Templeton funds a two-year reporting project on science and religion

The Religion News Foundation received a two-year $210,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation to help inform the public about how science and religion intersect.

The “Double Helix” project is slated to result in at least 40 original news and feature story packages produced by the Religion News Foundation’s subsidiary, Religion News Service. The stories will be published at religionnews.com and will be distributed to approximately 100 subscribing and partner news outlets for republication.

According to the Religion News Foundation, the stories will investigate the religious, spiritual, ethical and philosophical implications of today’s most talked about developments in science, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic engineering, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and deep-space exploration.

The team, led by Thomas Gallagher, CEO, Religion News Foundation, and CEO and publisher of RNS, will also produce four ReligionLink source guides to enhance journalistic coverage of complex issues surrounding science and religion on such topics as religion’s role in the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life, the religious and moral implications of artificial intelligence, neuroscience and religion, and animal faith.

The Religion News Foundation is an independent, nonprofit educational and charitable foundation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Lutheran Alliance to host two-part lecture on CRISPR

The Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology is hosting a two-part public lecture on Friday, April 28 at the Lutheran Center in Chicago, “Being the Church in the Age of Biological Manipulation.”

The lectures are part of the 2017 meeting of the Ecumenical Roundtable for Science, Technology and the Church held on April 27-29 at the Lutheran Center. Held at 7:30pm in the Augsburg Room, interested attendees are asked to RSVP the Alliance by emailing Heather Dean (heather.dean@elca.org).

CRISPR is a precise genome-editing technology which can be viewed as a pair of molecular “scissors” guided by a “GPS” to precise locations on a DNA strand. Dr. Gayle Woloschak, professor of Radiation Oncology at Northwestern University in Chicago and adjunct professor of religion and science at the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago (LSTC) and at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, will give an overview of the technology and why it is important. Meanwhile Barbara Rossing, professor of New Testament at LSTC, will present a lecture on “Christ the Healer and the Age of Biological Manipulation.”

In June 2016, an advisory panel from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) approved a proposal from the University of Pennsylvania to use the CRISPR technique in humans to tackle three different kinds of cancer. Researchers there expect the small clinical trial to begin in 2017. In October 2016, the CRISPR technique was first used on a human subject, when Chinese scientists delivered CRISPR-modified cells into a patient with aggressive lung cancer as part of a clinical trial.

Click here for more information on the lectures.

John Templeton Foundation to support psychology of religion studies

A new grant effort underway at the John Templeton Foundation: A planning grant structured to support the rare study of religion within psychology doctoral programs.

The effort includes a workshop for early career scholars, and seed grants to support their research. Also funded is the initial stages of preparing a highly engaging undergraduate textbook in the psychology of religion area.

“Religion is a central aspect of being human, yet has largely been ignored within academic psychology since the behavioral revolution in the early 20th century,” according to the foundation’s website. The grantmaking team add that there are roughly a dozen people in tenure-track or tenured positions in research oriented universities who are willing to take graduate students who want to study religion.

The initiative is led by three prominent scholars in the psychology of religion: Adam Cohen (University of Arizona), Kevin Ladd (Indiana University) and Azim Shariff (University of Oregon). Part of the work will also be in the planning and writing of the $2.5 million field-building effort, to include funding of post-doctoral fellows and emerging faculty grants to make them competitive at top flight jobs.

New Fuller Seminary project gaining “STEAM” in promoting faith and science dialogue

More than 30 universities, organizations and churches across the United States are housing new faith-and-science oriented activities thanks to a grant project called STEAM, which stands for Science and Theology in Emerging Adult Ministries.

The project is a partnership between Fuller Theological Seminary in California and the John Templeton Foundation. The idea is to catalyze the integration of Christian faith and science among 18-20 year olds, i.e. those considered to be emerging adults, organizers say. This year project teams including scientists and pastors and other volunteers will develop and implement projects they designed engaging science and theology within their communities. The following year, 2018, the project will wind down and resources created from STEAM will be publicly disseminated.

The STEAM project has awarded grants to 31 organizations to date, including: Gustavus Adolphus College, Harvey Mudd College, Samford University, First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, Washington University in St. Louis, Lipscomb University, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and the Arizona Center for Christian Studies.

ELCA congregation Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and Campus Ministry in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is seeking to engage students through small groups to determine if and why they feel tension between the practice of faith and the study of science. They plan on bringing in outside speakers to address the students’ concerns and to also form a mentorship network between local ministers and university scientists.

Participants at Gustavus Adolphus, an ELCA college in Saint Peter, Minnesota, are working on creating a digital storytelling platform by and for college students who are studying in STEM-related programs that will serve as a vehicle for vocational reflection, narrative theology and discussion about why and how science as a Christian vocation. A team of four science majors, mentored by a chaplain and a science professor, will create content and cultivate conversations both online and on campus with peers.

Dordt College in Iowa recently received a $25,000 grant to create online resources and multi-session learning modules that will be made available to college and post-college ministries to equip Christian young adults in tackling the complex questions at the intersection of faith and science.

Dordt Biology professor Robbin Eppinga will lead a team of college faculty, area pastors and a senior Dordt biology major. The resources will help Christian young adults anatomize questions related to cloning, medical ethics, evolution through natural selection, GMOs, climate change, and many others. However, studies will not be limited to the “hard” sciences, the team adds. Studies will also cover topics in “soft” sciences like psychology and sociology, as well as the scientific aspects of disciplines in the arts or humanities, according to Fuller Seminary website.

“The evidence suggests that as Christians, we’re not always engaging these questions very well—in our churches, in Christian schools, within families,” says Eppinga. “Many young Christians have never had a safe place to wrestle through challenging issues at the interface of faith and science, and these resources are intended to help people create that safe place to ask questions, examine evidence, and explore implications.”

Change of date for Goshen Religion and Science Conference

Organizers of the Goshen College Religion and Science Conference have pushed back to April 7-9, 2017, the dates for the annual event that attracts students, professors and others from across the Midwest to the college campus in Goshen, Indiana.

The theme is “Deep Incarnation: From Cosmos to Commitment” and the speaker will be Niels Henrik Gregersen of the University of Copenhagen. Gregersen’s three lectures are: “The Cosmic Christ: God in a World of Mass, Energy and Information;” “Christ and Biology: Creativity and Suffering in a World of Biological Agency;” and “Christ and Culture: The Jesus Story and the Cultivation of Commitment.”

Professor Gregersen received his Ph.D. in theology from the University of Copenhagen in 1987. Between 1986 and 2004 he held various faculty positions at Aarhus University, from 2000 to 2004 as research professor in Theology and Science. Since 2004, he has been professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Copenhagen.

From 1992 to 2003, he was a leader of the Danish Science-Theology Forum; 1998-2002 vice president of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT) and responsible for its publication program. In 2002, he was elected president of The Learned Society, Denmark. He is a founding member and trustee of International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) 2002-2007.

First held in 2001, the Goshen conference has hosted well-known religion and science scholars including Philip Clayton, George Ellis, John Haught, Nancey Murphy and Phil Hefner.

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