future practically guarantees that science and religion
will intertwine in unexpected ways. In fact, science may
shed light on how our health and well-being are aided
by religion. Jan Thornton, associate professor of neuroscience,
says that some research suggests that the devout recover
from illness better than the non-religious. "We don't
know for sure whether that's true," she says. "If
it is, we want to know what the mechanism is."
The evolving discipline of neuroscience hopes to shed
new light on the nature of religious thought. "As
we learn more about the brain, we may learn more about
religion," says Thornton. "Certainly, our religious
thoughts and feelings and beliefs are created by our brains
and our minds. We don't understand the connections that
are there, but there are likely to be some. The brain
has a built-in capacity for languages. It's entirely possible
the brain may have a built-in capacity for religion."
As matters now stand, many would argue that we can know
very little, if anything, about a higher being. Einstein
likened our comprehension of God to a small child entering
a giant library, unable to understand the languages in
which the books are written, unable to grasp the order
in which the books are arranged. "The child dimly
suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the
books, but doesn't know what it is," Einstein said.
Others believe that they get a glimmer of God from the
universe itself. "I'm part of God's creation, and
I use the tools of science to study other parts of God's
creation," says professor Scofield. "When I
look at anything that's built, it tells me a little bit
about the person who built it."
Doug McInnis is a freelance science
writer from Casper, Wyoming.
wasn't just a college in its early years, but a cause--blending
education, anti-slavery sentiments, and a dose of old-time
religion. Alsatian pastor John Frederick Oberlin was the
namesake of the College, and the great 19th-century evangelist
Charles Grandison Finney served as its president from 1851
through 1866. But the end of the century saw the College
shift away from the traditional American model of Protestant-inspired
coursework in favor of a curriculum influenced by German
research universities. A re-invented Oberlin drew a new
breed of faculty, such as German-trained chemist Frank Jewett,
whose students included Nobel Prize-winner Robert Millikin
and Alcoa founder Charles Martin Hall. Yet Oberlin continued
to have deep religious roots well into the 20th century.
A 1957 issue of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine, devoted to
religion at Oberlin, included reprints of chapel talks given
by faculty members Thurston Manning and David Anderson,
both members of the physics department. Anderson was also
an ordained Episcopal minister. Within a decade, the school
of theology was gone, and Oberlin had completed its transformation
into a secular institution. In many ways, however, the modern
College hasn't lost touch with the moral roots set down
by its evangelical founders. You'll find faculty members
with strong moral convictions who may not believe in God.
Among them is a science faculty member who regularly attends
church, in part for the moral guidance it offers. "A
lot of the socially conscious teachings of the church are
things I believe in," he says. But the lessening of
religious influence has been difficult for others, including
newly retired chemistry professor Norman Craig, a 1953 graduate.
"It's been hard for me to be an Oberlin faculty member
when such a falling-away from religious commitment has occurred,"
he says. "Once you see that, you wonder what will guide
principles in people who have no religious roots. But Oberlin
faculty members and students remain morally sensitive, so
perhaps my concerns are overly pessimistic."
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