In This Issue
Murphy named theological editor of
Clergy survey on scientific views attracts more
than 400 responses
Researchers to study cognitive dimensions of prayer
Faraday Institute offering science and Christianity
Murphy named theological editor of Covalence
George Murphy, a member of the steering committee of the Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology, has now added the title of theological editor to his ongoing work in religion and science.
As theology editor, Murphy will be seeking, reviewing, editing and writing articles offering up theological views of the interaction between faith and science. "Christians need to develop a sound theological context for the rapid scientific developments of our age,” said Murphy. “We'll try to choose articles that make good contributions to that development."
Murphy received his Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins and taught in various colleges for eleven years before attending Wartburg Seminary. He was ordained in 1983 and has served as a pastor in both Lutheran and Episcopal congregations. Since 1977, he has written numerous articles on theology and science, including a number of articles in both print and online editions of
He is the author of five books and is currently working on a series of faith and science modules for confirmation classes. His most recent book, Pulpit Science Fiction (CSS, 2007) is a resource for the use of science fiction in preaching and parish education. Pr. Murphy also teaches “The Science-Theology Dialogue” at Trinity Seminary, that
— as in other work — helps clergy and congregations to prepare to deal with issues raised by science and technology.
Clergy survey on scientific views attracts more than 400 responses
Aiming to further bridge the gap between clergy and scientists, a questionnaire from The Clergy Letter Project brings into focus the dialogue that is taking place in faith communities regarding scientific findings.
So far more than 400 clergy from a variety of denominations have responded to the survey, giving greater insight into how faith and science concepts are viewed by spiritual leaders. Survey organizers anticipate gathering more responses before the end of 2011.
Topics covered by the questionnaire include evolution, big bang theory, and climate change in addition to questions surrounding faith communities’ views of science and knowledge of science. It also asks pastors to elaborate on ways religion and science is approached within their specific congregation. A variety of multiple-choice questions in the survey include: Are your personal views on evolution congruent with those held by members of your faith community? How would you characterize the level of trust members of your faith community have in scientists in general? How would you personally characterize the perspective most scientists have on religion?
The team behind the survey is finishing up a grant proposal designed to foster discussion and improve understanding between faith communities and scientists. On the team is Adam Tarnoff, director of education at the Adler Planetarium; Jason Wiles, assistant professor of biology at Syracuse University, Grace Wolf-Chase, research astronomer at the Adler Planetarium; Gayle Woloschak, professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and Michael Zimmerman, vice president for academic affairs at Evergreen State College and executive director of The Clergy Letter Project. The advisory council on the grant project includes Dr. Phil Hefner, professor emeritus at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican Observatory.
Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking queries in the survey is: Can you imagine encountering any new scientific knowledge that would cause you to reassess your religious beliefs? This question is where the heart of The Clergy Letter Project resides.
The project was started by Zimmerman in 2004 when he worked with clergy in Wisconsin to prepare a statement in support of teaching evolution. He says that the call to action was a series of anti-evolution policies passed by the school board in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. He had an overwhelming response from nearly 200 clergy that signed a statement in support of teaching of evolution that was sent to the school board and to the superintendent of schools. As a result of Zimmerman’s efforts and the support of others, the Grantsburg School Board retracted their anti-evolution policy.
His efforts regarding the support of evolution curriculum in public schools dates back to 1981. He recognized early on that encouraging bright, articulate local ministers goes a long way in taking on school boards looking to introduce creationism into the science curriculum.
The Clergy Letter statement simply outlines that there is no divide between religious faith and scientific discovery. “We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests,” a portion of the statement reads.
The Clergy Letter Project, though, is about more than just the single statement in support of science. It also includes Evolution Weekend, which is an annual effort that supports events for congregations worldwide to discuss evolution around the time of Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12.
Zimmerman is handling the clergy survey responses and may be reached for further information at
Researchers to study cognitive dimensions of prayer
The Social Science Research Council, with the support of the John Templeton Foundation, has gathered proposals from scholars in all disciplines for studies that will enhance knowledge of the social, cultural, psychological, and cognitive dimensions of prayer, and of its origins, variations and correlations in human life.
The project, called New Directions in the Study of Prayer, will award approximately 20 to 25 grants ranging from $50,000 to $200,000 for two-year duration. The deadline for letters of intent was December 1. According to the announcement of the grants from the Social Science Research Council, the search is for proposals of research to shed light on the relationships between the practice of prayer and virtue, human flourishing, altruism and creativity. The grants are expected to open up scholarship that examines the cognitive as aspects of prayer, the embeddedness of prayer in religions and non-religious institutions, the social dimensions of prayer and examine cultural variations in prayer across societies and religious traditions.
Proposals were encouraged from, but not restricted to, the following disciplines: anthropology, cognitive science, history, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, religious studies and sociology.
Faraday Institute offering science and Christianity curriculum
A new project called Test of Faith has been a few years in the making, but the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at Cambridge University is now offering DVD, book and course materials in the U.K., U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
The end goal is to show the compatibility of religion and science. Topics included in the series of materials are the Big Bang, creation, a look at the human brain, ethics of cloning and the idea of whether humans are more than mere biological machines. Contributors to the project include Alister McGrath, professor of theology, ministry and education and head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture at King’s College in London; Dr. Francis Collins, director at the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, director of the dialogue on science, ethics and religion for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope; and Simon Conway Morris, professor in the Earth Sciences Department at University of Cambridge.
The course is designed with non-scientists in mind and can be used by small groups that can move through a series of DVDs at their own pace.
Test of Faith materials also are divided into various age groups, with 11 to 18 year olds at one end of the spectrum and university students at the other. Church resources include the Test of Faith documentary that features scientists who share their Christian faith. A book entitled, Test of Faith: Spiritual Journeys with Scientists, tells the stories of ten of the scientists featured in the documentary.
More information on the materials available and their target audience can be found at www.testoffaith.com.
Covalence, December 2011