|Science-Technology-Church Roundtable, 18-22 April 2007, Manchester, N.H.|
The 2007 gathering of the Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology and the Church is scheduled this year on 20-22 April. Meeting at the Joseph House Contemplative Retreat Center in Manchester, N.H., official delegations from many Christian denominational bodies will convene to work on issues of common importance to them all.
The Episcopal Church's delegation to the Roundtable consists of the Executive Council's Committee on Science, Technology, and Faith, as well as members of the ST&F Network Steering Board. The Committee members will arrive two days early to consider action plans for its major study areas of this Triennium--reexamining Part III of the Catechism of Creation (see related article just below).
The ST&F Network Steering Board will hold its annual meeting on Friday afternoon, 1-3:30. Members of the Network who live locally are invited to participate in this meeting. Please contact Convener Dr. Sandra Michael in advance by telephone or email to make arrangements. Members of the Steering Board, elected in 2004, are as follows:
Convener: Dr. Sandra Michael (Dioc. of Central New York)
Records Secretary: The Rev. Barbara Smith-Moran, SOSc (Dioc. of Massachusetts)
Treasurer: The Rev. Sr. Claire Lofgren, SOSc, OSH (Dioc. of New York)
Membership Secretary: The Rev. Dr. Peter Arvedson, SOSc (Dioc. of Milwaukee)
Seminary Liaison: Deacon Phina Borgeson (Dioc. of California)
Episcopal Ecological Network Liaison: Ms. Joyce Wilding (Dioc. of Tennessee)
Webmaster: The Rev. Dr. David B. Bailey (Dioc. of Southern Ohio)
Communications Officer: The Rev. Dr. John Keggi, SOSc (Dioc. of Maine)
Newsletter Editor: The Rev. Barbara Smith-Moran, SOSc
Graphics Designer: Ms. Susan Youmans (Dioc. of Massachusetts)
At-large member: Mr. James Burke (Dioc. of Virginia)
Ex officio member: Dr. Robert Schneider (Dioc. of Western North Carolina)
Ex officio member: Dr. James Jordan (Dioc. of Northern California)
[To see an organizational diagram for how the ST&F Network, its Steering Board, the ST&F Committee and the Executive Council are related, click here.]
The keynote speaker for the 2007 Roundtable will be David Sloan Wilson, Professor of Biology and Anthropology, Binghamton University (SUNY), where he founded the multidisciplinary Evolutionary Studies program. Dr. Wilson's first keynote will be on Friday evening at 7:00. The title of that talk is "Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives," which is the title of his forthcoming book (Delacorte Press). On Saturday morning at 9:15, he will speak once more, on the topic "Biology & Evolutionary Aspects of Homosexuality." A panel response will follow, and then general discussion with all Roundtable participants.
Those who would like to hear Dr. Wilson's keynote talks are asked to make arrangements in advance with the Roundtable registrar, Deacon Gail Phillips Bucher, to see whether space is available: telephone, 978-369-3164, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Call for Network members to be ST&F Committee consultants|
Committee Chair, Dr. James Jordan, is putting out the call for any members of the ST&F Network with expertise in certain key topics and a willingness to serve as consultants to the Committee. In the current triennium, which began after the June 2006 General Convention, the Committee is examining the following topics from Part III of the Church's recent publication, A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Understanding (paperback from Church Publishing; also available on the internet at www.episcopalchurch.org/19021_58393_ENG_HTM.htm).
Water availability, quality, and treatment
Health of the oceans
|Upcoming Sewanee conference on ecology & religion, 8-9 March 2007|
On 8-9 March, ENTREAT will present its final conference, which will be on the theme of "Water For Life: Conserving Water for People & Nature." It will focus on ways to preserve watersheds and water. ENTREAT explores the implications of the Christian idea of human stewardship of creation, and its impact on a spiritual, social and ecological transformation. Its multi-disciplinary programs support vital public policy and conservation practices and promote activism among people of faith with science backgrounds. Ms. Joyce Wilding, Province of Sewanee Environmental Ministry Leader and a member of the ST&F Network Steering Board, has co-chaired ENTREAT since its inception (see "In the Spotlight," Network Newsletter, Vol. 3-1).
The first keynote speaker on Thursday afternoon (3/8) is the Rev. Canon Dr. Jeff Golliher. Trained in cultural anthropology as well as theology, is Priest-in-Charge at St. John's Memorial Episcopal Church in Ellenville, New York, and formerly Canon for Environmental Justice and Community Development at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Manhattan. The title of his talk is "The Water Crisis & Sustainable Development."
Thursday's second keynote speaker is Rabbi Roberta Savage, Executive Director for 28 years of Associations of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators, one of the most creditable and recognized associations dealing with water issues in the country. This organization did much of the preliminary writing that ultimately became the 1987 Clean Water Act. The title of Rabbi Savage's talk is "Water Rights and Dynamic Water Policies."
Joyce Wilding says, "Many issues at the religion/science interface do not impact the way people live their lives. What happens to the natural landscape, to the animal and plant life living in it and the quality of the water they drink affects them deeply.... People need to learn more about the scientific and ethical principles that govern decisions about environmental issues, especially about decisions that are based on a dynamic water ethic." She may be reached by email at email@example.com.
All events are free and open to the public. For more information on times and talk venues, consult the ENTREAT 2007 website.
|Report: Inaugural William Pollard Lecture|
The inaugural Pollard Lecturer was introduced by Mr. Courtland Randall, a ST&F Network member, biographer of Pollard, and founder and coordinator of the Pollard Lecture Series, spoke for a few minutes about the life and pioneering contributions of the Rev. Dr. William Pollard to the field of science and religion. (See related article immediately below.)
In his lecture, Dr. de Bethune focused on the chapters in the history of science that deal with the discovery of subatomic structure and quantum physics. He began with Becquerel's discovery of the photoactive properties of pitchblende, a uranium ore. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for his discovery of spontaneous radioactivity--called Becquerel radiation. Marie and Pierre Curie shared the Nobel with him for their studies of this radiation. Marie Curie discovered the new elements, polonium and radium. Rutherford discovered and investigated alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. Planck discovered quanta, Bohr hypothesized the orbitary model of the atom, and Heisenberg improved upon that model with the hypothesis of "electron clouds."
He talked about Chadwick's discovery of the neutron, then Fermi's bombardment of uranium with neutrons to give neptunium. In 1938, Fermi was allowed to leave Fascist Italy to accept the Nobel Prize in Stockholm--whence he escaped to New York City. Dr. de Bethune said that he was privileged to audit a course taught by Fermi at Columbia.
At the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, Hahn, Meitner, and Strassmann were also bombarding uranium with neutrons--and getting "a mishmash," as Dr. de Bethune termed it. Bohr managed to take Lisa Meitner, a Jew, to a Physical Society conference in New York City--and safety from the Nazis. During the ocean voyage, they figured out what had happened to produce the "mishmash"--namely, nuclear fission. After Einstein wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt about fission and its implications for weaponry, the President put the Manhattan Engineering District to work on mastering fission.
Dr. de Bethune was pulled into research that brought him into collaboration with William Pollard. Speaking about their work together, he explained that U-235, the desirable isotope of uranium, occurs among U-238 isotopes with an abundance of 0.7%. First the uranium is combined with fluorine to form solid UF6, "nasty stuff that fluoridizes anything it touches." At a temperatures above 140 F, it's a gas that can be separated by exploiting the differential diffusion rates of the two isotopic gases.
He said that he knew nothing about the atomic bomb test at Los Alamos, and that he learned of the Hiroshima bombing from the newspaper headlines of 6 August 1945. Only then did he realize the significance of his research with Pollard. He attended a weekday Mass that day at Corpus Christi Church--it was the Feast of the Transfiguration.
"Science deals with things that God has given us," said Dr. de Bethune. "I see no conflict ultimately [between science and religion]." He said that he and Pollard never had any conversations about the relationship of science to religion in the context of their work on the Manhattan Project. "We did something the U.S. Government gave us to do," he said.
Dr. de Bethune's inaugural William Pollard Lecture will soon be published in the science-and-religion booklet series of the Boston Theological Institute, "World View, Scientific Practice & Pastoral Ministry." To receive a copy, contact Court Randall by telephone, 617-527-4888, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
|New booklet about Pollard's ST&F contributions|
Pollard Project Director and ST&F Network member, Mr. Courtland Randall, has written a booklet entitled "Contributions of William G. Pollard: Scientist, Educator, and Priest," which is Volume 3 of the "World View, Scientific Practice & Pastoral Ministry" series published by the Boston Theological Institute. To obtain a free copy, email the author email@example.com, or contact:
|Sjoerd Bonting to deliver next Pollard Lecture, 11 April 2007|
The second speaker to be honored in the William Pollard Lecture Series in science and religion will be the Rev. Dr. Sjoerd Bonting, S.O.Sc. He will speak at 5:15 p.m., 11 April 2007, at Boston University School of Theology, 745 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Mass.
Bonting will tell us something about his own research at a number of U.S. universities and at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland. As a Research Section Chief there, and elsewhere, he did important work on the biochemistry of vision and on sodium transport. He was a scientific consultant to NASA at Ames Research Center in California regarding preparation of biological research on the International Space Station. He has written more than a half-dozen books and major articles on matters ranging from creation, evolution and intellegent design to chaos theory. His professional papers number well over 400.
His pastoral work has included important stimulation in the formation of four Episcopal congregations in the Netherlands. He will tell us about what Pollard's example meant to him, as well as a fascinating account of various kinds of advice he received when, as an important biochemical reseacher, he--as did Pollard a decade earlier--started on the path toward Holy Orders in the mid-1960s.
|Report: Zygon Center conference honors Arthur Peacocke's legacy|
The Zygon Center for Religion and Science and Zygon Journal, in conjunction with the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and the John Templeton Foundation, hosted a symposium February 9 and 10 on Arthur Peacocke's lifelong work of narrowing the gulf between science and belief. A biochemist and a priest in the Anglican Church, Peacocke died last October after publishing more than 200 papers and twelve books on theology and science. He is one of the world's great thinkers in the effort to build bridges between evolutionary theory and Christian faith.
Keynote speaker Gloria L. Schaab, assistant professor of systematic theology at Barry University, focused on Peacocke's early work in uncovering the correct framework of dialogue between scientists and theologians. While science analyzes what's observable, theology is based on the infinite, unfathomable reality, she said. "The theologian and the scientist must strive to demonstrate as clearly as possible that the reality which each investigates truly exists," Schaab said. "Concerning finite reality in science and infinite reality in theology, Peacocke proposes that each must speak critically and somewhat skeptically." This brand of inquiry is what Peacocke called "critical realism," the concept that science and theology can refer to the realities they investigate, but neither can literally describe them.
The concept of God as "cosmic composer" was explored in the panel response to Schaab's talk (see photo above).
Antje Jackelen, Director of the Zygon Center, opened the second day's seminars with a paper on "Intellectually Honest Theology," something that Peacocke insisted upon. If theology fails to deal with questions that must be asked, humanity ultimately pays for that failure with a loss of meaning, Jackelen said.
Philip Clayton, Professor of Theology at Claremont Graduate School, focused on Peacocke's concept of hierarchies. He concluded that current views of the hierarchy of sciences fit closely with Peacocke's idea of a hierarchy of interlocking complex systems that have a determinative effect on the whole of nature.
Ann Pederson, Professor of Religion at Augustana College, spoke on Peacocke's "Christology for a Scientific Age." She highlighted Peacocke's belief that Christ embraces Nature in all its particulars, inclusive of all God's intentions for Creation. "To be Christologically informed for Peacocke is to serve one's neighbor. And who is our neighbor? It is the world around us," said Pederson.
Northwestern University molecular biologist Gayle Woloschak spoke of how Peacocke's early investigations into the nature of hydrogen bonds in DNA played a role in the discovery of its double-helix structure.
Paul Heltne, President emeritus of the Chicago Academy of Sciences and Senior Research Scholar with the Center for Humans and Nature, elaborated on Peacocke's interpretation of evolutionary theory. Separating the concept of consequence from chance and determination is essential for looking ahead to Creation's future, he said. The consequence of human activity upon species might be much different from the consequence of what is traditionally thought of as natural selection.
[Writer Susan Barreto is a financial journalist with an interest in theology.]
|Book review: Dawkins' The God Delusion|
Yet Dawkins' failure to engage the theological and philosophical arguments is ultimately tangential to a fair evaluation of this book, for it is clear that this is not his purpose. Indicative of his actual purpose is his claim that the problem of evil, which most theists regard as the most profound challenge belief faces, should not bother us at all, since the God we purport to believe in, the God encountered in the Bible, is far from good. This deity is, Dawkins delights in pointing out, "unjust," "a monster," a "psychotic delinquent," a "malevolent bully," and so on, so we should expect any world this deity created to be rife with pain and evil. This rhetorical excess is in keeping with Dawkins' avowed aim, which is not so much to refute religious belief as to delegitimize it by showing what great fun is to be had in treating it with contempt, thereby modeling honest disbelief and inviting others to join in. To this end The God Delusion is replete with wickedly amusing anecdotes and thus an enjoyable read, even for persons of faith, at least for the thick-skinned among us. Dawkins is outraged by the social convention that treats ridiculous beliefs with solemn respect, especially when those beliefs so often inspire morally reprehensible behavior. He does not think he can argue committed believers out of their faith. His aim is not the refutation of religion but "consciousness raising" designed to liberate those who feel they must pretend to believe, or at least pretend to respect those who do.
Dawkins takes it for granted that all religious communities teach that blind faith, belief that arises and proceeds with no regard to truth or reason, is a supreme virtue. It is distressing that someone as perceptive as Dawkins finds it plausible to suppose that an honest account of the evidential status of belief is not to be found in the Christian community, and that intellectual dishonesty is definitive of, rather than inimical to, genuine faith. However, on reflection it seems obvious that the proper response to Dawkins' indictment is not to be put off by his ridicule, but to seek to model the possibility of being at once intellectually honest and faithful.
[Science philosopher Don Wacome is Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern College of Iowa. He is featured "In the Spotlight" in Newletter Vol. 5-1 (Pentecost 2006). Send email comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
|Episcopal preachers do "Darwin Day"|
At least one Episcopal congregation in 34 states joined in, as well as the District of Columbia. Preachers in the state of New York really got into it--17 of them, including at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Manhattan.
The chief goal of the Clergy Letter Project is a corrective one: to make it clear to the American public, Dr. Zimmerman says, "that clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith."
|Upcoming Star Island-IRAS Conference, "Emergence--The Human Dimension"|
The following introduction is excerpted from the conference website at www.iras.org/conference.html:
The core thesis of the conference is that human mental evolution was not just "evolution as usual." Rather, it was a case of "emergent evolution," traversing a causal threshold as fundamental as the emergence of life, which in turn made biological evolution possible. Similarly, the emergence of symbolic communication made possible the subsequent co-evolution of brain, language, and culture, driving technology and generating new forms of consciousness in which vast webs of collective cognition and intersubjectivity are possible, many manifest in our religious traditions. These processes can be expected to lead to future transitions--not all human-friendly--that are every bit as revolutionary, demanding that we reflect on our understandings of the true, the good, the beautiful, and the sacred.
Terrence Deacon, anthropology and neuroscience, University of California,
Niels Gregersen, theology, University of Copenhagen: God in a world of fluid
Linda Stone, computer technology: emergent cybernetic psychology
Mark Turner, cognitive science, Case Western Reserve University: human mind and creativity
For information about registration, lodging fees, and speaker profiles, see the conference website.
IRAS annual conferences have been held on Star Island every summer since 1954. Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals, is just off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. See www.starisland.org.
|Network members in the Society of Ordained Scientists|
Some founders of the ST&F Network have been S.O.Sc. members since 1988--notably the Rev. Dr. John Keggi and the Rev. Dr. Peter Arvedson. (Keggi received the ST&F Network's Genesis Award in 2005, and Arvedson in 2006.) The Rev. Barbara Smith-Moran (Network Newsletter editor) and the Rev. Claire Lofgren (Network treasurer) were the first woman priests to become members--though several woman deacons were waiting for the Anglican Church to approve their ordination to priesthood (which happened in 1994).
The Rev. Dr. Tom Lindell, a member of the ST&F Committee, is also a Society member.
Between annual meetings in July, regional chapters meet for discussions of any number of developments in science and technology and how they impact the life of faith. They publish occasional reports and are tapped from time to time as consultants to church task forces. In 2005, the Society published a report that it intends as a resource by churches on the Anglican Communion in their discussions about human sexuality. Entitled "On the Biological Basis of Human Sexual Orientation," the report was written by Lindell and the Rev. Dr. David de Pomerai. It is available online at www.thesosc.org/articles/articles.html.
More information about the Society can be found at their website. To apply for membership, contact the North American chapter co-conveners, John Keggi and Claire Lofgren.
|In the Spotlight: Some Network members take a bow|
For this feature, we invite our members to introduce themselves with short biographies. Please send your own bio-sketch and a picture to the editor.
|Downloadable Network fliers in both Spanish and English|
Why not print out Science, Technology and Faith Network brochures for your parish or cathedral tract-rack? Help spread the word to those who wonder how Christian faith interacts with developments in science and technology. There is a real hunger among Episcopalians to be able to ask important questions about faithful living within contemporary society. The Network welcomes questioners.
The Network brochure is available both in Spanish and in English versions, as PDF files (Acrobat Reader required).
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