Change has come to the Zygon Center. We begin a new school year with a new director and associate director at ZCRS. As the director of the center since July 1, I am excited about new programs we intend to implement at ZCRS and new constituencies we hope to reach. I am also grounded in the Zygon Center’s history. As director of the Epic of Creation project since 2003 and as a regular participant in ZCRS courses, I deeply appreciate the value of the center’s past. Past directors have built the Zygon Center into a place that strengthens the dialogue between religion and science. ZCRS programs have consistently engaged both religion and science in an academic and challenging spirit, and they have not hesitated to tackle issues that are difficult for both disciplines. Courses and special symposia have targeted questions that challenge both disciplines, encouraging dialogue that provides insight and focus.
I am committed to continuing this tradition, which has brought together a unique community of investigators. Inclusivity has been the hallmark of this group. It has welcomed scientists and theologians with equal warmth, and it has been attentive to contributions from different faith traditions. I have felt fortunate to participate in this community, and I look forward to our continued conversations.
Some of those conversations will take place around the table in ZCRS’s annual courses. The Epic of Creation this fall promises another round of fascinating lectures from scientists, theologians, and biblical scholars. In the spring, Dr. Philip Hefner will direct the 2008 Advanced Seminar. Entitled “‘The Hard Problem’—Consciousness, Experience, and Mind,” the course will place emphasis on understanding consciousness and its relation to the human experience. Dr. Hefner plans to invite a series of local and outside speakers to enlighten the course participants and to provide for lively, interactive discussions. The topic and speakers this year will be especially challenging and should be extremely interesting for the group.
A new course offering will also broaden the scope of our conversations in the spring semester of this year. Dr. David Rhoads, professor of New Testament and director of the Web of Creation project at LSTC (www.webofcreation. org), and I will coordinate this new course, called the Future of Creation. The course has been designed as a companion to the Epic of Creation, though Epic will not be a course prerequisite. The goal of the Future of Creation is to help students and others in the community to understand ecological issues that threaten our environment and Message from the New Director 3 ZCRS News & Views Fall 2007 C our world. Over the course of the semester, we will hear from experts on global warming and eco-justice, learn approaches to deal with ecological concerns, and discuss how communities can contribute to solving these problems. We anticipate that this course will become a staple for the Zygon Center, offered each year during the spring semester.
We are also excited about new developments in existing programs. The Hyde Park Religion and Science Society, a student society for students of the Hyde Park seminaries and theological schools, recently received a supplemental grant from the Metanexus Institute Local Societies Initiative. Metanexus awarded the grant “for organizational excellence, creative programming, and spirited commitment to fostering the constructive engagement of science and religion.” We are thrilled about the possibilities this grant funding offers. We plan to intensify outreach and recruitment efforts, and we are making plans to expand the society’s programming as well. One program we hope to develop will be a series of student research symposia that will give students an opportunity to present their work to the local academic community.
As we build on existing ZCRS programs and undertake new projects, we are delighted to have the contributions of Lea Schweitz as the center’s new associate director. Schweitz brings a fresh, unique approach to the science-religion dialogue. We anticipate that her growing leadership in the activities of the center will enhance our conversations and strengthen our programs.
The year ahead promises many opportunities for the Zygon Center. Even as we look forward, we appreciate the work of previous leaders to make the center a place for fruitful dialogue that is both inclusive and academically rigorous. Special thanks should be extended to the members of the Zygon Center Interim Steering Committee whose extraordinary hard work and commitment has been a real gift to the Zygon Center and the religion-science community at large. The Interim Steering Committee served the center from February through July of 2007. Members of this committee included John and Carol Albright, Christina Heisser, Philip Hefner, Karl Peters, Audrey West. It is anticipated that this group will continue to serve as advisors to the center in the future.
Thank you for your continued interest in the activities of the Zygon Center. I look forward to our dialogues and discussions this year. Gayle Woloschak