The 2015 J. K. Russell Research Fellowship in
Religion and Science

Dr. Noreen Herzfeld

Public Forum, Thursday, April 23

Research Conference, Saturday, April 25

Noreen Herzfeld is the Nicholas and Bernice Reuter Professor of Science and Religion at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict. She holds degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics from The Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Theology from The Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. Herzfeld teaches courses in both the department of computer science and the department of theology at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict, reflecting her two primary research interests--the intersection of religion and technology, and religion and conflict. Various topics include computer theory, computer ethics, religion and science in dialog, the spirituality and politics of Islam, and religion and conflict. Herzfeld is the author of In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit (Fortress, 2002), Technology and Religion: Remaining Human in a Co-Created World (Templeton, 2009), and The Limits of Perfection in Technology, Religion, and Science (Pandora, 2010 ). She has also published numerous articles on such diverse topics as cyberspace as a venue for spiritual experience, embodiment as a sine qua non for personhood, the religious implications of computer games, and the prospects for reconciliation among Christians and Muslims in Bosnia.

Fellow's Public Forum Lecture: Who Is My Neighbor? A Personal Journey
Thursday, April 23, 2015, 7pm
Richard S. Dinner Board Room of the GTU (Hewlett Library)
2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley
7- 9pm

Abstract : Years ago, as a new professor in computer science, teaching artificial intelligence raised a lot of questions in my mind. Why do we want to create AI? How would we treat such a thing, should we be successful? Do we image ourselves in the computer the same way God imaged God's self in us? Over the ensuing years these questions led me on a spiritual journey from St. John's University to the GTU and further afield to the Faculty for Islamic Studies in Sarajevo. Throughout, I have had to continually reformulate my answer to the age-old question asked of Jesus by the Pharisee: "Who is my neighbor?"

This event is free and open to the public.

The Annual J. K. Russell Research Conference
Saturday, April 25, 2015

More than Information: A Christian Critique of a New Dualism

Richard S. Dinner Board Room of the GTU (Hewlett Library)
2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley
1- 5pm

Abstract: In light of quantum theory and advances in computer science many scientists have posited that information, rather than matter, forms the bedrock of the universe. Thus it follows that the essence of our selves as human beings is the information housed in the neural connections of our brain, information that, in principle, could be reproduced digitally. Such a "cybernetic immortality" forms one of the bases of a new transhumanist vision, yet it introduces a new Cartesian dualism that separates mind from body, locating the self wholly in the mind. This contrasts with the traditional Christian understanding of humans as created in the image of God ( imago dei ), an image found not just in our mind, but also in our embodied agency and our relationships. We are neither just a mind nor just a body, but a mind that is both part and product of our human body, and embedded within the larger environment of the physical world and human culture. Our knowledge, functioning, and self-understanding are shaped and acquired by and through our bodies. Further, without a body we cannot feel emotion and thus have neither human-like intelligence nor compassion. My claim is that the dreams of transhumanism fail to capture the full nature of what it means to be human and are illusory hopes for an immortality of our own making. Instead any hope for immortality is best found, as Reinhold Niebuhr noted, beyond the scope of history. Further, this new dualism leads us to grandiose delusions--what Niebuhr called "the sin of pride"--regarding what we can accomplish in the here and now, delusions that are harmful to both our sense of self and our capacity to love one another.


Mary Wong Cheng is a current Ph.D. candidate at Graduate Theological Union in the field of Christian Spirituality.  Mary's dissertation research employs neuroscience to explore the transformative impact of communal song practice in eighteenth century British Methodism.  Prior to coming to the GTU, Mary was employed by the California State University working at the intersection of disability and technology.  Her prior post baccalaureate degrees are M.Div. from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and M.S. Counseling from California State University, East Bay.

Brian Patrick Green is Assistant Director of Campus Ethics Programs at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and adjunct lecturer in engineering ethics at the School of Engineering at Santa Clara University. His undergraduate degree is in genetics from the University of California, Davis, and his MA and PhD are in ethics and social theory from the Graduate Theological Union. He worked in molecular biology before joining the Jesuit Volunteers International and teaching high school in the Marshall Islands, a nation once devastated by nuclear testing and now by climate change. This experience inspired him to pursue a better understanding of the proper relationship between technology and ethics. He has written on genetic anthropology, the ethics of human genetic manipulation, various aspects of teleology, natural law, the relationship of science and ethics, transhumanism, engineering ethics, theology of technology, existential risk, and astrobiology and ethics.

Braden Molhoek is a Ph.D. candidate in Ethics and Social Theory at the Graduate Theological Union. Developing an interest in science and religion in college, Braden holds a B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University where he double majored in Genetics and Religion, and an M.T.S. from Boston University School of Theology. While studying Boston, he also received a Certificate in Science and Religion (Bioethics Track) from the Boston Theological Institute. Currently he is working on completing his dissertation, a project placing Reinhold Niebuhr's theological anthropology in dialogue with the natural sciences. His research interests include genetics and ethics, virtue ethics, how science informs theological anthropology, and how theological anthropology informs ethics.





Welcome, Robert John Russell


Fellowship Lecture: Noreen Herzfeld

2:20pm Q&A from the floor

Response #1

2:50pm Response #2
3:10pm Break
3:30pm Response #3
3:50pm Discussion between Dr. Herzfeld and the respondents
4:10pm Q&A from the floor
4:25pm Final Comments from Dr. Herzfeld
4:30pm Announcement of the winners of the 2015 Charles H. Townes Graduate Student Fellowship Awards
4:45pm Adjournment and Refreshments


Registration for Saturday Conference

Register on-line (with your Visa, MasterCard or PayPal account), print a Registration Form to fax or mail
or call 510-848-8152 to register.

Conference Registration: General
Conference Registration: General, FT Student or Senior (62+)
Conference Registration: CTNS Member
Conference Registration: CTNS Member, FT Student or
Senior (62+)

Directions and Lodging:

  • GTU area Campus Map
  • Lodging Options:
    • Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 848-7800
    • Hotel Durant, 2600 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 845-8981
    • The French Hotel, 1538 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA (510) 548-9930 (closest hotel)


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