Lea F. Schweitz joined the ZCRS staff as associate director this summer. Schweitz will receive her Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from the University of Chicago Divinity School in March 2008. She was a residentdissertation fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame in 2005-06. Her fellowships and grants include the Wilson Teaching Fellowship, a Martin Marty Center Dissertation Fellowship, a grant for advanced theological studies from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Wabash Fellowship with Chicago Forum on Pedagogy and the Study of Religion.
Q: What are you currently researching, and how does it connect with the religion-science dialogue?
A: I am currently researching the theological anthropology of the 17th century German Lutheran, G.W. Leibniz, who co-founded calculus and coined the word, ‘theodicy.’ These biographical features alone connect him to the history of religion and science and thus to some of the religion-and science dialogues. However, my overarching interest in the religion-and-science dialogues is in envisioning and re-imagining what it means to be human. I find Leibniz’s contribution to this aspect of the dialogue quite remarkable. His is an early attempt to see humanity as essentially related and interrelated to God, other humans, and the created world while maintaining an adequate and comprehensive scientific explanation of humans and nature. I think the conversations in religion and science are uniquely situated to offer robust understandings of humanity. My hope is that this work on Leibniz will contribute to that larger project by offering a view that is both productive for contemporary thought and helpful for developing a longer historical perspective on the conversations.
Q: What do you think is the most compelling topic in the religion-and-science field?
A: It seems to me that students and scholars in the field are currently excited by and interested in the latest developments in consciousness studies. The science behind this field is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and it gets at the heart of some of our deepest questions about who we are. This year’s Advanced Seminar is projected to take up these questions in response to the growing interest and concern in this area. Lurking just behind the interest in consciousness studies is an interest in disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity. Much recent work has drawn attention to the ways the structure of our disciplines constrains the questions we ask and the answers we discover – or invent. The interdisciplinary nature of the religion-andscience field is uniquely situated not only to help develop robust understandings of humanity, but it is also a particularly fruitful space to pursue questions about the disciplines.
Q: Where do you see the greatest opportunities for growth in religion and science?
A: Because the field is vibrant, the opportunities are many. In particular, I’m interested in seeing the field pay greater attention to its own history. This is one of the reasons why my own work is on early modern figures. I think we can make better sense of where we are and where we ought to go by knowing whence we’ve come. History matters. One thing this history reveals is the continuing need to widen the scope of the interlocutors participating, fully participating, in the conversation. In other words, one of the greatest opportunities for growth in the field is to grow the field.
Q: What are you most excited about working on at ZCRS?
A: One of the unique features about ZCRS is the high level of participation of working scientists. As an undergraduate biology major, I did field research on ecological management techniques for tall grass prairies so I, personally, am excited about the opportunity to be in conversation with scientific communities again and to deepen my own level of scientific literacy. For ZCRS more generally, I think this is an exciting moment. In the short term, I am excited about the collaboration with Gayle Woloschak and the other members of the Center to develop and to articulate a vision for the future of ZCRS. The Center was founded in 1988, and as we approach the 20th anniversary of its founding, we find the Center with many of its programs flourishing. The Epic of Creation lecture series and the Hyde Park Religion and Science Society are succeeding at the Center’s goal to yoke scientists and theologians, individuals and communities, and students and scholars. These programs fulfill the Center’s mission of yoking in terms of joining, and I am looking forward to helping these programs continue to grow. However, yokes also enable the “yoked” to do more work together than either could do alone. I hope that this pragmatic sense of ZCRS’s yoking will play a role in the vision for the Center’s future so that in addition to serving our academic communities we strive to contribute to the cares and concerns that impact on everyday communities and congregations – whether that be through HIV/AIDS workshops, literacy education, or the myriad of possibilities for working together toward human flourishing.