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Critical Issues Symposium to Focus on Science

Posted September 17, 2003

HOLLAND – The 22nd annual Critical Issues Symposium at Hope College will explore how science and society impact one another with “Putting Science In Its Place: Discovery and Responsibility” on Tuesday-Wednesday, Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

Featuring national leaders such as Bruce Alberts and Jean Bethke Elshtain, the symposium will address specific issues such as stem cell research and the human genome project, as well as take a wider look at how science changes society, and vice versa.

“We are moving into a highly technological and science-enriched time in history,” says Dr. James Gentile, dean for the natural sciences at Hope. “It is critical that the citizens of the world understand the potential impacts of this knowledge, especially as decisions are made concerning its use.” Dr. Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and chair of the National Research Council has agreed to be part of the symposium. A respected biochemist committed to science education, Alberts is one of most influential scientists in the U.S. as leader of the prestigious NAS, which advises the federal government on scientific and technical matters. He will offer his keynote address during the symposium’s second day, on Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 8:30 a.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

The symposium will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m., when Dr. Gerald McKenny, director of the Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values at the University of Notre Dame, will present “Science In Its Place.” The author of “To Relieve the Human Condition,” McKenny has also published more than 25 articles on Christian ethics and biomedical ethics.

At 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, several Hope faculty members will lead discussions about the interaction of science in the areas of fine arts, philosophy, literature, Christianity, and its role in the liberal arts.

After Alberts’s keynote address on Wednesday morning, multiple focus sessions addressing specific topics will be held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Scheduled topics include the role of science in countering terrorism, the human genome project, regulating science at the global level and access/equality in health care.

In a keynote address on Wednesday at 11:15 a.m., philosopher Dr. Jean Bethke Elshtain will focus on the contemporary moral challenges faced by science. Elshtain is uniquely equipped for such a task, being the author of more than 21 books and 400 essays, and currently teaching at the University of Chicago Divinity School and serving as a contributing editor for “The New Republic.”

Additional focus sessions will be featured Wednesday afternoon from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Topics will include science for a global and diverse society, creating the leaders of tomorrow, the impact of information technology on science, and the relationship between science and the media. The symposium will conclude on Wednesday at 3 p.m. with a panel discussion centered on the symposium’s theme. It will ask “What does the future need from us, and what do we need from it?” Participants will include McKenny; Elshtain; Dr. Barbara Gastel, a journalist and medical doctor with Texas A&M; and Dr. James H. Stith, vice president of physics resources for the American Institute of Physics. Both Gastel and Stith are also among the symposium’s focus session presenters.

First held in 1980, the Critical Issues Symposium is an annual all-campus event, offered as part of the college’s academic program, which examines a socially significant issue via presentations and small group discussions led by experts. Past symposium topics have ranged from apartheid in South Africa, to the American dream, to genetic engineering, to feminism and faith, to the environment.

“The Critical Issues Symposium strives to challenge students, and the whole community, on issues that are critical in our time,” said Alfredo Gonzales, chair and associate provost at Hope. “Education does not just happen in the classroom, and it does not stop when you graduate. This series models the need for lifelong learning.”

Dimnent Memorial Chapel, site of the keynote addresses that open each day, is located on College Avenue at 12th Street.

Additional information about the Critical Issues Symposium, including a complete schedule, may be found at www.hope.edu/cis.

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