Date: October 29, 2008
“Religion and science meet at nature,” stated Niels-Erik Andreasen, president of Andrews University, while addressing the crowd at the third annual Autumn Conference hosted by the Andrews University Religion and Science Forum and the Midwest Religion and Science Society. “Nature is a picture of God through creation. All the references to the splendor of creation, the Grand Canyon, the blue skies…They are all transparent statements drawing our attention to the Creator.”
On Saturday, Oct. 25, a science and religion forum was held on the campus of Andrews University to discuss the topic of “Religion and Consciousness.” The conference was designated to honor the accepted proposal of establishing the Midwest Center of Religion and Consciousness (MCRC) under the funding of the Metanexus Foundation, the largest foundation of the study of religion and science in the world. The center will focus on gaining research about current issues revolving around science, religion and the mysteries of consciousness.
Karen K. Abrahamson, managing editor for Andrews University Seminary Studies, and Steve Harnish, professor of mathematics at Bluffton University in Bluffton, Ohio, will be the first research fellows for the new center. Both are current steering committee members of the Midwest Religion and Science Society (MRSS).
Organizers, presenters and leaders of the conference events included an interdenominational group comprised of Seventh-day Adventist, Anabaptist, Church of the Brethren and Catholic backgrounds.
The forum began Saturday morning with breakfast and a devotional thought given by Steven Crain, campus pastor for Manchester College, Manchester, Ind., and assistant professor of philosophy and theology at the University of St. Francis, Joliet, Ill. These were followed by the Presidents’ Addresses, given by James Brenneman, president of Goshen College, Goshen, Ind., and Niels-Erik Andreasen. These Old Testament scholars gave the first of the morning’s presentations in the physics amphitheater of Haughey Hall.
“This is wonderful stuff! It just awes me to learn about a God who pours Himself out into the world,” emphasized Brenneman.
Following a short Q&A led by Carl Helrich, MRSS director from Goshen College, Harnish launched a presentation on the topic, “Clay in the Hands of the Potter.” His feature reflected God’s world of order, complexity and consciousness. Abrahamson followed, focusing on “Consciousness, Complexity, Beauty and Responsibility.” Her approach took a more philosophical standpoint and challenged the audience to figure out what connects humanity to nature, saying that people should, “look at nature to gain a better understanding of God because His blueprint is all over it.”
Upon the end of the lectures, lunch was served, followed by an interdisciplinary panel discussion. The discussions examined the role of consciousness in a given member’s field of expertise. Ten members were asked about their moral/ethical responsibilities of human consciousness, six of whom serve as faculty and professors at Andrews University.
Breakout sessions were held in small groups as a follow-up to the panel discussions. Then, a synthesis session with the entire group was organized to discuss what everyone had learned. Later in the evening, a supper and vespers service ended the conference.
Helrich summed up the day’s events best, saying, “I appreciated all of the presentations today. I learned more about Seventh-day Adventist teachings than I knew before. These new thoughts present me with a sense of wonder. There is, indeed, an embodiment of both science and religion in who we are.”
-Written by Ashleigh Jardine, student news writer, Office of Integrated Marketing & Communication