Symposium on "Science and Wonder"

Mar 13, 2019
BSLC 115
924 E 57th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Michael CoatesUniversity of Chicago

Eric ElshtainThe Field Museum

Robert ScherrerVanderbilt University

Lisa SiderisIndiana University Bloomington

  • Symposium on Science and Wonder

Listen to the symposium as a podcast episode. You can subscribe to the Lumen Christi Institute Podcast via our Soundcloud pageiTunes channelStitcherTuneInListenNotesPodbeanPocket Casts, and Google Play Music.

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Free and open to the public. Cosponsored by the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, the Seminary Coop Bookstore, and the Society of Catholic Scientists. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact us at 773-955-5887 or by email. This program is made possible by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and a Lemaître grant from the Magi Project. Copies of Prof. Sideris's recent book Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (University of California Press, 2017) will be available for sale by the Seminary Coop Bookstore at the event.

How is science related to mystery? What role does wonder play in inquiry and discovery? What are the best means of sharing and communicating wonder? Has scientific inquiry become itself a kind of religious practice? If so, does the study of theology or religion shed light on it? Join us for a discussion with an astrophysicist, a poet, an evolutionary biologist, and a religious ethicist on the experience and nature of wonder in science.


Michael Coates is Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and Chair of the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago. He is also a Research Associate in Geology at the Field Museum of Natural History. Prof. Coates holds a PhD from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. His research focuses on vertebrate evolution, especially the origins of ray-finned fishes, the ancient relatives of the vast majority of fishes swimming the seas today. He is co-founder and deputy editor of the journal Evolution and Development and he is on the editorial board of The Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental.

Eric Elshtain is the first ever poet-in-residence at the Field Museum. He has taught poetry and other subjects through the Poetry Center of Chicago’s Hands on Stanzas program, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago, and the Better Boys Foundation. His poetry, reviews and interviews have been published in such journals as the Notre Dame Review, McSweeney’s, American Letters & Commentary, among many others.  His book, Here In Premonition, was published in 2006. His most recent book, This Thin Memory A-ha, was published by Verge Books. Additionally, Eric is the editor of the on-line poetry press Beard of Bees. He received his PhD in Poetry from the University of Chicago.

Robert Scherrer is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University.  He received his PhD in physics from the University of Chicago. His research area is cosmology, encompassing work on dark energy, dark matter, big bang nucleosynthesis, and the large-scale structure of the universe.  He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (2001), and among other awards is the recipient of the Klopsteg Memorial Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers (2011) and The Ohio State University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching (1999). He is the author of Quantum Mechanics: An Accessible Introduction (Addison-Wesley, 2006). He has also published several popular science articles and science fiction short stories. Prof. Scherrer is a Director and co-founder of the Society of Catholic Scientists.

Lisa Sideris is Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, where she also received a PhD in 2000. Prof. Sideris's areas of research include environmental ethics and the environmental humanities and the science-religion interface. Her first book Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection critiques the tendency of Christian environmental ethics, or “ecological theology,” to misconstrue or ignore Darwinian theory, and examines the problems this creates for developing a realistic ethic toward nature and animals. She has also co-edited a volume of interdisciplinary essays on early environmentalist Rachel Carson, and her most recent book, Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World, examines how scientific rhetoric and narratives about wonder actually pit science against religion, and encourage a devaluation of the natural world.