Big Questions and Catholic Scientists: A Science and Religion Fair for High School Students

February 5th, 2022

Cosponsored by the Society for Catholic Scientists and the McGrath Institute for Church Life.

In partnership with Mundelein Seminary and the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Where: The University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary

When: 9am-3:30pm

You’ve been to a science fair (or maybe seen one on TV): Everyone piles into the gymnasium with their folding table and poster board. A paper mache volcano explodes, the planets rotate from a clothes hanger. Then the adult judges walk around, noting their comments onto a clipboard, and the winner gets a blue ribbon prize.

But what if, instead, it was adults presenting their projects, and the students got to judge? Now, imagine that those adults are the country’s foremost Catholic scientists, from all scientific disciplines.

that’s this conference.

On Saturday, February 5th, join us at beautiful Mundelein Seminary for a day full of scientific presentations from the country’s premier Catholic scientists.

Students will hear a keynote lecture on science and faith, experience three “lightning rounds,” and then participate in our “reverse science fair.”

Keynote: “Science and Catholic Faith” (Professor Stephen Barr, President, Society of Catholic Scientists)

Many have claimed that modern science and Christian faith are fundamentally at odds and have historically been in conflict.  Prof. Barr will show how a better understanding of Catholic teaching, of science and of history paint a very different picture.

Lightning Round Topics* :
  • “Is the Universe Made for Life?” (Stephen Barr, President, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Delaware): In recent decades physicists have discovered that many features of the fundamental laws of physics are “just right” to make life (including complex living things such as ourselves) possible. These are sometimes called “anthropic coincidences.” Do these show that the universe was made with us in mind? Or does the “multiverse” idea explain them? Or possibly both?
  • ​​​​​​​“What is a human being and when does life begin?” (Maureen Condic, Assoc. Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Univ, of Utah School of Medicine): The questions of who is a human being and when does a human being arise during the process of human development have profound implications for society, for medicine and for the law.
  • ​​​​​​​“Earthquakes, their Consequences, and the Jesuit Pioneers of Seismology” (Natasha Toghramadjian, 4th year graduate student, Harvard University): The great earthquake of 1755 obliterated the Catholic city of Lisbon and caused many to question their faith.  It also spurred the creation of the science of seismology, often called “the Jesuit Science” because of the pioneering work of Jesuit missionaries who set up the first seismic stations in many areas of the globe.  This talk will tell about the remarkable history of earthquakes and their consequences and the speaker’s own field work on three continents.
  • Evolution and Creation: A Catholic Perspective” (Sr. Stephen Patrick Joly, O.P., Ph.D., Lansing Catholic HS): For some, the scientific theory of evolution is seen as incompatible with a God who has knowingly and purposely fashioned us. But, as s Pope Benedict XVI stated, creation and evolution represent “two complementary — rather than mutually exclusive — realities.”  This talk will guide participants to see the harmony between evolutionary biology and the Catholic faith.
  • Modern Science, the Catholic Church, and the Galileo Affair” (Cory Hayes, Professor of Philosophy and Theology, St. Joseph Seminary College): Beginning with Copernicus and ending with St. John Paul II, Dr. Cory Hayes will examine the trials of Galileo, the major players involved and the issues that were at play in his 1633 condemnation by the Inquisition, overcoming misconceptions and deepening our understanding of the lessons it has for us today.
  • Extraterrestrial Life and the Catholic Faith” (Tim Dolch, Assistant Professor of Physics at Hillsdale College.): How likely are rational ET creatures to exist? How do scientists search for them? What theological questions would their existence raise?”

*Subject to change

Students will have the opportunity to choose from 4 mini-lectures each round, whichever sparks their interest most.

Then we’ll gather for our “reverse science fair:”

Attendees will have an opportunity to meet Catholic scientists one-on-one and ask them about their fields of science, career paths, the big unsolved questions in their areas of science, being a Catholic in science, and anything else they are curious about. The scientists will be a varied group: young and old; male and female; experimenters and theorists; and in many areas of research. Students interested in STEM subjects and teachers interested in renewing their own understanding will dialogue about high-impact topics, including: genetics, mathematics, materials science, evolutionary biology, superstring theory, cosmology, environmental science, neuroscience and brain research, and much more.

Schedule:

9:00 am – 9:45 am: Breakfast and Registration
9:45am – 10:00am:  Opening Prayer, Welcome, and Introduction 
10:00 am – 1045: am: Opening Remarks
“Science and the Catholic Faith” (Stephen Barr, President, Society of Catholic Scientists)
10:45am – 11:00 am:  Break
11:00-11:30am:  Lightning Round Talks #1
11:30am-12:30: Lunch 
12:45pm – 1:15pm:   Lightning Round Talks #2 
1:15pm – 1:25pm: Break
1:30pm – 2:00pm:  Lightning Round Talks #3 
2:00pm – 2:15pm: Break
2:15pm – 3:30pm  “Big Questions/Ask-a-Scientist” Poster Session 
3:30pm: Closing Remarks and Prayer 
Conference is FREE for high school students to attend. Adults accompanied by students will have their fee waived.

*The Newman Forum will be responsible for abiding the COVID-19 precautions set in place by Mundelein Seminary, in order to utilize their space. Currently, that means mandatory masks indoors for unvaccinated participants. If these requirements change, we will notify all registrants as the event approaches.

Questions, comments, or concerns can be directed to Austin Walker, Director of the Newman Forum (awalker@lumenchristi.org) or Madison Chastain, Program Coordinator of the Newman Forum (mchastain@lumenchristi.org)

And if you liked this event, and want to know more about how to answer questions about faith and science when your classmates ask, check out…

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