Panel Discussion on Science and Religion Engages Audience

Nat McCloud ’23, Staff Writer

Dickinson faculty participated in a panel to discuss the interactions between science and religion in contemporary society.

The panel was led by Professor of Chemistry and Science Education at Shippensburg University, Dr. Joseph Shane. Shane has spent his career as a science educator, teaching chemistry at a high school level before becoming a professor. He is also an Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Carlisle. 

Shane first became interested in the relationship between science and religion during Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a 2005 case decided by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in which residents in York County, Pa brought suit against the Dover Area School District in York County over a district requirement that biology classes teach intelligent design as an alternate to evolution, and the use of a textbook which teaches intelligent design as the true origin of all organisms. The judge in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was John E. Jones ’77 and a graduate of Dickinson Law School in 1980. Jones ruled that including intelligent design violated the Establishment Clause of the First  Amendment to the United States Constitution. Shane called Jones’ decision from that case “a marvelous piece of writing.”

Shane walked through the four ways that people describe the interaction between science and religion, which are conflict, independence, integration, or dialogue, while appraising the merits of each approach and describing some of the central figures to each school of thought. He then briefly discussed how religions other than Christianity unified the two fields. 

A panel discussion was then held and opened dialogue up to audience members. The panel consisted of Professor of Religion and Sophia Ava Asbell chair in Judaic Studies, Andrea Lieber, Director of the College Farm, Jenn Haplin, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Catrina Hamilton Draeger, and Assistant Professor of Earth Science and Geophysics, Jordan Hayes.

Lieber was the most outspoken member of the panel. She criticized Shane for his focus on Christianity and challenged the audience to consider the complexity of religion and science as disciplines. “Science and religion are both worldviews. It’s only Protestantism that makes religion about faith. Many of the problems that Judaism and science have are tensions in the ethical questions,” Lieber said.

Audience members asked the panel questions about reconciling faith with recent scientific discoveries and how to promote understanding of religious concepts without teaching them in schools.

Georgia Dahm ’23 thought the panel would be personally interesting. “I’m Christian and have always been interested in how to figure that out with science,”  

See Panel, page 4

she said and continued that she was glad to see professor “incorporate their faith into their work.”  She continued, “It’s an opportunity to reinterpret religion with scientific evidence.”

Hillel Finder ’22 attended the lecture because it intersects with interests he has had since high school. He said that religion “doesn’t usually come up [in class]” and that it was interesting hearing professor talk about religion. “Talking to them as a person, [it is] always nice to remember they are people,” he said.

The event was sponsored by the Center for Spirituality and Social Justice, as well as the Carlisle Area Religious Council, a nonprofit interfaith organization that promotes understanding and relationships between the various faiths in the community. This event took place on Monday, Oct. 7 in the Stern Great Room at 7:00 p.m.