Astronomers, biologists, authors, theologians and philosophers of science will discuss Charles Darwin and the impact his theory of evolution has on science, culture and religion for the spring 2009 St. Albert the Great Forum lecture series that starts Feb. 4.
Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on Feb. 12, 1809, to a well-to-do family of doctors and industrialists. He was an aimless student until the captain of H.M.S. Beagle recruited him as naturalist and companion for a 5-year mapping expedition to South America in 1831.
Darwin spent more than 20 years collecting massive data on Earth's plants and animals, then described a grand, new vision of evolution in his 1859 book, "On the Origin of Species." Darwin's theory – controversial from the start – said that species evolve, and that natural selection, or the fitness of the organism for its environment, is the force that drives evolution.
The St. Albert the Great Forum is designed to engage the University community and the public in current issues where faith and science share a common ground, said Vatican Observatory astronomer William R. Stoeger, S.J., who organizes the lectures.
Lectures, free of charge, are held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays in the Green Hall, Catholic Newman Center, 1615 E. 2nd Street, on the UA campus. Parking is available behind the center.
The scheduled topics and speakers are:
- Feb. 4: Charles Robert Darwin: His Life and Struggles
Thomas J. Lindell, UA professor emeritus and former acting head of the UA department of molecular and cellular biology. Lindell developed and taught UA courses in bioethics, contemporary biology in human affairs, and science and theology.
- Feb. 18: Crackpot Theories in the Pre-dawn of Darwinism
Peter Nichols, author of "Evolution's Captain: The Dark Fate of the Man Who Sailed Charles Darwin Around the World." Nichols, who also wrote the national bestseller, "A Voyage for Madmen," has taught creative writing at New York University and Georgetown University.
- March 4: Biological Evolution: What It Is and What It Isn't
A video presentation of Joanna Masel's lecture for the 2006 UA College of Science series, "Evolution." Christopher J. Corbally, S.J., vice director of the Vatican Observatory Research Group, will lead a discussion after the screening. Corbally, whose research centers around the spectroscopy of stars, is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a member of the Institute on Religion in the Age of Science, and a national representative of the Vatican City State to the International Astronomical Union.
- March 25: Highlights of the Pontifical Gregorian University's International Conference on Biological Evolution.
William J. Stoeger, S.J., of the Vatican Observatory will present highlights from this conference, which will be held in Rome, Italy, March 3-7. Stoeger is a staff scientist for the Vatican Observatory Research Group. He specializes in theoretical cosmology, high-energy astrophysics and interdisciplinary studies in science, philosophy and theology.
- April 15: Darwinian Evolution
Martinez (Marty) Hewlett, professor emeritus of the UA department of molecular and cellular biology. Hewlett, a molecular biologist, is author of the novel "Sangre de Cristo," a philospher of science and an adjunct professor of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, Calif.
- April 29: TBA
The St. Albert the Great Forum, now in its 18th year, is named for the learned biblical scholar and theologian who began a dialogue between the natural sciences and religion more than 700 years ago.
Albert was among the first of the natural scientists, whose expertise ranged from biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and geography to metaphysics and mathematics.
"St. Albert the Great emphasized the importance of the coherence between natural, scientific knowledge and theological knowledge," Stoeger said.