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Christian Values in Science and Technology
updated July 14, 2006

A decade after the birth of Dolly the cloned lamb a top-notch conference at Calvin College will examine the relationships between Christian values and science and technology.

For more details on plenary talks, poster sessions, seminars and more, see the complete conference schedule.

"Embedding Christian Values in Science and Technology" will take place at Calvin July 28-31, 2006 as the 61st annual meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA).

Among the keynote speakers will be Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health; Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute at MIT; and Karen Lebacqz of the Yale University Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

Also William Hurlbut, the physician on the President's Council on Bioethics and a long-time member of ASA, will be part of a day-long symposium on human stem cells. Hurlbut has been proposing and promoting an idea to produce stem cells from damaged eggs that lack the potential to become healthy embryos, fetuses and newborns. Already MIT's Jaenisch has taken the idea and shown it could work in animal models.

Calvin professor of biology Hessel Bouma III is serving as program chair for the annual meeting and says the mix of speakers and workshops touches on some of society's hot-button issues vis a vis the intersections of faith and science.

"We'll be looking at everything from the ethics of human stem cells to evolution and how life began to the proper role of biotechnology in growing our food," says Bouma, whose expertise is medical ethics. "These are the issues that are the fodder for the nation's biggest and best newspapers, for the country's broadcast networks and for a growing number of blogs and websites that examine science and religion."

In fact both Collins, who mapped the human genome, and Jaenisch, a cloning expert, were featured in recent issues of TIME Magazine.

Collins was profiled in a piece called "Reconciling God and Science." That article paid particular attention to Collins' new book: "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief."

Jaenisch was part of a story on the perils and progress of cloning, 10 years after the birth of Dolly.

Bouma says that the ASA, and its counterpart the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation, are the premier organizations of Christian scientists, theologians, philosophers and historians interested in the interesections and interactions between science and the Christian faith in North America.

"As such," he says, "our annual meeting is always a place for people to come together and talk about the important scientific and technological issues of the day."

Another keynote speaker will be former Calvin professor and current U.S. congressman Vernon Ehlers who will speak on Christian values in science and public policy. Celia Deane-Drummond is author of numerous books, including Future Perfect?: God, Medicine and Human Identity. She will speak at Calvin on Christian values and envirnonmental ethics.

Jaenisch is an award-winning scientist who is a pioneer in cancer and mouse cloning and has written extensively on the subject of human cloning, which also will be the topic of his talk at Calvin. Lebacqz is a scientist and an ordained minister who has written about and studied the role of human subjects in biomedical and behavioral research.

"It's an amazing line-up of plenary speakers," says Bouma, who expects some 300 people to attend the conference.

In addition to the plenary talks there are a number of interesting seminars, workshops and panel discussions on tap.

For example, a session on "Stewardship, Conservation and Land Management: A Cross Campus Checkup" has drawn the greatest number of presenters of any session. It will focus on the involvement of faculty in managing college and university nature preserves.

In addition to his plenary talk, Collins will be doing a presentation as part of the symposium on "Science and Technology in Service to the Poor," speaking about two medical mission trips he made with his physician daughter to Nigeria.