Robert O'Connor, Ph.D.

Associate professor of Philosophy
On Faculty since 1989

Phone: (630)752-5891


Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, 1989, Dissertation: Abductive Inference to Theological Realism Director: Philip Quinn

M. A., Humanities, Western Kentucky University, 1983. Thesis: "The Relation of Theory to Evidence in the Epistemology of W. V. Quine"

B. A., Philosophy/Biblical Studies, Wheaton College, IL, 1979.

About Robert O'Connor

My personal moments are largely, and happily, consumed by the various activities of my four children, from soccer, gymnastics and track, to band, orchestra and jazz ensemble. I remain very active with my church; I love to pique adult interests in deep issues of the faith, especially those requiring a modicum of philosophical analysis. As for personal time, I occasionally get a chance to play a round of golf with my father-in-law, and recently fulfilled a life-long dream by purchasing an old, beat-up, 16' Hobie Cat. That would be me, flying the hull of my Hobie off the shore of Lake Michigan.

Courses Taught

  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science and Christian Belief
  • Postmodernism
  • Pragmatism
  • Contemporary Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Contemporary Analytic Philosophy
  • Contemporary American Philosophy
  • Pragmatism
  • Nature of Persons
  • Introduction to the Cognitive and Neurosciences (team taught)
  • Introduction to Logic
  • Symbolic Logic
  • Ethics, Law, and Society/Contemporary Moral Problems
  • Issues and Worldviews in Philosophy
  • Freshman Experience
  • Independent Studies/Honors Theses (numerous)

Membership in Professional Societies

  • American Philosophical Association
  • Philosophy of Science Association
  • Society of Christian Philosophers


My research interests lie at the intersection of the sciences with religious belief. In particular, I'm struck by the extent to which insights into the methods of scientific research shed light on the epistemic status of our religious beliefs. In particular, I find that the types of arguments on offer for scientific realism provide a very useful template for a form of theological realism. This project requires comparing the relevant criteria of assessment in each domain, as well as the availability of evidence for each.

The discussion of the relation between science and religion has also lead me to consider the specific claims of the "intelligent design" argument. I have been a long-time "friendly critic" of intelligent design and look to contribute further clarity to that discussion.

Papers Published and/or Presented (selected)


E. David Cook and Robert C. O'Connor, "What Are the Philosophical Implications of Christianity for the Natural Sciences?" in Not Just Science: Questions Where Christian Faith and Natural Science Intersect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005): 48-60.

"The Design Inference: Old Wine in New Wineskins," in Neil Manson (ed.) God and Design (London and New York: Routledge , 2003): 66-87.

"The Natural Sciences at Wheaton College: Understanding Their Significance in Light of Our Christian Educational Mission," joint-authorship, principal author, (Wheaton, IL: Wheaton College, 2003).

"Criteria of Success in Science and Theology," Science and Christian Belief, 10.1 (April, 1998): 21-40.

"Science on Trial: Exploring the Rationality of Methodological Naturalism," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 49.1 (March, 1997): 15-30.

"Accommodating Religious Belief," in Timothy Phillips, et. al. (eds.) Proceedings of Wheaton Theology Conference, Vol. II: Relationship Between Theology and Science (1996).

"Theological Realism, Reference and Truth," in Mark Shale (ed.) Proceedings of The Second Interdisciplinary Conference on Science and Religion (Frankfort, KY: 1991).

Campus Presentations

Philosophy Major Chapel Address, "Life is Beautiful," October 2003.

Presentations, Faculty Faith and Learning Seminar, "The Philosophy of Science and the Integration of Faith with Learning" (2000 - 2002)

Presentation, Wheaton College Board of Visitors, Intelligent Design, March 2002.

Panelist, Wheaton College Science Symposium, "Evolution and Faith," March 2001.

Interdisciplinary Studies Major Chapel Address, untitled, March 2001 & 2002.

"Transformed Epistemology: Worship as the Key to Cognitive Renewal," Faculty Colloquium, Wheaton College, October 1997.

Alumni Association Faculty Lecture Series, "The Emergence of Postmodernism," October 1996. "Science on Trial," Faculty Colloquium, Wheaton College, March 1996.

Panel Discussion, Science Division Conference, "The Gaia Hypothesis," October 1995.

Panel Discussion, Science Division Conference with Don Paige, "Cosmology and God," October 1994

Panel Discussion, "Choosing a Course of Study," Parent/Student Orientation, October 1993. "Witnessing to the Cultural Relativist," Youth Hostels Ministry, March 1993-96.

"Serving with our Minds," College Chapel Address, Faculty Missionary Project, April 1993.

Philosophy Major Chapel, "Philosophy and Christian Ministry," March 1993.

Presentation for Ethnic and Gender Studies Workshop, "The Stay-at-home Dad," April 1993.

Junior Class Chapel, "Transformed by the Renewal of Your Mind," March 1992.

"Predictability Requirement in Theological Explanation," faculty colloquium, Wheaton College, February 1991.

Class Presentations: i) Neurobiology (D. Bruce), ii) Chemistry (L. Funck), iii) "The Integrated Biologist" (A. Smith, P. Pun), iii) Origins Science Seminar (Steve Moshier), 1991 - 2004.

"Design and the Congruence of Science and Religion," Plenary Address, The Science and Faith Symposium, Congregational Church of Batavia, October 1, 2005.

"Abducting God: Exploring the Limits of Science and Religion," Plenary Address, Symposium on Science and Religion, Southeastern College, Lakeland, FL, April 14, 2005.

"Confronting the Logic of Design," presented at Symposium on Science and Religion, Southeastern College, Lakeland, FL, April 15, 2005.

Presentation, "Scientific Cosmology and Christianity," Wheaton College Science Symposium, March 26-27, 2003.

Presentations, Inter-denomination Conference on Pastoral Training and Theology, Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic, June 17-25, 2002.

"Divine Providence" "Divine Foreknowledge" "Divine Election" "Providence and Evil" Presentation, "Design and the Inference that Makes Science," Society of Christian Philosophers, Pacific Regional Meeting on The Philosophical Implications of Modern Science, Whitworth College and Gonzaga University, Spokane WA, April 4 - 6, 2002.

Invited Presentation, "The Design Inference: Old Wine in New Wineskins," Houghton College, Houghton, NY, Oct. 2001.

Lecture Series (five-part), First Presbyterian Church, Aurora, IL, "The Abundant Life," at Conference Point, Williams Bay, WI, July, 2001.

Presentation, "God and Design," Templeton Foundation Workshop on Science and Religion, Berkeley, CA, January 2001.

Presentation, "Pragmatic Realism," Conference on Pragmatism and Realism, University of Buffalo, New York, April 2001.

Presentation, "The Design Inference: Methodological Naturalism to the Rescue," Conference on "The Nature of Nature," The Michael Polanyi Institute, Baylor University, Waco, TX, April 12-15, 2000.

Plenary Presentation, "Complex Specified Information as Empirically Detectable Evidence for Design: Is the Design Inference Incompatible with Methodological Naturalism?" Conference on "Design and Its Critics," Concordia University, Mequon, WI, June 22-24, 2000.

Panelist: Wheaton College Science Symposium, "The Fossil Record in Geologic History," March 30, 2000.

Respondent, "The Cosmological Argument and the Limits of Explanation" by David Haugen & Bryant Keeling, Illinois Philosophical Association Meetings, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, November, 5-7, 1999.

Presentation, "A Neglected and Abused Argument for the External World," at the Society of Christian Philosophers Midwest Divisional Meetings, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, March 25 - 27, 1999.

Respondent, "Kuhn and Davidson on Conceptual Schemes," by Ben Vilhauer, Illinois Philosophical Association Meeting, Loyola University, Chicago, IL, November 7, 1998.

Presentation, "Predictability and Inference to the Best Explanation," University of Cambridge, Faculty of Divinity, Seminars in Science and Theology, May 11, 1998.

Presentation, "Arguing with Reason," University of Cambridge, Faculty of History and Philosophy of Science, Epistemology Reading Group, June 4, 1998.

Presentation, "Exploring the Rationality of Methodological Naturalism," The Interdisciplinary Conference on Naturalism, Theism and the Scientific Enterprise, University of Texas, Austin, February 1997.

Lecture Series, "Christians and Higher Education: Examining Perspective in Christian Worldview and Post-modernity as the Impact the Christian Professorate," presented at Grace Bible College/Reformed Bible College combined Faculty Seminar/Workshop, Sept. 12-13, 1997.

"Christian Higher Education and the Transformation of the Mind" . "Constructing a Christian Worldview" . "The Origins, Impotence and Challenge of Post-modernity" . "The Professorial Implementation of the Christian Worldview" Presentation, "Internal Realism and the Conditions of Reference," Wheaton Philosophy Conference, October 1997.

Respondent, "Putnam and 'Three Relativists,'" Illinois Philosophical Association, DePaul University, March 1994.

Chair, Plenary Session, Society of Christian Philosophers, March 1994.

Chair, Wheaton Theology Conference, "Christian Apologetics in the Post-Modern World," 1994.

Presentation, "Accommodating Religious Belief," Wheaton Theology Conference, Wheaton College, March 1993.

Panel Discussion with N. Murphey, J. P. Moreland, H. Van Til, Wheaton Theology Conference, Wheaton College, 1993

Lecture Series, Kiev, Ukraine, March 1993."The Post-Positivist Understanding of the Relation Between Science and Theology" "A Defense of Theological Realism" "Recent Developments in the Problem of Evil" "Contemporary Developments in Philosophy of Mind" "Democracy and the Pursuit of Truth"

Respondent, "Pierce on Abduction," Illinois Philosophical Association, Northern Illinois University, October 1992.

Presentation, "Theological Realism, Reference and Truth," The Second Interdisciplinary Conference on Science, Technology and Religious Ideas, Kentucky State University, April 1990.

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