Northwestern inspires program to encourage conversations about science and faith

Northwestern College was the inspiration for a grant-funded project designed to encourage conversations about science and faith on college and university campuses.

In 2016, psychology professor Dr. Laird Edman chaired a committee that organized Northwestern’s annual Day of Learning in Community. The event featured college-wide, interdisciplinary sessions that included a keynote address, workshops, and student and faculty research—all focused on the intersections between science and faith.

Dr. Justin BarrettDr. Justin Barrett, an experimental psychologist at Fuller Seminary, served as the keynote speaker. Barrett is also the chief project developer for the seminary’s Office for Science, Theology and Religion Initiatives (STAR), which was established to increase the number of informed Christians who are shaping culture through careers in science and technology.

Inspired by Northwestern’s Day of Learning in Community, staff at the STAR Office pursued funding to enable other colleges and universities to conduct similar programs. Starting in June, Rebecca Dorsey Sok, managing director of the STAR Office, will lead a $240,000 grant from the Blankemeyer Foundation to equip four institutions to spend a year focused on similar “Conversations in Community” about faith and science. Edman will serve as the project co-leader and academic coordinator.

Among possible activities are school-wide book studies, dorm discussion groups, panel question-and-answer sessions, research projects and papers, chapel speakers, and art exhibits, movie screenings and theatre productions. The programming would culminate in a community-wide time of learning scheduled over the course of a day, several evenings or weekend.

Edman has been a member of Northwestern’s faculty since 2003. He holds a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota and specializes in the cognitive science of religion.