Faith, science and uncertainty in an academic world

Satyan Devadoss (left) and Greta Binford (right) host an event revolving around their experiences with faith in academics. Photo by Hanna Wright

The Veritas Forum “Spiderwebs, Symmetry, and Spirituality” was a unique opportunity to listen to two accomplished professors, Lewis & Clark Professor of Biology Greta Binford and Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of San Diego Satyan Devadoss, discuss how they reconcile religion and science. The talk was hosted in the Council Chamber and moderated by Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies and Director of Ethnic Studies Kundai Chirindo on Sept. 17.

The Veritas Forum is a Christian organization which aims to put the Christian faith in dialogue with other beliefs in order to bring both parties closer to the truth.

“The Veritas Forum invites students and faculty to ask life’s hardest questions,” the site says. “With a commitment to courageous discourse we put the historic Christian faith in dialogue with other beliefs and invite participants from all backgrounds to pursue Truth together.”

Catholic Student Life Coordinator Anne Le Chevailler brought the forum to LC. 

“The goal was to be ecumenical,” Le Chevallier said.

Ecumenism describes an effort by different Christian denominations to find common ground. Dean of Spiritual Life Mark Duntley said this forum was meant to extend the discussion beyond Christianity and be inclusive of all people.

“As an academic community, people of faith and people of no faith or uncertainty can come together and they can talk and learn and better understand each other,” Duntley said.

Binford, who is agnostic, kicked off the discussion with the story of her Methodist upbringing in rural Indiana. When she began to explore biology and pursue a career in research, her religious beliefs were replaced by a fascination with science.

“A transition happened within me that I wasn’t aware of at the time,” Binford said. “But the wonder I felt for the hand of God in creation easily and peacefully transitioned to a wonder about the processes of evolution.”

She mused on the irony of the discovery of a 330 million-year-old fossil bed on her family farm, where she had been taught to believe in the creation story in the Bible.

“I started asking myself would God put material evidence on Earth that contradicted his word?” Binford said. “I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which that was true.” 

While she is respectful of Christian beliefs, Binford listed her concerns about the societal impacts of Christianity. 

“The kind of otherism that is promoted by the divisiveness in religious communities I think is rife for fueling racism,” Binford said.

Devadoss then took the stage. He used graphs and diagrams to show how mathematics, science and the humanities are often associated with certain levels of intelligence in India, where he grew up, and in the United States. He argued that people who think that STEM majors are smarter than humanities majors are missing a certain level of complexity.

“Behind the scenes is there’s a sense of complexity that we don’t get,” Devadoss said. “The reason we can put somebody on Mars or the moon is because that’s easy. The reason we have a hard time forgiving one another and loving one another and showing kindness to one another is because that’s hard.”

He explained that religion can help people answer complex and difficult questions such as whether or not people have free will and what to do with that free will. He then explained why he chose Christianity as his religion.

“The thing that I find unique about the Christian story … is that it deeply values the physical world,” Devadoss said. “It says that actually matter matters. It says that God will not destroy this world, he will renew it. He will give us a different, more amazing physical world, the way it was meant to be.” 

He said that he believes in about 75% of Christianity, and that although the other 25% does not make sense to him, he is 100% committed to the religion.

About Amelia Eichel 36 Articles
Mia started contributing to The Pioneer Log during her freshman year and became a news editor in the fall semester of her junior year. Upon returning from her study abroad program in Morocco, she became Head of Broadcasting and started The PioPod. Now, as Managing Editor, she is dedicated to implementing bottom-up journalism and multimedia coverage at The Piolog. Mia is a religious studies major and is writing her thesis on quantum ontology. She is pursuing storytelling and entrepreneurship after she graduates in May.

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