Christian symposium explores faith in STEM

By GIULIANA LEOTTA | February 22, 2018

The second annual Symposium on Christian Faith, Reason, and Vocation took place on Saturday, Feb. 17. The symposium was hosted by the University’s 8:32 Society along with the Hopkins Dialectic journal, the Public Health Christian Fellowship, the Graduate Christian Fellowship and the Thomistic Institute. Nigel M. de S. Cameron delivered the keynote address, titled “Can We Stay Human in the Digital Age?” 

Cameron is a bioethicist, author and the current president and CEO of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies, a Christian bioethics research center at Trinity International University. 

In his keynote address, Cameron explored the field of new technologies and called for Christians to think critically about the future.

“We have a system of government which appeals to the laziness in our thinking,” he said. “This produces a situation of peculiar challenge for anyone thinking about what’s going to happen next, and particularly for those... we call Christians.”

He argued that as technology advances further, there is a greater need to look for insight from the Bible.

“The more demanding the questions raised by science and technology, social developments, political developments, year by year, the more relevant the earlier chapters of the first book of the Bible become,” he said. 

Throughout the course of his talk, Cameron touched on various fields that will be affected by innovation and technology, and he concluded that people must use wisdom when taking steps towards development.

He called for Christians to become more informed about technological topics.

Several undergraduates expressed their interest in the keynote address, like sophomore Isabella Castillo, who commented on how Cameron’s emphasis on wisdom resonated with her. 

“[Cameron] made me think when he said, ‘wisdom takes time,’” she said. “Sometimes we shy away from pursuing reason or logic because we think they are dichotomous of our faith, but they intersect because God says ‘love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul.’ ‘Mind’ is there.”

Castillo added that institutions of higher education should engage their students in conversations about how certain fields overlap with one another.

“We shouldn’t shy away from trying to pursue... knowledge,” she said. “[It] allows us to gather some wisdom, to be able to have conversations with people who are higher in academia and to think about our faith and about how those two intersect.”

Some faculty members in attendance talked about the need for interdisciplinary approaches to research and University collaboration. They find events like these, which are open to undergraduates, graduates, faculty and alumni, to be essential to the intellectual development of the University. 

Earth and Planetary Sciences Professor Anand Gnanadesikan, who was a speaker during a later panel in the symposium, commented on the interdisciplinary nature of the Symposium and its benefit to the Hopkins community.

“Last year, we had people from history of science, Earth and Planetary Sciences, theology, engineering and business,” he said. “I think that’s very healthy; I don’t think we see enough of that at Hopkins, actually. Real intellectual engagement across school divisions rarely happens. In some departments, it rarely happens within the department.”

The Symposium also featured Topical Ethics Panels on medicine, business and technology following the keynote address. After lunch for the attendees, interviews were conducted with Gnanadesikan and Professor Marie Nolan, Executive Vice Dean of the School of Nursing.

The event concluded with the Interdisciplinary “Wrap-Up” Panel titled “Living Out Our Ethics” with Dr. Cameron and various other panelists. 

Caroline West, a sophomore and associate editor for the Dialectic, helped organize the event. She was involved in planning last year’s Symposium as well. She noted some differences between the first and second Symposium.

“We had an eight-person planning team, not just [undergraduates] but also a couple of graduate students [and] faculty members in various divisions of Hopkins,” she said.

West elaborated on some of the differences between last year’s symposium and this year’s, which she characterized as having a broader reach.

“Last year, the keynote address was on faith and science, but mainly on faith, reason and vocation. We [also] had break-out panels on how we live out our faith in various fields,” she said.

Ananda Kumar has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Hopkins and helped organize the Symposium. He moderated both this year’s and last year’s panels and praised the undergraduate moderators for being proactive. 

“I see more [undergraduates] taking ownership,” Kumar said.

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