Posted by: COSI | October 14, 2009

Should I Be Nervous?

It has become an annual event now for us to host with WOSU and OSU the partnership effort that brings a panel discussion of the intersection of religion and science to our community. (A Templeton Foundation grant has afforded us the ability to make this an evolving dialogue over several years).

I find it interesting that in our society this is often an uncomfortable and/or contentious conversation. So each year I anticipate the evening with excitement and a little bit of trepidation. I usually get at least one earful a year from someone who feels that we were not balanced enough or that we didn’t tilt in the direction of their point of view enough. And we usually show up on blogs or websites that tend to be at an end of the thought spectrum with reviews and some criticism—either of the speakers or the partners pulling this together.

Having or promoting a position is not the point in my mind. I hope that by our efforts people can look at the intersection of religion and science not as a clash of cultures but two different lenses through which to look at our world and make meaning. If participants (on-site or through WOSU’s media channels) can embrace a widening of their points of view and an appreciation for other perspectives then maybe that’s what we’ve been able to contribute.

The speakers are always fascinating and well known in many circles. (Of course there was the year that I didn’t prep well for the event and was stupidly asking Dr. Francis Collins “so what do you do?” This was directed at the National Medal of Honor awardee who had led the well publicized and notable federal government’s efforts on mapping and sequencing the human genome! I rationalize that since I had had Dr. Craig Venter at my previous museum—who had led the private initiative that I was tuned into the effort, but limited to one side of the equation. I had thought of dropping Dr. Collins a congratulations note since he was recently named head of the huge National Institute for Health (NIH) – but thought maybe I’d not left the best personal impression and should let my uninformed actions fade in his memory;-)

Anyway, the panelists today– Moderator Neal Conan, host of NPR’s Talk of the Nation; Dr. Francisco Ayala, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Irvine and author of Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion; Dr. Denis Lamoureux, Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta, Canada, author of Evolutionary Creation and co-author of Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins; and Dr. Eugenie Scott, American physical anthropologist and executive director of the National Center for Science Education and author of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction— are all notable thinkers in this arena (and I’ve looked up their backgrounds better this time!).

I think they will stimulate thought and command respect–but then I never know how the public reaction will be. It should be another interesting evening in more ways than one.

What do you think about COSI hosting more events of public interest related to science, even when the topics may have some controversy around them?

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