Where Science and Religion Combine – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Where Science and Religion Combine

This spring, Professor of Religious Studies Emerita Mary Gerhart presented a lecture as part of her appointment as a Senior Research Fellow at the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago. Her address, “The Divine Conjectures: a Scientist and a Theologian Search for Meaning and Purpose in the Universe,” was coauthored by Professor of Physics Emeritus Allan M. Russell. A version of the lecture will be published in the June 2008 issue of Zygon under the title “The Divine Conjectures: A Contemporary Account of Human Origins and Destiny.”

In March, Gerhart also lectured on the chapter on consciousness and self-consciousness in the Advanced Seminar on Consciousness at the Zygon Center in Chicago. Since their retirement from teaching–Russell in 1997 and Gerhart in 2005–they have continued to research and publish in the bidisciplinary field of science and religion in addition to work in their own disciplines. Their current work is being developed out of interest in what used to be called eschatology or the “last things” and originated with Professor Russell’s participation in the 1975 NASA summer study of the possibility of human beings living in space.

Their first book “Metaphoric Process: The Creation of Scientific and Religious Understanding” (1984), on what it means to “know” in science and in religion, was an epistemological study of how new understandings in both fields are born. The book originated in a bidisciplinary class they taught at the Colleges. Their second book, “New Maps for Old: Explorations in Science and Religion” (2001), a collection of invited lectures, was comprised of examples of what the first book proposed.

Gerhart, who taught at the Colleges between 1972 and 2005, holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Teresa College, master’s degrees from the University of Missouri and the University of Chicago and her doctorate from Chicago. Russell holds Sc.B. and Sc.M. from Brown University and the Ph.D. from Syracuse University.