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2014-2015 Archived Events

Catholicism and Science

April 14, 2015
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Drawing one of the most diverse crowds at an RPLP event, director Elaine Howard Ecklund welcomed over 100 attendees to a conference on April 14. Co-sponsored with University of St. Thomas’ Center for Faith and Culture, the conference was held on the St. Thomas campus. Ecklund’s presentation of survey data from the Religious Understandings of Science (RUS) study set the stage for an in-depth look at American Catholics’ views of various scientific issues. Through a nationally representative survey as well as over 300 interviews with religious Americans, the RUS project provides valuable data on respondents’ religious practices, interest in science, perceptions of the relationship between science and religion, as well as their views on controversial scientific topics like human origins, in-vitro fertilization, and climate change. During her presentation Ecklund stressed the divergence between Catholic laity and official church teachings in several topics, including evolution and in-vitro fertilization. When reflecting back on this during the open discussion, Ecklund highlighted the need for conversation between local congregations and the official church.

Civil Religion and Religious CivilityCivil Religion and Religious Civility

February 25, 2015
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On the morning of February 25, the Religion and Public life Program hosted “Civil Religion and Religious Civility." Richard Mouw, former president of Fuller Theological Seminary and currently Professor of Faith and Public Life at Fuller, spoke about the role of religious arguments in the public, political, and legal spheres. RPLP director Elaine Howard Ecklund served as facilitator and engaged Mouw with questions written by RPLP undergraduate fellows. As a scholar of Christian philosophy and ethics, Mouw addressed some of the contentious questions about how religious arguments and other debates could be both helpful and hurtful in the public sphere. Following the discussion, Mouw answered questions from the audience in an open Q&A.

Public Religion in AmericaPublic Religion in America

January 30, 2015
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Penny Edgell, Professor of Sociology at University of Minnesota, lectured to an audience of 80 students, faculty, and community members at Rice University on January 30th. She presented findings from her latest research on Americans' attitudes toward public religious expression.

Fertility Gods: A Public Conversation on Reproduction and Religion

November 14, 2014
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Fertility Gods event 2RPLP Director Elaine Howard Ecklund opened this event held on Friday, November 14th by framing the conversation: “Having babies seems like a personal and private decision, but we know that reproduction can also be incredibly public.” Each of the three distinguished panelists held a deep understanding of reproduction as public and private as part of their diverse professional backgrounds. Dr. Rene Almeling, who completed her undergraduate degree at Rice, is a sociologist at Yale University who has published a book about narratives used by sperm and egg donors and is currently undertaking a project examining knowledge-making about men’s role in reproduction. Dr. Arlene Macdonald is a faculty member at the University of Texas Medical Branch and is involved in multi-disciplinary efforts to study intersections of religion, spirituality, and medicine. Her current research examines narratives involved with organ tissue donation. Dr. Eric Mazur is a practicing gynecologist in Houston whose specializations include fertility preservation.


Matter and Meaning: Exploring the Religion and Science Dialogue

October 24, 2014
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RUS conferenceA diverse group of community members gathered at the Rice University Bioscience Research Collaborative with a common goal: better understanding and navigating the complex relationship between science and religion. Religious leaders, scientists, students, and engaged citizens filed into the auditorium to hear RPLP Director Elaine Howard Ecklund present findings from the Religious Understandings of Science (RUS) study. The results were drawn from more than 300 interviews and from over 10,000 responses to a nationally representative survey. RUS is the largest study ever conducted of religious people’s views on science. At the close of the plenary session, attendees broke for lunch with fresh information about the relationship between religion and science—matter and meaning—and prepared to move into more targeted afternoon sessions to further develop their perspectives. More than 25 people packed a conference room to hear Dr. John Evans, a sociologist from the University of California at San Diego, speak about the beliefs of religious people towards reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs), which he defined as “technology that allows parents to influence the genetic qualities of their offspring.” Occurring concurrently was "Diverse Religious Approaches to Religion and Science," a breakout session featuring Dr. Alejandro Chaoul, Assistant Professor at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; Dr. John Mark Reynolds, Professor of Philosophy and Provost at Houston Baptist University; and Dr. Norbert Samuelson, Professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University. During a breakout session titled "Religious and Scientific Views on Human Origins," Dr. Ronald Numbers, Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine Emeritus at University of Wisconsin-Madison, explored the debate between science and religion, the concept of “Flood Geology," and scientific appropriation and reinterpretation. Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor of Political Science & Climate Scientist at Texas Tech University, spoke about the intersection between climate science and religion at a breakout session titled “Religious Response to Environmental Care.”