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Discourse is Alive and Well

Faculty, staff, students and community guests observed Darwin’s 200th birthday with a standing-room-only crowd. Sponsored by the Department of Geosciences, presentations by Dr. Phil Novack-Gotshall and Campus Minister Karen Kagiyama were followed by a Question and Answer forum. Here are a few comments on the event.

Photo of night sky submitted to the Campus Chronicle by Ashley Rainwater, Registrar's Office.

Photo submitted to the Campus Chronicle by Ashley Rainwater, Registrar's Office.

Karen Kagiyama works for the United Methodist Church as a campus minister at the Wesley Center. She works mainly with students but is also available to staff and faculty. Her presentation was titled, "How to Stop Arguing with Science and Embrace and Care for the Creation." Here are her thoughts on the event:

“I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of the students' questions and their desire to synthesize the scientific information with their own beliefs, commitments and understandings. I especially enjoyed working with Dr. Novack-Gottshall and Dr. Bartley. I was thoroughly fascinated by Dr. Novack-Gottshall's presentation.

I hope there will be more opportunities to bring together concerns about faith, ethics, and how we live together as a community seeking the good with academic interests. Students live their lives outside the classroom, too, and this was an opportunity for them to see how their studies connect with the world.”

Dr. Phil Novack-Gottshall, assistant professor of Geosciences, made a presentation titled, "Evolution: Two centuries since Darwin." Here are his thoughts:

“I was surprised, but very glad that the event last night was well attended and the audience was very enthusiastic and receptive. I estimate there were approximately 125 students, faculty, and community residents in a room that only had about 80 chairs! Besides being the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, who shares the same exact birthday as Abraham Lincoln, both on Feb. 12, 1809, this year is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's classic "On the Origin of Species."

"I spoke on Darwin's contributions to science and gave a few examples of amazing recent discoveries in evolutionary studies. These included the more than 20 species of feathered and even flying dinosaurs discovered in China since 1980. I also showed off two online databases: the Paleobiology Database, which junior Paul Hearn and I have submitted data to, and GenBank, which includes the Human Genome Project and allows anyone to view DNA for thousands of different species of plants and animals.

"The Rev. Karen Kagiyama gave a presentation on the complementary relationship between science and Christianity, and religion in general. Afterward, we had a very engaging panel moderated by Dr. Julie Bartley where the audience asked Rev. Karen and me questions covering a wide range of topics, including ethics and morality, stem cell research, teaching evolution in the public schools and how paleontologists study the fossil record.

"All in all, it was a great success, and we appreciate all the support of the Department of Geosciences and the many faculty who encouraged their students to attend."

Dr. Julie Bartley, professor of geology, moderated a discussion after the two presentations.

“One of the things that impressed me was the high level of interest in the topics on the part of the audience, which included students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. The Q&A at the end of the evening was well attended and discussion was lively and without hostility. Participants came away with an appreciation for the ways in which science and faith can communicate more richly and find common ground in seeking ways to live better on this planet. Rev. Kagiyama shared her insights on the roles of faith and science as ways of appreciating creation and argued that science and faith have much in common. Dr. Novack-Gottshall impressed the audience with examples of evolution in action and new discoveries that change the way we think about the planet’s past."

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