Last summer I heard of a Science in Seminaries initiative at John Carroll University in Cleveland. The organizers were offering course development grants made possible by funding from the John Templeton Foundation. Some colleagues at Holy Apostles College and Seminary asked me what I thought about a course proposal.
I walk my dog Benny a lot, to exercise and to think. What kind of faith and science course is needed? If the doors are wide open, what would you teach to seminarians? So it was, that while crossing a field in the light of the morning sun, the idea dawned, simple but compelling. What is the one thing a non-scientist seminarian needs to do to be able to navigate the modern faith and science discussion? He needs to be able to read scientific papers. Teach him how.
Reading Science in the Light of Faith
Scientific papers are like the newspapers of current events. They explain the latest research in the context of its background and its potential impact in the future. If a person wants to know what is going on in science, then scientific journals are the way to find out.
Scholars talk about the unity of faith and science, but they do so, ironically, apart from the rest of the people. The faith and science dialogue of today, in my opinion, needs communicators—people who can bridge from scholarship to popular media responsibly, people who can read scientific papers and Church documents and who can synthesize a message that will guide the laity. Seminarians can already read Church documents. To learn to read scientific papers, they need to be shown how to transfer that skill to a new kind of document. They need to know how to find the relevant details and how to explain the “science in the light of faith.”
The course is thus titled, “Reading Science in the Light of Faith.” Holy Apostles College and Seminary was awarded a $10,000 grant (see the announcement here) to develop the course. We are offering it this Fall 2016 and partnering with ITEST (Institute for the Theological Encounter with Science and Technology) to publish the essays from the course so the seminarian will not only learn how to read and communicate, but he will have the opportunity (publishing is optional) to actually do it for the public. To narrow the focus, the first section is dedicated to topics related to Pope St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of Body, so we will select papers from evolutionary biology, genetics, or neuroscience as it relates to the human body.
Here is the information page at ITEST (where the papers will be published) with a brief course description.
NOTE: The course is primarily offered to seminarians, and it is offered tuition-free thanks to the grant. However, the course is also open at a reduced tuition to other theology and philosophy students for credit. If you are not a philosophy or theology student and do not want college credit—but you would like to take the course anyway—we are offering a free version of the course as well. More information as it is available.
We are currently compiling a list of people who are interested, so we can send out more specific information about enrollment as the Fall semester draws near. Email me at email@example.com (or the other email address on the site). Thank you!