God & Modern Biology
Summer Conference Topical Details
June 26 - Science and Religion.
Participants will be asked to place themselves in one of Ian Barbour's four Science and Religion typologies (Conflict, Independence, Dialog, and Integration). We will then divide into discussion groups to explore the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Following this will be a detailed examination of the scientific method, its assumptions, its strengths and its limitations. We will contrast science's dependence on empirical discovery of truth with religious methodology, which relies on revealed truth. Finally we will use the philosophy of "critical realism" as way of highlighting similarities and differences between scientific and religious viewpoints. The overriding question for the day will be: "Can we integrate Catholic and scientific worldviews?"
July 10 - The Big Bang and Cosmology.
We will trace the history of the development of the Big Bang theory from its origins in Einstein's Theory of Relativity to Georges Lemaitre's original proposal of "the primordial egg" and the modern scientific evidence supporting the Big Bang today. We will next consider the anthropic principle as it pertains to the Big Bang theory, contemporary multiverse theories, the book of Genesis, and religious worldviews. The afternoon session will highlight current ideas on biochemical evolution, scientific evidence for the earliest forms of life, and how they may have arisen from early replicating macromolecules. This will then be contrasted to the book of Genesis and a discussion of how this text is viewed by biblical scholars; as scientific fact or as revelation. Our question for the day will be the famous existential query: "Why is there anything at all?"
July 17 - Biotechnology.
The day will begin with an introductory lecture on DNA, cell biology, and the wide-ranging applications of biotechnology. These discussions will be followed with a consideration of social justice issues associated with biotechnology including the societal costs and benefits, the role of government, sharing of bioengineered wealth, and personal privacy concerns. We will consider in detail the science of embryonic stem cells and its potential medical benefits, the theological reasons why the Catholic Church opposes research in this area, and how this issue is viewed from other religious perspectives. This will lead us to a discussion exploring Catholic sacramentalism and the Jesuit ideal of "finding God in all things". Our question for the day is: "How does the sanctity of life direct our choices for the future?"
July 24 - Evolution.
The history of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection will be presented along with a brief survey of the wide range of scientific evidence which supports it. This will provide us an opportunity to explore what is meant by "fact" and "theory" in science and how this differs from the popular usage of these words. We will contrast Darwinian Theory with the popular ideas of "Intelligent Design" and "Scientific Creationism" to expose the common misconceptions and political motivations which accompany "pseudo-scientific" explanations of reality. The afternoon session will explore the works of John Haught and other contemporary theologians who take biological evolution at face value and use it as a starting point for religious exploration. Our question for the day will be: "What role does God play in a changing world?"
July 31 - Strategies and Reflection.
The day will begin by providing participants an opportunity to further explore the ideas which for them aroused the greatest intellectual curiosity or spiritual reflection. Small groups will be organized for each of the four topical areas for further discussion. Each group will be charged with developing a series of questions for the larger group to consider over the course of our monthly follow-up meetings. The second part of the day will be devoted to the practical task of developing specific strategies for taking the material covered in the conference back to participant's home parish or school constituencies. Work groups will be formed for youth, religious education, adult continuing education, and other constituencies as determined by the participants. Each group will be asked to determine which of the topics covered during our conference would be most appropriate for their home parish or school.
September 2012-June 2013
We will have monthly meetings throughout the 2012-2013 academic year to allow participants to continue their intellectual engagement in the area of science and religion, and provide resources for the development and implementation of Science and Religion programs for their home parishes and schools. These programs might take the form of guest lecturers or class presentations from Fairfield faculty, reading groups, or discussions associated with parish CCD classes, youth groups, or school clubs. It will be up to the participants to decide what would work best for their own constituencies.
Keynote Lecture Event - Fall/Spring 2013
"Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life"
by John Haught, Senior Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University
Thursday, April 4, 2013, 7:30pm-9pm
Dolan School of Business Dining Room
This program will take place on the Fairfield University campus and will feature John Haught, author of Making Sense of Evolution. Dr. Haught is a Senior Fellow in Science and Religion at the Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University, and Professor of Theology Emeritus, Georgetown University. He is the author of numerous books, including God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens.The purpose of this lecture event will be to further deepen and stimulate the intellectual interest of program participants as well as promote the parish and school programs that will be beginning at this time.