Thursday, January 8, 2015

Student Perspective: Reconciling science and faith

The following post was written jointly by Jenny Kliever and Kevin Mogk, both current SCOM students. Laurentian University hosts many guest speakers throughout the year, and Jenny and Kevin were eager to share their thoughts on a particularly interesting public lecture held in late 2014.

Jenny: Science communication is a relatively new field, as science fields go, and until a fateful Google search brought the Laurentian Science Communication program before my eyes a year ago, I was unaware of its existence. Within five minutes of reading the website, I knew that this program was for me. 

Kevin: Much like Jenny, I was unaware of science communication as a topic of study, even though my job entailed delivering science programs to school groups and the public in my hometown’s science gallery. When I discovered the Laurentian program, what drew me in was the opportunity to sharpen my skills and bridge the gap between my lack of science training and my theatrical background.

J: So here Kevin and I are, science communication students, marrying the exciting fields of science and society on a daily basis – what a dream! Though it is hard to pick just one favourite aspect of the program, something that stands out is the freedom to explore my own ideas within the courses. For example, I come from a physics background and have had the chance to explore communication within physics as much or as little as I like.  

K: Not only do we get to explore personal interests through the program, but the range of experiences of our classmates, teachers and guest lecturers also brings a wealth of perspectives on science communications and the issues it faces. Even between Jenny and I, we have had opportunities to explore how faith and science are often seen in opposition. So when we had a chance to attend an optional lecture by Dr. Denis Lamoureux about one of the more prevalent issues facing science communication, we couldn’t help but take in his lecture on “Beyond the ‘Evolution’ vs. ‘Creation’ Debate”.

J: Although SCOM students are always encouraged to attend the many events outside of class, Kevin and I didn’t need to be told twice about Dr. Lamoureux’s lecture. We showed up early, pens in hand, front row and centre, minds and ears open. This is a topic I, as a scientist, find extremely interesting. The talk focused on breaking the traditional view that science and faith are a dichotomy; that is, one can only identify with one or with the other and either believe in evolution or creation.

K: However, Dr. Lamoureux brought to light a spectrum of views ranging from fundamental to atheistic and everything in between to highlight that there are not just two camps to choose from. He also pointed out that it is not uncommon to find people of faith who are in step with science, and scientists who also practice their faith. It was a refreshing look at the issue and made me wonder if there wasn’t a research question hidden somewhere in this long-held oppositional view.

J: For the SCOM program’s major research project, we are now both exploring research topics that touch on science and faith. We would like to dig into this topic deeper and may even get the chance to spread the idea of this spectrum within the scientific and faith communities a little bit.