What do we want from a Viewpoints on Social Science and Religion panel?

Old Rugged Cross (flickr)

Last semester, Free@VT hosted a panel entitled “Viewpoints on Science and Religion”. As faculty co-advisor–to-be Zack Lewis explained in his opening remarks, one main purpose of the panel was to illustrate, for the largely student and resident audience, how people who are not philosophers or theologians can engage in a respectful and critical exchange about their disagreements on religion. By this measure the event was quite a success. A review by Ryan Pfeifle in the Collegiate Times described the event as “a fantastic opportunity to listen to the opinions of several of our own professors discuss a very divisive topic”, and went on to highlight the importance of such events:

In a world so polarized in views, we need to have rational discussions or debates like this to serve as a model through which our own debates can also take shape.

These discussions open a window into the rationality and thoughts of those who may feel differently from our own convictions, which helps in the understanding of other stances.

They also have the fantastic potential of tackling some of the subjects that make most individuals uneasy and ideas that most would prefer not to debate about at all.

We are now in the early stages of planning a sequel event. Rather than return to the science–religion discussion with new faces—while it is something we may eventually do—this time we plan to bring together faculty in the social sciences to discuss their views on religion, how these views intersect with their disciplines, and the questions they have for each other.

The organizers have come up with several broad questions and some specific topics panelists might discuss, and i have been contacting faculty in sociology, political science, and anthropology. We’re also seeking panelists from economics, history, and religious and cultural studies. Moreover we’re interested in what topics or questions our fellow club members might want the panel to address. We want this to be your event, too!

So, i’d like to invite our readers to share any thoughts they have about a Viewpoints on Social Science and Religion panel. In particular,

  1. Do you know any faculty in economics, history, religious and cultural studies, or other social science departments who might be interested in joining the panel? We are seeking faculty who are interested in engaging respectfully and critically with other faculty and the audience on sensitive questions about their own and others’ religious faiths, and how their religion or irreligion has influenced, or been influenced by, their work in social science. Both religious and irreligious panelists are still needed!
  2. What questions would you have for a faculty panel on social science and religion? Are you curious about secularism and the politicization of religion? or are you more interested in what the social sciences can say about religious belief itself? Your suggestions may help us scout out faculty who can speak to these questions.
  3. Are you interested in  helping to organize this event? There will be plenty to do—booking, coordinating with potential partner groups (e.g. Cru), advertising, planning and timing the event itself—and your time will be highly valued!

If you have something to say but would rather not put it in a comment, feel free to email me at freeatvtlib@[the usual VT domain].

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About Cory

Cory is a graduate student at Virginia Tech who studies algebraic geometry in the Department of Mathematics and network analysis at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. He is an active member of the Freethinkers at Virginia Tech and takes particular interest in alternative sexualities, sustainable living, and coffee.

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