Early Earth Science Controversies: Mass Extinctions and Ice Ages

Last Thursday night I presented a public talk to kick off a new year-long series to promote scientific literacy. See the coverage on the front page of the Norman Transcript. It’s a joy to participate in an event with area educators. They got the word out and the auditorium was a full house. After maximum capacity was reached, more than 40 cars, I’m informed, were turned away before they could even park.

Sam Noble Museum auditorium, Rudwick presentation

I recorded this video at home on the Saturday after the event, with extra slides that make it 7 minutes longer (but maybe easier to follow). Download the slides/script (PDF).

Early Earth Science Controversies: Mass Extinctions and Ice Ages from Kerry Magruder on Vimeo.

From the Norman Transcript, by Emma Keith:

“Science: The Cutting Edge” will explore misunderstood or somewhat controversial subjects through four lectures this spring and four in the fall, each free and open to the public. Spring topics will include ice ages and extinctions, dark matter and energy, climate change and evolution.

Each of the lectures will take place at 7 p.m. at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on OU’s campus, and, weather permitting, will be followed by star gazing in the museum parking lot. The first lecture will feature Kerry Magruder, associate professor of the history of science at OU, speaking on “Early Theories of Ice Ages & Mass Extinctions” on Jan. 30.

“This gives people a chance to communicate with the experts and figure out: How do we know what we know? How does a scientific theory get developed? It’s not opinion, it’s based on evidence, and I think these speakers are going to speak to those kinds of topics,” said Eileen Grzybowski, an AP biology & astronomy teacher at Norman North and one of the series organizers…”

Update 2/19/2020: the Sam Noble lecture is now available at youTube. Inexplicably, they have edited the talk down, omitting transitions between sections and discussions of Rudwick. 😬

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My address in the Universe

Years ago I created an activity on the grandeur of the universe which parents could complete with their children. It was ideal for those long nights waiting up for an eclipse or meteor shower. It could be used at a star party, in homeschool astronomy, or for worship. Our daughters may still have their completed copies in their Astronomy school notebooks!

The original file was in an obsolete AppleWorks format. Today I recovered the text and re-created it. Back in the pre-Internet days, the original version supplied photographs and asked for hand-drawn pictures. Now, with pictures so easily available online, I’ve left most pages blank so that parents and children can search online together, or choose to draw in objects by hand, as they wish.

At the end are scriptures and historical quotations that may prompt discussion of the grandeur and almighty love of the God who cannot be contained by the universe, yet chose to come among us and be with us forever. The immensity of the universe, theologically speaking, is not a modern discovery, but a modern exploration of an ancient wonder.

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The old king

Georges Rouault, The Old King (1937);
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

What a dignity (almost obscure) the old king has. We overlook the flowers in his hand.

His sympathy runs deep, for he has long battled the darkness within and the evil of the world without. Yet we see him now as through the glass of an old cathedral window. Light (almost hidden) illumines him outward from deep within, arising from beneath the surface and from beyond the world.

He seems timeless, an archetype of this age. We are all hidden kings, between the times, suspended between the Advents of the eternal King.

This is what I have learned from contemplating “The Old King” for 40 years. A color print has hung on my wall, wherever I have lived or worked, ever since I wrote a now-lost paper on Rouault for an art history class c. 1980.

The modern painter who has shaped my journey the most is Michael Barfield, a soulmate of Rouault. Consider Michael’s visual reflection on the significance of flowers:

Michael Barfield, Permanence and Transcience
Michael Barfield, “Permanence and Transcience”

Michael commented on an earlier version of this post:

Michael Barfield, flowers

Rouault’s larger body of work portrays the dignity of outcasts, transients, the dispossessed, the marginalized and the overlooked. The old king has a solidarity with them; he holds on to the flowers. He does not despise fragile human beings or consider their worth as manifest in their worldly station.

Georges Rouault, Christ in the Suburbs
Georges Rouault, “Christ in the Suburbs” (1920-24);
Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan

Rouault’s “Christ in the Suburbs” expresses the same message I recently found so compelling in the photography exhibit, The Road I Call Home. In Rouault’s paintings of marginalized people, as in Randy Bacon’s photographs of homeless people, we discern portraits of Jesus.

“Rouault was able to see these dreary figures without pity or despair because he saw beyond the surface of things. These lonely figures were part of a larger story; he was able to look into their suffering and see Jesus. In many ways Rouault’s religious faith consisted of a life-long meditation on the incarnation of Christ. What gave him hope was the presence of Christ…” – William Dyrness

I like to think of the old king as Rouault himself, sympathetic, viewing others as participating in the suffering of Christ, as rightful but dispossessed royalty.

Or perhaps the old king is Pascal, who affirmed the dignity of humanity as dispossessed royalty in Pensées (113–117):

Man’s greatness comes from knowing he is wretched: a tree does not know it is wretched. Thus it is wretched to know that one is wretched, but there is greatness in knowing one is wretched.

All these examples of wretchedness prove his greatness. It is the wretchedness of a great lord, the wretchedness of a dispossessed king.

Man’s greatness is so obvious that it can even be deduced from his wretchedness, for what is nature in animals we call wretchedness in man, thus recognizing that, if his nature is today like that of the animals, he must have fallen from some better state which was once his own.

Who indeed would think himself unhappy not to be king except one who had been dispossessed? Did anyone think Paulus Emilius was unhappy not to be consul? On the contrary, everyone thought he was happy to have been so once, because the office was not meant to be permanent. But people thought Perseus so unhappy at finding himself no longer king, because that was meant to be a permanent office, that they were surprised that he could bear to go on living.

See Wikipedia, s.v. “Georges Rouault“; my previous post “Why?“; a short article by Heather King; William A. Dyrness, “Seeing Through the Darkness: Georges Rouault’s Vision of Christ,” Image Journal; and William A. Dyrness, Rouault: A Vision of Suffering and Salvation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1971).

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Torrance Oral History Project

One of the most exciting professional developments of 2019 for me has been the privilege of initiating the “Thomas F. and James B. Torrance Oral History Project” under the auspices of Grace Communion Seminary and the Thomas F. Torrance Theological Fellowship. Click the link for more information, including a list of participants already interviewed. Their stories are unexpectedly varied, richly detailed, and individually compelling. I hope to complete these initial oral histories and begin posting audio recordings and PDF transcriptions before the end of summer 2020.

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Trinitarian Perspectives on Science

This page is an outline of my online course for Spring 2020, “Love and the Cosmos: Trinitarian Perspectives on Science with T. F. Torrance and C. S. Lewis,” offered by Grace Communion Seminary (TH504).

As with most GCS courses, this class is 13 weeks long – 10 weeks for lectures, two for finishing assignments and writing the final paper, and one week for final feedback from the instructor. For the entire 10 weeks, there is a sequence where each week builds upon the previous week. Within any given week, the first lecture introduces a perspective and the second lecture applies that perspective to a case study, past or present. The lectures are best watched in sequence, to make an ever-widening spiral of inter-linked, holistic understanding. Rather than an issues-based course, the course is designed to help one develop a Trinitarian theological instinct for science. It should also equip one to read Torrance’s works with greater ease and understanding.


Sp ’20




Jan 2

Registration begins.
Class Orientation Assignment open.


Jan 14

Thinking Theologically

Flat Earth Myth


Jan 20

Language and Reality

The Galileo Affair


Jan 27

Knowing Kata-physin

Interdisciplinary kata-physin connections: Art, Astronomy, Music and Theology in the world of Galileo


Feb 3

Being and Relation

Maxwell, Einstein, the Big Bang, and the Bible


Feb 10

Divine Freedom and Contingent Order



Feb 17

Models of God and Nature

Preparing to Read Out of the Silent Planet


Feb 24

Stratified Reality

Reality in Many Dimensions


March 2

Dualism: Cultural Splits

Dilemmas of Design


March 9

Natural Theology



March 16

The Priest of Creation:
Magic, Environment, and the Image of God

The New Creation and the future of the universe


March 23

All regular assignments for weeks 1-10 and extra-credit book essays are due by Monday, March 30, 11 pm.


March 30

Weeks 11-12 are devoted to the final paper involving Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith.


Apr 7

Final paper due by 11 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

The schedule is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
– William Butler Yeats (attributed)

Why T. F. Torrance? Why C. S. Lewis?
Examining the views of Torrance and Lewis are helpful because:

  • They are two of the most highly regarded 20th-century Christian writers.
  • Each wrote in the Nicene theological tradition of Athanasius.
  • The theology of each is encountered in-depth in other GCS courses.
  • Each wrote prolifically on Christianity and science.
  • Their books are not textbooks, but classics, for life-long learning.
  • Many report that reading their books is an intellectually exhilarating, life-changing experience.
  • Each spoke anchored in the Church, for the sake of the world.


Bibliographic information indicated below, for works by Torrance, is for the first edition, yet for this course any edition is fine. Click on any “McGrath number” (e.g., #1976-331) to go to the first edition record at tftorrance.org. Look in the right margin of that record to find links to all known later editions, translations, digital editions, and original audio lectures, as well as to booksellers via LibraryThing, Amazon, Bookfinder and AbeBooks. The approximate price indicated is based on a recent print edition at Amazon; the other booksellers may offer copies at lower prices. Please obtain these books before class begins.

  • Torrance, Thomas F. Space, Time and Resurrection (STR). Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1976; #1976-331. ISBN: 9780905312002. 209 pp.; we will read selections. About $30 at online booksellers. Available in many editions, including Apple Books and Kindle.
  • Torrance, Thomas F. The Ground and Grammar of Theology (GGT). Charlottesville, Virginia: The University of Virginia Press, 1980; #1980-369. 192 pp.; we will read selections. About $44 at online booksellers for ISBN 0567043312 edition. Available in many editions, including Logos Bible Software ($25).
  • Lewis, C. S. Out of the Silent Planet; LibraryThing. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1965. Originally published in 1938. 160 pp. About $10 at online booksellers for ISBN 0743234901 edition. Available in many editions, including Apple Books, Kindle and in audiobook format. The audiobook is 5 hours and 31 minutes long.
  • Torrance, Thomas F. The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988; #1988-489. About $27 online for ISBN 0567665585 edition. Available in many editions, including audio lectures, Apple Books and Kindle. 345 pp. You will choose two chapters from chs. 2, 3, 4, and/or 5 as the subject of the final paper. If you do not wish to purchase a copy, the free original audio lectures should be adequate if you allow extra time for repeated listening and transcribing. The Trinitarian Faith is recommended reading for TH505 Doctrine of the Trinity.

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!” Henry David Thoreau

This course will equip participants to…

  1. Converse with scientists and creation workers about their vocational callings, in order to gain experience that will help make our churches safe and welcoming places for those who are involved in any of the fields of the natural sciences, including geology, evolutionary biology, healthcare, technology and engineering, agriculture, and conservation.
  2. Critically analyze misconceptions that underlie the most common caricatures of conflict between Christian faith and modern science such as the flat Earth myth, the trial of Galileo, the immensity of the universe, the plurality of worlds, the age of the Earth, Darwin and evolution, and the Church and ecology, in order to be able to respond to persons, unbelievers and believers alike, who are troubled about such issues.
  3. Develop and demonstrate a practice of thinking theologically about God and nature, or faith and reason, according to a “Christian theological instinct” that reasons from a Trinitarian basis and goes beyond responding in an ad hoc manner to select misconceptions about Christianity and science.
  4. Develop and articulate a creational theology which arises naturally and organically from the nature of the gospel and the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity. That is, to practice drawing out the implications of the Incarnation and the Trinity for a Christian perspective on creation and the natural sciences.
  5. Describe and explain select perspectives of T. F. Torrance and C. S. Lewis on faith and science.
  6. Enter into weekly discussion with other students in the course to share ideas, concepts and reflections on how the course materials apply to ministry.
  7. Practice reading well by adopting strategies appropriate to the nature of the text, such as close reading for the dense prose of T. F. Torrance and literary reading for the Ransom Trilogy of C. S. Lewis.

Here’s the first lecture, which serves as an introduction to the course

TH504 Wk1 Perspective from Kerry Magruder on Vimeo.

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Galileo and a Culture of Innovation

Galileo and a Culture of Interdisciplinary Innovation
Download slides (PDF)

A. T. Still University (ATSU) is the founding school of Osteopathic Medicine. They host an annual Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Symposium (program). I’m grateful to Dr. Brian Degenhardt, director of the A.T. Still Research Institute, for inviting me to present the Neil J. Sargentini Memorial Keynote Address at this year’s symposium on Saturday, November 2. My title is “Galileo and a Culture of Interdisciplinary Innovation.”

To watch a video, go to the A. T. Still youTube channel and find the 11th annual IBRS video. This video contains the morning sessions. My talk begins at about 2 hours, 51 minutes.

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The Road I Call Home

Candace and I enjoy visiting art museums when we travel, so we were delighted when we discovered that the Springfield Art Museum was hosting one of the sessions of the annual meeting for the Missouri Association of Museums and Archives.

When we entered their large rotating exhibit hall, we were stunned by the featured exhibit: “The Road I Call Home,” by Springfield-based photographer Randy Bacon. This exhibit featuring photograph portraits of homeless persons is moving and compelling in the most humane way. With artful lighting that captures warmth and detail in each face, the photographs reveal the beauty, mystery, integrity and humanity of each person. Photos are accompanied by verbal narratives, as each homeless person relays his or her own story. Portraits and narratives are mutually-reinforcing, creating an interplay of meaning that places the visitor in dialogue with each individual; one may not casually assume the role of a distant observer. The larger-than-life size of the portraits establishes that dialogue on an equal footing. Nor is there an aisle allowing one to walk straight through the hall, casting one’s eyes aside. It is impossible to avoid them. They are anything but invisible. Their humanity is manifest.

I would have wished to buy a large coffee-table book of the exhibit. Better yet, to take a field trip for my entire church and ask everyone to go inside the exhibit, as if it were the Sunday-morning sanctuary. Without any knowledge of the exhibit, to ask them: “Can you find the portraits of Jesus inside?” His real presence shines forth from every photograph (Matthew 25:31-46).

This exhibit is open until February 23, 2020. Go and see it if you possibly can. Even if you have to make it an overnight trip, you will be glad you did.

Randy Bacon,

Randy Bacon,

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An Experiment in Wonder

Galileo's World: An Experiment in Wonder
Download slides (PDF) | Watch video (Vimeo)

I’m grateful to the Missouri Association of Museums and Archives for inviting me to present a luncheon keynote at their annual conference this Saturday, October 19. See Lynx Open Ed for more…

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Mold? Call Elijah Adeoye

This morning Candace provided the following testimonial about how we have called upon Elijah Adeoye for mold remediation in two major projects. Given that we are frequently recommending Elijah, we’re posting it here for reference. We cannot recommend him highly enough. Not only is he a person of utmost integrity, but his professionalism is exemplary as well. He has repeatedly gone the extra mile for us. And I can add that, if you should find yourself in need of mold remediation, examining the results of his pre- and post-testing is most reassuring.

1. Explain the challenge you faced. What was life like when that problem loomed over your head? Did you find it difficult to find a solution?

When we bought our house almost ten years ago, the master bath had been newly remodeled with a very attractive tiled walk-in shower. But within a few years, the grout on the shower floor was seeping water and eventually other areas around the perimeter of the shower pan were seeping as well. In the meanwhile we discovered a serious mold problem in our hall bath and adjacent laundry room, and that became our priority. We had never remodeled a bathroom much less dealt with serious mold issues. It was difficult to know where to turn for help. Kerry and several of our family members have severe allergies to mold and we knew we needed to remediate this properly for the health of our family.

2. Describe the solution you found. How did you get relief?

The mold remediation company we called for the hall bath referred us to AEA Environmental Services for mold testing and setting up a remediation protocol. That was when we met Elijah Adeoye. Elijah has been a joy to work with. He carefully explained his process and provided a thorough written protocol. His report included documentation of both pre-tests and post-tests to ascertain the exact nature of the problem and to verify the effectiveness of the remediation. He made himself readily available to answer our questions, provided further consultation as needed, and inspected the work of the tear-out crews. He did the final fungicide fogging of the house himself. We have had several other water leaks since then and asked AEA come out to advise. When we finally got around to addressing the failure of our master bath shower, knowing we would once again need mold remediation, our first call was to Elijah. Once again, he provided excellent service through the end of the project.

3. What is life like now? Now that your problem is solved or you achieved the result you want, how is life different and better?

We are greatly relieved to know that our home is now a healthy, safe environment thanks to Elijah’s expertise and personal attention. We have confidently referred numerous people with mold issues in their homes to Elijah, not only due to his professionalism, but also because he is a man of integrity and can be trusted to provide the highest quality service. He truly cares about his clients.

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Dancing in the Minefields

Thursday morning, May 2nd, for Wildwood’s young mom’s group, The Well, Candace presented a partly autobiographical talk on the nature of hope: “Dancing in the Minefields: Life Lessons on Learning to Hope.”

Two songs by Andrew Peterson anchored the presentation: Dancing in the Minefields, near the beginning; and You’ll Find Your Way, at the end. Powerful songs, for which her remarks provide an extended meditation.

Thanks to Kelly Skrapka for organizing the program and inviting Candace to speak. Tammy, Barbara and I came as guests. I’m so glad I was able to make it, and was profoundly moved. What an amazing woman I am married to! And in many ways, the story of her journey is the story of our journey together. And a love letter to our daughters. And a thank you to our parents and families.

To listen to the audio while following along with the slides, right-click the links below to download them to your computer, then open them in whatever you use to view PDFs (e.g., Preview, Acrobat) and to listen to audio (e.g., iTunes).

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