MC Community Conversations Series to offer ‘Perspectives on Science and Religion'

September 18, 2003
David Rasnake, Communications Assistant

This fall, the Community Conversations Series at Maryville College invites students, faculty, staff and community members to explore “Perspectives on Science and Religion.” Organized by the College’s Community Conversations Committee, the series of four lectures will bring experts from across the nation to the College campus to offer their insights on the unique ways in which science and religion attempt to make sense of the world.

On Monday, Sept. 29, local expert Dr. Neil Greenberg will open the Community Conversations Series with a presentation entitled “Science and Religion: Sibling Rivalry and Reconciliation.” Greenberg, who serves as professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, is expected speak on the strong connections, and the perceived conflicts, between science and spirituality.

Noted historian Dr. Edward J. Larson will be on the Maryville College campus Thursday, Oct. 16, to discuss “America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion,” which is the topic of his lecture. An expert on history and law who teaches at the University of Georgia, Larson has received national attention as the author of Summer for the Gods. The work, which details the history of the Scopes “monkey trial” of 1925 and challenges many popular assumptions about the event, won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in history.

The fall series will conclude during the week of Nov. 3 with two events. On Monday, Nov. 3, Dr. Noreen Herzfeld, professor of computer science at St. John’s University, will be on hand to discuss the issues that arise “When Theology and Technology Meet.” Her 2002 publication, In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit, addresses the moral and theological issues raised by technological advances in artificial intelligence.

Dr. Trinh Xuan Thuan, professor of astronomy at the University of Virginia, will bring the series to a close on Thursday, Nov. 6, with his presentation, “Science and Buddhism: Gentle Bridges.” Most recently, Thuan co-authored The Quantum and the Lotus, an exploration of the connections between science and Buddhist spirituality.

According to Community Conversations Committee member and assistant professor of psychology Dr. Crystal Wright, the series is designed to encourage community members to think about their own views on current political and social issues and develop informed personal stances on these topics.

“ Our hope is that the fall series will raise awareness and knowledge about issues of science and religion and will help individuals to examine, evaluate, and perhaps reconcile … their own views on science and religion,” Wright stated.

Wright also noted that all events in this year’s Series are designed to present a balanced viewpoint on both religion and science and encourage attendees to think about what the two fields have in common, rather than the points on which they are at odds.

The “Perspectives on Science and Religion” Series is the second such Community Conversations event that the College has hosted. During the spring, “The Iraq Question in Real Time” brought representatives from the community, government officials and experts to the College for a month of discussions and lectures on different aspects of the Iraq conflict.

According to Wright, planning for a Spring 2004 Community Conversations Series, featuring a number of topical discussions, is already underway.

Community Conversations events will be held in the Lawson Auditorium of Fayerweather Hall on the Maryville College campus. Lectures begin at 7 p.m.; question and answer sessions will follow.

All events are free and open to the public.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester is 1,168.