The Hopkins Dialectic, a new student journal, will examine the intersection of Christianity with science, philosophy and literature. The journal was founded last semester by sophomore Karl Johnson and plans to publish its first issue next month.
“Over the summer, some friends and I, we wanted to create a response to a lot of different questions and criticisms people have about Christianity like ‘Why is this in the Old Testament? It seems immoral,’” Johnson, who serves as editor-in-chief, said. “[We wanted] to research some of these questions and write out responses and have them for the campus.”
Johnson’s brother then told him about the Augustine Collective, a network of Christian-based publications at colleges across the country, including all eight Ivy League institutions.
The Collective inspired Johnson to move forward with his plan to establish a journal at Hopkins. He began discussing the idea with Christian students at the beginning of the fall semester to gauge interest and found that many wanted to be involved.
“We met a lot over the fall semester to talk about what we wanted this journal to be, what types of things we wanted to write about, what was our tact, what was our presence on campus,” Johnson said.
The Dialectic team has been working on writing and editing, fundraising and marketing since Thanksgiving. Their funds have primarily come from alumni, churches and a Go-Fund-Me page.
In order to increase their presence on campus, Dialectic has been hosting open forums for the student body to discuss religious issues. Johnson said such events also promote the ultimate purpose of the journal.
“The name ‘Dialectic’ is synonymous with a discussion, a conversation, not an argument or a debate, that tries not to get to a single answer but just an open-ended discussion,” Johnson said. “Ultimately, what we want this journal to be is a discussion off the page.”
One of the recent forums was titled Beyond Nature: Investigating the Crossroads of Science and Religion and was held on March 3 in Gilman Hall.
The Dialectic co-hosted the event with the Hopkins chapter of The Triple Helix, a researched-based scientific journal. The event provoked conversation about how Hopkins students feel about the intersection between science and religion.
Sophomore Alizay Jalisi, the chair of event planning for The Triple Helix, explained why the club decided to collaborate with The Dialectic to put on the event.
“The Triple Helix is an international student-run organization that promotes dialogue about the interdisciplinary nature of science,” Jalisi wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “The Hopkins Dialectic is a new journal on Christian thought on campus, and as a forum for science in society, there was no better way for The Triple Helix to promote dialogue on the seemingly conflicting nature of science and religion than to co-host a discussion.”
Johnson started off the discussion by asking the participants about what science and religion meant to them and if they believed that the two areas were different from faith and reason.
Freshman Vrshank Ravi spoke about the ways that he saw his own culture and religion deal with science and religion.
“I’m personally a Hindu, a non-Christian... At least back home [in India] I see a very different dichotomy,” Ravi said. “You see people who are very religious but at the same time are also mostly engineers or doctors. At the same time every morning I see them praying to God or doing some ritual, and then they go about their job like it’s completely separate... They say they’re doing the ritual because it gives them some sort of mental peace.”
Ravi then posed the question of whether science and religion can coexist. Sophomore Alex Rivera believes that the two go hand in hand.
“I don’t think that science could have happened without religion,” Rivera said. “I think the basis of religion is believing in something greater than yourself, and in science we’re essentially trying to answer the same question — where do we come from, who are we — except we’re going about it with a more mathematical or systematic approach.”
Rivera also believes that there is a crossover between history and theology.
“Religion has influenced so much of history,” Rivera said. “Up until a certain point in history they were almost the same thing. Europe was extremely Christian. You can’t study one without studying the other.”
Jalisi asked attendees if they believe faith and science are equally important in understanding truths that are fundamental to the universe. Sophomore Jesse Rines spoke about how studying science at Hopkins has positively impacted his own faith.
“On a personal level I’m a biomedical engineering student here. For me, studying science only deepens my faith because I just get more and more amazed by the creation that has been laid out for us,” Rines said. “That’s a personal, spiritual thought and not everyone has to agree with that, but that’s how I experience the world. I can’t imagine a world where science makes sense without God. Because if God exists, he created the laws of physics, he created the laws of the universe. And if that’s true, he created the world that science seeks to try to understand.”
Johnson asked students how they believe science and religion have dealt with the evolution of human morality over the course of history. Johnson explained how science assumes that morality is something that evolved within society while religion argues that it can be taught through scripture.
Junior Jai Thakor believes that human morality is not something that is inherently biological or scientific.
“Morality doesn’t evolve necessarily the same way that we do biologically,” Thakor said. “Just because biologically we know that we adapt better to our environment, whereas [in] morality, when you look at what is right over the generations I think what is moral across the general population has been different and has changed according to the time period. So we haven’t necessarily evolved into something better, but evolved in the sense that we have changed.”
Overall, Johnson believes that Hopkins students should discuss both religion and science in the same context because it is integral to the diversity of opinion on campus.
“Regardless of one’s background, placing yourself in environments in which your opinion is not the majority is so important. The college years are often the beginning of a difficult but rewarding process of discovering what you truly believe in, what world view you hold to be true,” Johnson wrote. “Part of this discovery necessitates challenging the beliefs you grew up with, views about science and religion included. Often individuals, particularly those who identify as agnostic or atheist, imagine that the faith necessary for religion is incompatible with the scientific process. Personally, I wanted to discuss this topic because I don’t think that incompatibility holds.”
Jalisi agreed with Johnson’s point of view, and felt that attempting to understand the different ways in which people look at the world through science and religion can better society.
“I think that in an industrialized, pluralist society such as that of the U.S., we regularly encounter people from different religious belief systems and walks of life and interpret innovation and scientific discovery very differently,” Jalisi said. “Promoting dialogue about the myriad of perspectives that exist in our society might help us better understand each other and solve scientific problems that plague us as a society.”
Johnson explained to The News-Letter that he would like to keep the journal itself Christian-based.
“It’s not just a platform for all kinds of religious discussion... As an editor, I just won’t feel comfortable editing pieces from other’s perspectives. I have no idea or much less of an idea of where they’re coming from,” he said. “And is their theology right? And it’s just easier to communicate and coordinate with people within the groups that founded it.”
However, Johnson said he would be open to occasionally featuring point-counterpoint style articles or articles discussing an issue through the lens of a non-Christian religion.
The Dialectic team plans to publish an issue once a semester going forward.
Johnson said he did consider the fact that Hopkins is a primarily science and technology based school when deciding whether the go forward with founding the Dialectic.
“[It] gave me reservations but also inspiration... Hopkins is very STEM-focused and because of that, not as many of these conversations happen all the time I think,” Johnson said. “This is an explicit platform to foster that kind of dialogue both within Christian circles but also importantly outside of it, too. I think it’s exciting to catalyze that kind of conversation... I think a great resource in college is the diversity of thought.”