I only get on the internet once a week, so hopefully I can keep up with you guys.

So from what I gather, officially my app shouldn't be a joke, but in actual reality connotations of joke/unworthiness/suspicions (whether conscious or subconscious) are already swirling around me just because of the university I attended. To be honest, I'm already mentally prepared to not mention any of my religious views if I'm going to go to graduate school. But it seems from quite a few of the responses here that I'm already judged to be unworthy just because I have faith in my God, which is kind of ironic because that's the thing that we get accused of the most.


Christdude---As an admissions director, I would not consider your application a joke, either unofficially or officially. But the university attended does matter. A student from MIT will automatically be considered more worthy than a student from the University of Southern North Dakota, even though the best students at USND might be better than good students at MIT. Many people feel that a university that teaches that the Earth is O(10000) years old shouldn't even be accredited.

Faith in God is not relevant to admissions. Heck, the director of the NIH is an extremely devout Christian and a brilliant scientist. Many of my faculty colleagues are also very devout and also excellent scientists. But if your God teaches that the Grand Canyon was created in a flood, that the Earth, stars and galaxies are 10,000 years old,etc., then yes, faith in such teachings does affect your worthiness for a scientific career (just as faith in a God that teaches the Earth is flat would affect one's worthiness).

Simply being from a religious school, by itself, is not an issue at all - we've accepted students from BYU several times. But the reality is that schools teaching young earth creationism are considered incompetent by the vast majority of the scientific community.

If you have trouble getting into a good graduate school, then I would suggest spending a year taking classes at a university that most physicists do not consider a "madrassa". The University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston, Furman, or Clemson are all decent universities in your state. A year of classes, and doing well, at one of those places would remove any stigma. Good luck.

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twistor
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby twistor » Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:50 am

But it seems from quite a few of the responses here that I'm already judged to be unworthy just because I have faith in my God, which is kind of ironic because that's the thing that we get accused of the most.


This issue is not your belief in divinity, per se. Many people that go to more secular institutions also believe in god. This issue is whether or not you went to a university that teaches counter-factual theories so a literal interpretation of the bible can be maintained. Thus, you were taught that denial of scientific truth is acceptable and that is hardly the type of education that produces good scientists.

Personally, I don't see how BJU can possibly prepare you to be a good physicist. They can teach you to solve physics problems but they cannot teach you to think critically about issues. And since a lot of science is done these days in diverse, multi-national collaborations I'd be worried about your ability to interact with people of other faiths, backgrounds, sexual orientations, etc. Again, you might do fine but I suspect a real university campus is a drastically different place than what you're accustomed to.

Throwaway1
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Re: Degree from a Christian university: is my app a joke?

Postby Throwaway1 » Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:16 pm

I can't imagine that attending a religiously oriented University would automatically disqualify you from consideration.

You have a strong PGRE score and GPA, but the major problem will be your complete lack of research experience. If you can describe a project you participated in, that will help tremendously, but if you truly did not do any independent work, then the outcome may be bleak. No one would deny that you are a strong student on paper, but without research experience, you're just someone who can take a class and a test and perform well. Unfortunately, your letters of recommendation may not say anything more than, "So-so is a great student. He always attended class and he earned an A. He's a swell guy too." Those types of letters are a kiss of death.

And whatever you do, don't integrate your faith into your statement of purpose. One time I had the opportunity to read a SOP that was heavily religious. I was extremely uncomfortable reading it. Extremely uncomfortable.

Religion, politics, or strong personal opinions in statements of purpose do not belong there and are a shortcut to a kiss of death in my opinion.




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