On Wednesday, March 29, Saint Martin’s University will host Celia Deane-Drummond, Ph.D., a professor of theology from the University of Notre Dame and the director of Notre Dame’s Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing, for a lecture entitled “Science and Theology in Dialogue: What Does Evolutionary Anthropology Contribute to Theology?”
The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. at the Norman Worthington Conference Center, 5300 Pacific Ave. SE, on Saint Martin’s Lacey campus.
In her lecture, Dr. Deane-Drummond will examine how evolution and creation are not, in fact, at odds with each other, but how we can have a better understanding of both if we put them together. She holds two doctorates: a doctorate in plant physiology from Reading University and a doctorate in theology from Manchester Victoria University’s.
Dr. Deane-Drummond’s visit is part of Saint Martin’s “Year of Reason” series, a slate of programs during the 2016-17 academic year in which the University’s students, faculty and staff reflect on the concept of Reason.
Reason is one of the core themes found in Saint Martin’s mission. As part of its current five-year strategic plan, and in lead up to the University’s 125th anniversary in 2020, the Saint Martin’s community is dedicating one whole year of reflection and dialogue for each of its four core themes: Faith, Reason, Service and Community.
“This is the first time in our history where we have spent a year thinking about what our core themes mean,” says Katie Bugyis, Ph.D., a religious studies professor at Saint Martin’s. “It gives us the opportunity to really think about our mission and how we make that mission visible to our school community as well as the wider community. It’s very exciting for both the students and the staff.”
Bugyis is leading the “Year of Reason,” which follows last year’s “Year of Faith” series, and wanted to stress that the four core themes are not separate but interrelated. This led her to focus on the dialogue between faith and science, in particular.
Religion and Faith. Reason and Science. These subjects have long been considered opposites or incompatible with each other. If you have a faith, you may have been taught to be suspicious of science, and those in the science community may believe religious followers have little or no reason.
“We want to show people that [faith and science] are actually handmaidens of each other and they need to go hand-in-hand,” Bugyis says.
She adds that this idea is not new, but part of a long-standing tradition within the Roman Catholic Church, with notable examples including Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. Yet, what most people remember are the conflicts, such as the debate around Galileo and the teachings of Darwin.
“Certainly the church has been responsible for making this either/or – either you’re on the side of faith or you are on the side of science,” says Bugyis. “However, Pope Francis has made such an important push as part of his pontificate to revitalize what’s called the ‘Court of The Gentiles.’ He has charged the person overseeing it to reinvigorate the dialogue between faith and reason. To that end, he is bringing scientists to the Vatican to talk about this topic, which is so great. It’s really hopeful to see this happening, and Saint Martin’s wants to be a part of that, as well. That’s why we are hosting this event.”
She says Dr. Deane-Drummond is considered the foremost expert in the United States on the connection between faith and science. Her training in both science and theology has opened new dialogue about how reason and faith co-exist and how evolution and creation complement each other in ways that may have never been discussed before. Dr. Deane-Drummond created the Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing at Notre Dame after receiving a grant from the Templeton Foundation, which “encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians,” according to the foundation. She has attracted students and faculty from other universities to come study these important questions on the intersection of science and theology.
“Of course, evolution has always been a very controversial topic,” says Bugyis. “When Darwin published his work, there was very negative backlash from Catholic and other Christian traditions. What Dr. Deane-Drummond is trying to show is that this account of human development or species development that we get from works like Darwin’s, is quite in accord with Catholic teachings about the nature of creation and how God works in all creation.”
Bugyis shares that Deane-Drummond is especially interested in what it means to be human, including new insights from evolutionary biology that are informing us on what it means to be human.
“A big part of this [“Year of Reason” series] is about educating the student body population about the Catholic tradition and this fruitful dialogue between faith and reason,” says Bugyis.
Although founded as a Catholic college in 1895 by a Benedictine order of monks, Saint Martin’s current student body population is quite diverse, with more than 20 different religions represented. In fact only about 38 percent of the undergraduate student population identify themselves as Catholics. Bugyis hopes this year’s programs will help answer questions and change how some of non-Catholics view the Catholic religion. The first event of the “Year of Reason” was a panel discussion with faculty, staff and the student debate team entitled, “Is Religion Reasonable?”
Says Bugyis, “It’s been amazing to see students participate in the programs and change their mind about Catholicism. Not that they are converting, but that they don’t see it as close-minded or doctrinaire. They see we are open to other religious traditions and also open to advances that have been made in science.”
For more information about Saint Martin’s University and the upcoming March 29 lecture, visit their website.