Watershed Forum: Pondering Religion and Science

The keynote speaker for the Chesapeake Watershed Forum 2013 was Reverend Kelly Wilkins. From Chicago, Illinois, Reverend Wilkins has now worked on various projects such as On-A-Mission (leading communities to help with people who re in poverty situations), Helping Young People Excel (challenging middle aged children to their own faith through projects and ministry), and The Operation Cleaning Corporation (the world’s largest equity derivatives cleaning organization). I appreciated Reverend Wilkins speech but realized rather quickly that this was a very non traditional talk. Very blunt in her wording, she used religious references and stories to relay her message. Her audience was a group of phDs, scientists, and environmentalists. As I looked around the room, there were many varying expressions on the faces of the audience members as the reverend gave her speech. Therefore, I began to question if there was a strict conflict of religion and science that was disallowing the audience members to clearly hear the reverends message, or if the two disciplines were disregarded and her message was accurately heard.

One of the reverend’s main points was ‘are the children in,’ which was a metaphor for everyone pitching in and being represented in a common cause, as well as helping those who are in need of help. She also used a scientific term ‘dead zones,’ which are essentially areas of water that have depleted oxygen and cannot sustain life, and described circumstances that were not scientific. She relayed that there are dead zones in all of our lives that are making all of us disinterested from each others causes. With these metaphors and stories, I wondered if the audience of highly sophisticated scholars felt as if they were being talked down upon or if the manner in which she conveyed her message lost the interest in those listening. One of the problems of environmental policies today, is that as environmentalists, we do not communicate our problems to the general public in a manner in which they will understand or act upon. Though the reverend’s speech touched me and I understood the bigger picture (helping people who are in need as well as helping the environment at the same time), I cannot guarantee that this talk of religion and our creator settled well with the rest of the audience.

Though there is no way for me to individually ask every person in this conference about his or her beliefs on religion and science, I would very much so like to start a discussion with the Chesapeake Semester group as to everyone’s beliefs. I am aware that our group is diverse, but it is always interesting to hear other’s perspectives on such large issues. My goal during the duration of journey 2, is to have this discussion with the Chesapeake Semester and learn about everyone’s religious beliefs and how they affect their scientific beliefs.

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