Qur’anic cosmology the theme for next year’s Goshen Religion and Science Conference

The speaker for the 2018 Goshen Religion and Science Conference at Goshen College is Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal, founder and president of the Center for Islamic Sciences in Canada.

Dates for the annual conference have yet to be set, but the event is held annually in the spring. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Dr. Iqbal has lived in Canada since 1979. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1983 from the University of Saskatchewan. He then left the field of experimental science to fully devote himself to the study of Islam and its spiritual, intellectual and scientific traditions. In 2001, he was program director (for the Muslim World) for the Science-Religion Course Program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), in Berkeley.   

Iqbal says that he plans to “build a cohesive view of Qur’anic cosmology” with his Goshen lectures.  

This year the theme at Goshen was the concept of the Cosmic Christ, with Niels Henrik Gregersen of the University of Copenhagen giving lectures on “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”.

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.

Film looking at religion’s role in healthcare publicized at the National Press Club

A recently released film by National Press Club members and father/son team Gerald and Adam Krell was screened at a National Press Club event with the aim of showing the positive relationship between religion and well-being.

Dr. Harold Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University, asserts at the beginning of the film that religious beliefs and practices are good for one’s health. Koenig is well known for his research into the impact of incorporating a patient’s religious beliefs with cognitive-behavioral therapy for chronically-ill patients with major depression. He published a study on the topic in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in 2015.

The film, “Your Health: A Sacred Matter,” cites studies showing the positive relationship between religion and well-being. Specifically, it examines the controversy over whether the appropriate place for religion and spirituality belongs with the clergy and not in the doctor’s office. The film explores the experiences of patients, family members, doctors and chaplains from a wide variety of backgrounds.

“We had to represent a lot of faith communities,” said Adam Krell, producer and director of photography in a press release. “We tried to do justice to people’s stories.”

The film won the International Award of Excellence in the documentary category at the International Film Festival for Spirituality – Religion – Visionary in Jakarta, Indonesia. The film examines how the medical profession is looking to reintegrate religion into the healing process and includes interviews with chaplains as well as researchers and doctors.

Here’s the trailer:

Local faith/science speakers line up for Los Alamos Faith and Science Forum in New Mexico

This summer the Los Alamos Faith and Science Forum returns for a series of talks by local speakers. The theme is “Hope: Science, Religion and the Future.”

The Los Alamos Faith and Science Forum is a nonprofit organization with a mission to “invite people to join in exploring together with the mysteries of faith and science by looking deeply into both.” Some members are scientists, while others are clergy. This year’s talks are being held at the Unitarian Church in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Local speakers include Bob Reinovsky, program manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory; Dan Winske of Los Alamos National Laboratory; and Chick Keller, director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics from 1980 to 1990.

These Wednesday evening meetings will be on June 14 and 28 as well as July 12, 19, and 26. The format is a light supper at 6pm and a talk at 6:30pm, followed by questions for the speaker and then table discussions. As part of the summer program the group has also invited theologian John Haught of Georgetown University to give two talks on June 22 and June 23. His lecture titles are “Science, Religion and Cosmic Purpose” and “Evolution and Faith: What is at Stake.”

More information can be found on the group’s website.

This is the fourth year for the series. In 2015, the Forum series used the book Origins by physics professors Loren and Deborah Haarsma. Then in the winter of that year, the group hosted a monthly video lecture series on the topic “What Makes Us Human?”

Plantinga honored with the 2017 Templeton Prize

Alvin Plantinga, an American scholar whose rigorous writings over a half century have made theism — the belief in a divine reality or god — a serious option within academic philosophy, was named the 2017 Templeton Prize Laureate.

The Templeton Prize, valued at £1.1 million (about $1.4 million), is one of the world’s largest annual awards given to an individual and honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.

Plantinga will be formally awarded the Templeton Prize in a public ceremony at The Field Museum in Chicago on September 24, where speakers will include Hamza Yusuf of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, Yoram Hazony of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, and Meghan Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame.

According to the John Templeton Foundation, Plantinga’s pioneering work began in the late 1950s, a time when academic philosophers generally rejected religiously informed philosophy. In his early books, however, Plantinga considered a variety of arguments for the existence of God in ways that put theistic belief back on the philosophical agenda.

Plantinga’s 1984 paper, “Advice to Christian Philosophers,” promoted the idea of a specific Christian philosophical vision that needed to be pursued in academia.

At the same time, he was developing an account of knowledge, most fully expressed in the “Warrant Trilogy” published by Oxford University Press (1993 and 2000), making the case that religious beliefs are proper starting points for human reasoning and do not have to be defended or justified based on other beliefs. These arguments have now influenced three generations of professional philosophers.

Indeed, more than 50 years after this remarkable journey began, university philosophy departments around the world now include thousands of professors who bring their religious commitments to bear on their work, including Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim philosophers, according to the foundation executives.

“Sometimes ideas come along that revolutionize the way we think, and those who create such breakthrough discoveries are the people we honor with the Templeton Prize,” said Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation. “Alvin Plantinga recognized that not only did religious belief not conflict with serious philosophical work, but that it could make crucial contributions to addressing perennial problems in philosophy.”

LAFST Steering Committee member featured in NIH magazine

Ida Hakkarinen may not have a medical degree, but she has contributed to important research that was recently highlighted in the National Institutes of Health’s Medline magazine.

A longtime member of the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology, Hakkarinen is a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and has been coping with a rare disease since 2012 called granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA for short) that falls under a broad category of vasculitis disease, which is a condition that involves the inflammation of blood vessels.

Two years after her diagnosis she agreed to participate in a research study at the NIH. She told Medline: “Having a rare disease, I wanted to contribute to the research being done in vasculitis through the use of my personal health data. I also hoped that through a clinical trial, I could benefit from having a ‘second opinion’ from a medical professional researching the disease, which might help my treatment.”

The goal of the study, which is ongoing, is to find unique biomarkers for the disease. For the NIH, it has been an opportunity to also update its patient medical record database, which will likely help patients like Hakkarinen in the future. She told Medline that she felt a duty to help educate young medical professionals about her rare disease and the importance of gathering accurate medical histories that can help in diagnosing vasculitis.

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