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University Relations

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July 26, 2006
Contact: Victor Bailey, Hall Center for the Humanities, (785) 864-7822.

First Difficult Dialogues series will explore ‘Knowledge: Faith and Reason’

LAWRENCE — The Commons, a new venture involving the University of Kansas’ Hall Center for the Humanities and Biodiversity Institute, announces the first in what will become an occasional lecture series designed to foster informative and civil dialogue on difficult and volatile issues in American society. The inaugural series of lectures and informal discussions takes as its theme the proper roles of reason and faith in the human enterprise.

Throughout the fall semester, six distinguished speakers, many of whom played active roles in the landmark Dover, Pa., intelligent design case, will present divergent views on the relationship between science and religion in today’s world. In addition, each speaker is slated to participate in an audience-guided dialogue on the morning following the formal lectures. The series concludes with a panel discussion on “Knowledge: Faith & Reason” featuring local leaders from the university and state.

The Commons will investigate the intersection of nature and culture in shaping the human condition and generate collaboration in research and education across traditional academic disciplines in the sciences, arts and humanities. Located in Spooner Hall, The Commons will be a place and catalyst for bold, unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry and creative dialogue for people and communities with different frames of reference.

All events in the “Difficult Dialogues at The Commons” series are free and open to the public. All lectures will begin at 7:30 p.m, and the additional dialogues will begin at 10 a.m. on the morning following the lectures in the Hall Center Conference Hall.

Kenneth Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University, will speak about “God, Darwin, and Design: Creationism’s Second Coming” on Sept. 7 in the Kansas Union Ballroom. Miller, the author of Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution and co-author of several high school textbooks, has argued that science and religion are not mutually exclusive.

John E. Jones III, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, will discuss “Judicial Independence and Kitzmiller v. Dover, et al” on Sept. 26. In this landmark case, Jones ruled that the school district’s mandate requiring the teaching of intelligent design in science classrooms was unconstitutional in that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The lecture will take place in Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union.

On Oct. 3, Os Guinness will speak about “A World Safe for Diversity: Living With Our Deepest Differences in an Age of Exploding Pluralism” in Woodruff Auditorium. Guinness, a theologian and co-founder of the Trinity Forum, has written or edited more than 30 books. His major concern is to bridge the chasm between academic knowledge and popular knowledge, taking things that are academically important and making them intelligible and practicable to a wider audience, especially as they concern matters of public policy.

Appearing jointly in the Humanities Lecture Series, Richard Dawkins will discuss “The God Delusion” on Oct. 16 at the Lied Center. Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, is an internationally renowned evolutionary biologist, atheist and author of numerous bestsellers, including The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor's Tale. His newest book, bearing the same title as this lecture, is scheduled to appear in the fall.

Eugenie C. Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, will appear on Nov. 16 in the Kansas Union Ballroom. Her lecture, “Faith, Reason, and Assumption in Understanding the Natural World,” will be drawn from her experience directing a nonprofit organization that seeks to protect the theory of evolution in science classrooms while excluding the teaching of creationism or intelligent design. Scott’s book, Evolution v. Creationism: An Introduction, was published in 2004.

Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, will discuss “The Argument for Intelligent Design in Biology” on Nov. 30 in the Kansas Union Ballroom. A professor of biology at Lehigh University, Behe argues that biochemical living organisms are irreducibly complex and therefore inexplicable by science in general and Darwin’s theory of evolution in particular.

To conclude the series, a panel discussion titled “Knowledge: Faith & Reason” will convene at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in the Hall Center Conference Hall. Panelists will be Sue Gamble, a member of the Kansas State Board of Education; Scott Jones, bishop of the United Methodist Church, Kansas Area; Richard Lariviere, KU provost and executive vice chancellor; Derek Schmidt, Simons Public Humanities Fellow and majority leader in the Kansas State Senate; and Edward O. Wiley, professor and senior curator in the KU Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.


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