In this issue
"Atom and Eve" meet in new lecture Washington, DC
Theologian analyzing nature and nurture in light of evolution
American Academy of Religion to discuss ecology, psychology and
the digital age
Ayala donates $10m to UC Irvine
Washington Theological Union, a Roman Catholic graduate school of
theology and ministry in Washington, DC, will be hosting major talks on
religion and science over the next two years. The events will feature
prominent scientists and theologians in a lecture series entitled: "atom
+ Eve: Using Science in Pastoral Ministry."
The conferences are supported by a $100,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The Very Rev. Frederick J. Tillotson, president of WTU, said that the talks are an opportunity to engage in study and conversation with noted scholars and Catholic clergy on the integration of science into faith structures." The first conference was held on November 12 and focused on the origin of the university and featured Stephen Barr of University of Delaware and Robert D. Miller of Catholic University of America. They were joined by Sten Odenwald from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Rev. Abbot James Wiseman of the Catholic University of America.
Future conferences are planned in 2012 for April 14 and October 20, while March 16 is the conference date for 2013. Themes for these meetings will be science and theology of the origin of live and its development, the moral life of virtue and sin, and spirituality in an evolutionary world. All conferences are free and open to the public, but registration is required.
University of Notre Dame Theologian Celia Deane-Drummond is leading a new study on evolution and human nature, heading up a team of theologians, philosophers and scientists in residence at the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton.
Deane-Drummond will serve as a senior research fellow along with Dominic Johnson of the University of Edinburgh. They both hold two doctorates – Deane-Drummond in theology and plant physiology, and Johnson in evolutionary biology and political science. Together they will create an interdisciplinary dialogue for
"Inquiry on Evolution and Human Nature." Princeton's Center of Theological Inquiry will put together a team of 10 other scholars in the fields of evolution biology, psychology, anthropology, religious studies and philosophy of science.
The research program will include international symposia and seminars with leading scholars, including Melvin Konner, Sarah Coakley, Simon Conway Morris, Wentzel van Hyssteen, Niels Henrik Gregersen and Angela Creager. There is funding for research fellowship that have been made possible by support from the John Templeton Foundation.
Questions posed via the fellowship will be: How have human capacities for religion and culture evolved? What do theology and the sciences contribute to our understanding of the evolution of human beings over time? How might philosophy and theology engage the assumptions in the science of human evolution? Fellows will be in residence at the center during the academic year beginning September 1, 2012.
Also in 2012, Deane-Drummond headlines the Goshen College Conference on Religion and Science. It is being held March 23–25, 2012, at in Goshen, Indiana. Registration for the conference will begin in January at www.goshen.edu/religionscience.
Dr. Deane-Drummond has recently become a professor of theology at neighboring University of Notre Dame, but is a well known academic in the religion and science dialogue. (She taught previously in the U.K.)
She has a degree in natural sciences from Cambridge University and a doctorate in plant physiology from Reading University. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Vancouver, Canada and the biophysics group in the Botany department at Cambridge and served as a lecturer in plant physiology at Durham University. She later began to focus on theology, graduating with a degree then a Ph.D. in theology at Manchester University.
She has served as a full Professor in Theology and the Biological Sciences at the University of Chester and has lectured internationally. Deane-Drummond is well published with more than thirty articles appearing in science journals during here scientific career and has continued to be active in research, particularly in relation science to theology. She has published twenty two books and over a hundred articles or book chapters. Her more recent books are Genetics and Christian Ethics (2006), Wonder and Wisdom (2006) Ecotheology (2008) Christ and Evolution (2009).
The annual conference for the American Academy of Religion held November 17 through 21 in San Francisco will feature sessions dedicated to exploring the relation of science and religion.
One focus at the meetings comes under the heading "Thinking Theologically in a Digital Age." Papers presented here reflect on whether or not new mediums of communication impact theological discourse; explore how theological concepts are portrayed in film, television, or movies; or the practice of
"virtual church" and its implications for evangelical Christian practices.
The ecology section is lead by Peter Trudinger, minister of Scots Church in Adelaide, Australia. The focus is on models for ecological readings of the biblical text and tradition. The initial session will focus on ecology and writings attributed to Paul. Another session will be held jointly with the AAR Religion and Ecology Group to address issues raised by multi-religious critical reflection on the eco-hermeneutics of religious texts.
A workshop on Psychology and Biblical Studies is led by D. Andrew Kille, who is founder and director of Interfaith Space in San Jose, California. He also holds a Ph.D. in psychological biblical criticism from the Graduate Theological Union. His particular section presents an historical-critical overview of
"psychological" approaches to scripture and is a forum for developing future agenda.
Papers to be considered in the psychology section consider: What practical applications might be made of psychological understandings of the Bible in congregational settings, pastoral counseling, in community work? Or, what might a psychological understanding of the dynamics of interpretation have to say to the Academy? What might psychologically "healthy" biblical interpretation look like?
Also at the American Academy of Religion meeting the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science groups are co-hosting a hospitality event from 7pm to 10pm on November 19. There will be refreshments, conversation and short presentations from each sponsoring organization. The event is free and will allow for registered participants at the annual meeting to connect with colleagues interesting in the field of science and religion.
Well-known Dominican priest and geneticist Francisco Ayala has given $10 million to University of California at Irvine's School of Biological Sciences.
The donation is funded with proceeds from the Central California vineyards that Ayala planted decades ago. Ayala's efforts will endow four new research chairs and come at a time when the university is dealing with large budget cuts. Last year, Ayala dedicated the proceeds from his $1.5 million Templeton Prize to fund the work of UCI graduate students in biological sciences.
Ayala makes the case that life is about more than just the science. In his latest book, Am I a Monkey? Six Big Questions about Evolution, Ayala takes on the notion that evolution and God are incompatible. His argument runs counter to a number of high profile book released as of late that question the source of morality being religious belief and the idea of whether God was necessary in creating the universe.
"Successful as it is, and universally encompassing as its subject is, a scientific view of the world is hopelessly incomplete," writes Ayala in the introduction to Am I a Monkey?
"In order to understand the purpose and meaning of life, as well as matters
concerning moral and religious values, we need to look elsewhere."
The cover of the book provokes thought in that it is an illustration of a fork going through a banana. Through questioning a purely scientific view of evolution, Ayala seeks to educate non-scientists on evolutionary theory and how evolution is viewed within the scientific community. The work is one of more than a dozen books Ayala has authored related to biology.
Educating university students and the public on evolution has been Ayala's lifelong pursuit and has earned him many accolades. This year, UC Irvine's Science Library was formally renamed the Francisco J. Ayala Science Library. He also received the Templeton Prize and donated the $1.5 million award to scholarships for graduate students at the university. In 2010, Ayala traveled to Madrid to receive the Federation of Scientific Societies of Spain's first ever Prize for the Public Understanding of Science.
Covalence, November 2011