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DoSER 25th Anniversary Symposium

Forward Together: Where Science, Ethics, & Religion Intersect in a Changing World

In honor of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) program’s 25th anniversary, we hosted a half-day virtual symposium called “Forward Together: Where Science, Ethics, and Religion Intersect in a Changing World.”

The symposium included panel presentations and small group discussions on topics at the forefront of the science-religion dialogue, the broad impacts of science on human life and society, and the importance of faith communities for enabling the broadest benefits of scientific advances. Speakers included Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, Dr. David Anderson, Dr. Sudip Parikh, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, and many more!

To view the recordings of all symposium sessions, please visit our event website.

 

Opening Plenary

Why is the dialogue between science and religion important?

Most people, including many scientists, claim a religious affiliation. Scientists seeking to foster genuinely inclusive discourse about science and society issues should be prepared to engage respectfully and constructively with people of faith. This session discussed why dialogue between scientific and religious communities is important and the work that the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion program has done to foster this engagement.

Speakers:

  • Nalini Nadkarni, Professor of Biology, University of Utah
  • Jennifer Wiseman, Director, AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion Program
  • Moderator: Katy Hinman, Associate Director, AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion Program

Breakout Sessions

How has this dialogue changed our understanding, and what does the future hold?

Evolution

Many people see conflicts between the theory of biological evolution and their own belief systems and religious identity. In this session, panelists discussed their work engaging with religious communities about biological evolution in ways that respect diverse worldviews, including religious and spiritual beliefs.

Speakers:

  • Levi Morran, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Emory University
  • Briana Pobiner, Paleoanthropologist, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History
  • Moderator: John Slattery, Senior Program Associate, AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion Program

Climate and Environment

In the US, religious communities are working closely with scientists, civic leaders, and policymakers to address the causes and effects of climate change. In this session, panelists discussed current climate science research and how elements of various faith traditions, combined with cutting-edge science, can provide resources and tools for communities.

Speakers:

  • Nana Firman, Senior Ambassador, GreenFaith
  • J. Marshall Shepherd, Director, Atmospheric Sciences Program, University of Georgia
  • Moderator: Emily Therese Cloyd, Director, AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology

Public Health

Discourse around the COVID-19 epidemic, including vaccine development, distribution, and acceptance, illustrates the importance of thoughtful engagement on public health issues. During this session, panelists explored pressing health issues, their societal impacts, and the potential role religious leaders and communities can play in public health efforts.

Speakers:

  • Michaela Howells, Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Wilmington
  • Pamela Payne Foster, Professor, University of Alabama School of Medicine in Tuscaloosa
  • Moderator: Se Kim, Director of Membership and Governance, National Academy of Medicine

Race and Racial Justice

Race is a social construct, yet has real impacts on our biology as individuals and on communities. Just as science has been responsible for creating and perpetuating harmful conceptions of race, the processes of science can help us understand the complexities of human diversity and address the structures of history, politics, culture, economics, and health that underlie racial divisions. This session explored race from a scientific perspective, as well as the role that religion and faith communities have played in both perpetuating racism and in fostering racial justice.

Speakers:

  • Terence Keel, Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the UCLA Institute for Society & Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Elonda Clay, Director of the Library, Methodist Theological School of Ohio (MTSO)
  • Moderator: Shirley Malcom, Senior Advisor and Director, SEA Change, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Genetics and Being Human

How do our genetics impact who we are, as individuals or as a species? During this session, panelists shared perspectives on recent advances in genetics, how genetic research can be applied (or misapplied), and how this work can inform our understanding of who we are.

Speakers:

  • Praveen Sethupathy, Director, Center for Vertebrate Genomics, Cornell University
  • Noah Collins, Scientist, Variant Bio
  • Moderator: Rob O’Malley, Project Director, AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion Program

Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly a part of our daily life, which means forefront research in this field has significant societal implications. Panelists explored current advances in AI, the positive and negative implications, and engagement opportunities for the general public and religious communities in these discussions.

Speakers:

  • J. Nathan Matias, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Cornell University
  • Philip Reed Butler, Assistant Professor of Theology and Black Posthuman Artificial Intelligence Systems, Iliff School of Theology
  • Moderator: Curtis Baxter, Senior Program Associate, AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion Program

Closing Plenary

Shared Values: Building trust and connections between scientific and faith communities

While studies have shown that public trust in science as a whole is strong, questions often arise about public confidence in specific scientific advances and how scientific evidence is created, understood, and applied by people. While science can inform public discourse on forefront science issues, values and identity also play a role in how people ultimately understand and respond. In this plenary, Dr. Sudip Parikh and Dr. David Anderson discussed the importance of public trust in science and the role that faith communities can play in fostering engagement on science and society.   

Speakers: 

  • Sudip Parikh, CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • David Anderson, founder and senior pastor, Bridgeway Community Church and founder and President, BridgeLeader Network
  • Moderator: Jennifer Wiseman, Director, AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion Program