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Walton Lecture Series

in Science, Philosophy, and Religion


The Walton lectures and workshops aim to provide interested professionals in the New York area the opportunity to interact with scholars of the highest caliber concerning topics at the intersection of science, philosophy, and theology.

Upcoming events consider current research on topics such as consciousness, free will, and their relation to states of the brain; rule-based ethics versus virtue-based ethics; and the role of science in contemporary society.

All Lectures are free and open to the public.
Reception to Follow.

From Galileo to Laudato Si’: Why Science Needs Faith

Guy Consolmagno with the PopeGuy Consolmagno, SJ, PhD
Vatican Observatory

February 26, 2018 | 6:30 p.m.
E. Gerald Corrigan Conference Center, 12th Floor
Lincoln Center Campus | Fordham University

Guy Consolmagno is a planetary scientist, the director of the Vatican Observatory, and president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. He is the author of over 200 scientific publications, and several popular books including Would You Baptize an Extraterrestial? (with Paul Mueller, SJ) and Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis). He has hosted science programs for BBC Radio, has been interviewed in numerous documentary films, has appeared on The Colbert Report, and writes a monthly science column for The Tablet. He is the 2014 recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society.

Logic and reason must always start with assumptions, and the assumptions behind science are, at their root, religious assumptions. Our core beliefs not only determine how we expect the universe to work; they also and just as importantly supply the motivation for the science we do, and indeed they determine why we as individuals choose to be scientists. The nature of how we understand this relationship, however, has changed radically from the time of Galileo, when science was still being invented; and that change continues to this day, as can be seen in the way Pope Francis has blended science and faith in his recent encyclical Laudato Si’.

2016: Anna Marmodoro, PhD

Oneness Is a Gift of Man to God
March 29, 2017

Anna Marmodoro, PhD - University of Oxford

A fundamental claim of revealed religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that God is one. But what accounts for the oneness of God? What in general unifies something? There are many competing philosophical theories of unity. The theory I will develop and defend in the lecture is that unity is a conceptual operation; that is, things are unified on account of us conceiving of them as unities. I explore the implications of this account for the claim that God is one.

2016: John Cottingham, DPhil

Science and the Sacred: Spirituality without Religion?
October 5, 2016

John Cottingham, DPhil - University of Reading, University of London, Oxford University

“I’m spiritual but not religious” has become an increasingly popular slogan. Many materialist and atheist thinkers have begun to acknowledge the importance of those specially uplifting aspects of human experience we call “spiritual”, but maintain they can be explained entirely in scientific terms and without any traditional religious beliefs. This lecture will explore exactly what we mean by notions such as “spirituality” and “the sacred” and will argue that it is not easy to make adequate sense of them without a something very close to a religious worldview.

2016: George Demacopoulos, PhD

Christian Rigorists and the Perversion of Tradition
October 25, 2016

George Demacopoulos, PhD - Fordham University

While Christians have responded to the challenges of secular modernity in distinctive ways, the variation does not correspond well to existing confessional divides but rather evinces new fault lines within communities. Indeed, nearly every Christian denomination has experienced the rise of rigorist factions, which purport to safeguard their traditions from innovation and moral relativism. But in nearly every setting, the would-be defenders of Christianity have transformed the cultural and theological ethos of their communities more completely than those they accuse of modernism. This lecture explores the dynamics of this phenomenon and proposes ways for contemporary Christians to live within a tradition without lapsing into fundamentalism.

2016: Nancy Cartwright, PhD

Building Better Policies: Making the Most of What the Sciences Teach
March 10, 2016

How can we use knowledge from the social sciences to build more effective social policies? The very vocal evidence-based policy movement has for over a decade been vetting studies and disseminating the results to ensure policy makers have access to study results of the highest quality.  But there is still little understanding of how to use this evidence to predict policy outcomes. The usual advice is: restrict yourself to policies that work -- which means policies that have been shown to work somewhere or another -- but note that you may need to make adjustments because 'of course' context matters.

This talk will show just how seriously context matters, and why, illustrating with several international development interventions (like male circumcision to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs and bed nets to prevent malaria and ease poverty). The lesson is: you can't get general truths by generalizing and you can hardly ever carry 'what works' from one setting to another. Instead you should think in terms of social technology: you must build your policy for your situation, using a tangle of knowledge of theory and past attempts, just like a technologist who is trying to build a new toaster from an array of parts at hand.

Nancy Cartwright is one of the foremost philosophers of science in the world, and is the distinguished author and/or editor of over a dozen volumes including How the Laws of Physics Lie (Oxford University Press), Nature's Capacities and their Measurement (Oxford University Press), and The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science (Cambridge University Press). She is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Durham and University of California, San Diego, and is also a Fellow of the British Academy, a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina), and a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

2015: Nathan Ballantyne, PhD

The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads: A Case for Intellectual Humility
November 18, 2015

In one of Western philosophy's primal scenes, Socrates compares human beings to prisoners, held by chains in a dim cave, watching shadows on the cave wall. This lecture uses Socrates' striking allegory as a springboard to modern-day reflection on knowledge, technology, and the good life.

Nathan Ballantyne is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University and is the author of several important articles in epistemology.

2015: John Greco, PhD

Science, Religion, and the Transmission of Knowledge
October 7, 2015

Contemporary scientific knowledge depends on various kinds of social factors. For example, scientists work together in research teams, different teams rely on each other's work, and the rest of us rely on experts when the results of scientific inquiry are disseminated to the general public. Religious belief is likewise largely the result of social forces. Religious traditions transmit faith from generation to generation, and religious communities are characterized by an "epistemic division of labor" among church authorities, scholars, and laypersons. This lecture explores a promising approach to understanding social dependence in the sciences, and argues that religious belief lends itself to an analogous treatment.

John Greco holds the Eslick Chair in Philosophy at Saint Louis University. He is the distinguished author and/or editor of 10 books and over a hundred papers dealing with epistemology and its implications for science and theology. He is a regular distinguished visitor at the Edinburgh Centre for Epistemology, Mind and Normativity, an Associate Researcher at the Knowledge First Epistemology Project, and the principal investigator at the Philosophy and Theology of Intellectual Humility Project.

2015: Stephen J. Pope, PhD

Is Happiness the Enemy of Religious Hope? Positive Psychology and Christian Pessimism
April 21, 2015

Stephen J. Pope is Professor of Theology at Boston College, and the author of The Evolution of Altruism and the Ordering of Love (Georgetown University Press) and Human Evolution and Christian Ethics (Cambridge University Press).

2015: Howard Robinson, PhD and William Jaworski, PhD

Embodied Spirits or Spiritual Bodies?
March 11, 2015

Are you and I physical beings with spiritual natures, or are we essentially nonphysical spirits that happen to be embodied? The idea that we are nonphysical spirits has exerted an enormous influence on Western culture. But many philosophers, theologians, and scripture scholars have argued that we are instead essentially bodily beings. Sparks fly as two philosophers debate the merits and demerits of each position, and their implications for traditional religious ideas such as immortality and resurrection.

Howard Robinson is Professor of Philosophy at Central European University. He is the distinguished author and/or editor of several books including Matter and Sense: A Critique of Contemporary Materialism (Cambridge University Press) and Perception (Routledge).

William Jaworski is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University. He is the author of Structure and the Metaphysics of Mind: How Hylomorphism Solves the Mind-Body Problem (Oxford University Press) and Philosophy of Mind: A Comprehensive Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell).

2014: Stephen Grimm, PhD

What Is Wisdom?
November 12, 2014

What is it that makes someone wise, or one person wiser than another? What might it mean, moreover, to say that God alone is wise? I try to explain what it is that the wise person knows in a way that sheds light on these questions. I also try to explain why contemporary philosophers have had so little to say about wisdom, in contrast to their ancient and medieval predecessors.

Stephen Grimm is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University, and the author of several important articles in epistemology.

2014: Elizabeth Johnson, PhD

Evolution and Creation: A Dialogue toward Ethics
September 24, 2014

Elizabeth Johnson, the world’s foremost feminist theologian, discusses the implications of theology for environmental ethics.

"Ask the beasts and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth and they will instruct you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you ..." (Job 12:7-8)

Guided by this often unheeded biblical advice, this lecture will ask about the world we inhabit and listen to the answers of the gorgeous diversity of living species on this planet. Scientifically, they will say: we have evolved. Theologically, they will teach: we are God’s beloved creation. At this time of undoubted ecological crisis, responsible dialogue between these two points of view invigorates ethical behavior that cares for plants and animals with a passion integral to love for the living God. If one sees that the evolving community of life on Earth is a natural marvel which at the same time continues to be the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, and if one then realizes its ruination is a natural disaster as well as an unspeakable sin, then deep affection shown in action on behalf of eco-justice becomes essential for humans who wish to walk a religious path.

2014: Philip Kitcher, PhD

Science, Religion, and Progress
April 9, 2014

Philip Kitcher, PhD, is John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, and one of the foremost philosophers of science in the world. He is the author of over 100 articles and several books including Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism (MIT Press), Vaulting Ambition: Sociobiology and the Quest for Human Nature (MIT Press), The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge (Oxford Univ. Press), The Advancement of Science (Oxford Univ. Press), and Science, Truth, and Democracy (Oxford Univ. Press), and The Ethical Project (Harvard Univ. Press).

2013: Hans Halvorson, PhD

What does physics have to do with theology anyway?
April 16, 2013

Most contemporary thinkers would hesitate to say that they have found the absolute truth, but they would not hesitate to say where the absolute truth will eventually be found: in the sciences. And if any science can lay claim to providing the absolute truth about the way the world is at its most fundamental level, that science is physics. Given the aspirations of physical science, what attitude should we take toward the traditional study of "God", that is, toward theology? At one extreme are thinkers who claim that the sciences – and physics in particular – can replace, or obviate, or repudiate traditional theology. At another extreme are thinkers who claim that the sciences and theology deal with completely independent subject-matters – "non-overlapping magisteria." Prof. Halvorson argues that neither of these extreme positions can be sustained in the light of our best account of the nature and structure of physical science.

Hans Halvorson is Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. He is the author of numerous papers on physics, the philosophy of physics, and the overlap of physics with theology including "The measure of all things: quantum mechanics and the soul", and (with Helge Kragh) "Theism and physical cosmology". He is editor of Deep beauty: understanding the quantum world through mathematical innovation (Cambridge 2011) and co-editor of Quantum entanglements: selected papers of Rob Clifton (Oxford 2004).

2012: Michael Ruse, PhD

Making Room for Faith: Religion in the Age of Science
April 30, 2012

Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor at Florida State University, and one of the leading philosophers of biology in the world. He played a key role in McLean v. Arkansas, the federal court decision that ruled the teaching of creation science unconstitutional. He is the author and editor of over 35 books on topics at the intersection of science, philosophy, religion, and public policy including Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship between Science and Religion (Cambridge University Press), Is Science Sexist? (Reidel), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Biology (Oxford University Press), The Cambridge Companion to the Origin of Species (Cambridge University Press), Darwinism and Its Discontents (Cambridge University Press), and But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the Evolution/Creation Controversy (Prometheus).