Enough Tupperware
by Leslie Lawrence '72

Our 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.
The Conflict Continues....

Oberlin 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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