Place organizes symposium on science, religion

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Place organizes symposium on science, religion

April 26, 2012

 Dr. Aaron Place
Dr. Aaron Place

Dr. Aaron Place, associate professor of biology at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, recently organized a symposium for a professional forum on science and religion in Tulsa.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Southwest and Rocky Mountain Division (SWARM) convened its 86th annual meeting this year at the University of Tulsa. Over the course of five days, it scheduled 20 symposia, 10 general sessions, two plenary talks and a poster session with nearly 90 entries. The meeting was held jointly with the university’s 15th annual Student Research Colloquium and the 10th Annual University of Oklahoma-Tulsa Research Forum.

“Science and Technology at the Crossroads” was the theme for the region’s science and engineering community.

“The symposium was really important,” Place said. “We want to bring the dialogue into the public eye and generate discussion—‘hey, there are scientists talking about religious issues, and they’re not saying bad things, and there are some religious people talking about the importance of science, and they’re saying it works with their religious viewpoints.”

Oklahoma is in the heart of America’s Bible belt, and the evidence suggests that evolution science still has difficulty winning wide public acceptance.

Place cited a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that found 82 percent of Americans call religion somewhat or very important in their lives. About 30 percent believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

And yet, Place said, other polls show strong, enduring respect for scientists and a widespread recognition that science has improved life in medicine and other fields. And one poll, he said, found that 61 percent of respondents feel no conflict between science and their religious views.

Place concludes that while news reports sell conflict and irreconcilable differences, the truth is that Christians are diverse and open to science, and many scientists are Christians. That represents a clear possibility for improved relations.