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

Dr. Noreen Herzfeld

Research Conference, Saturday, April 25

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
1:00 to 5:00pm

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.

Dr. Noreen Herzfeld's Fellowship Lecture:

More than Information: A Christian Critique of a New Dualism

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 Cheng, Dr. Brian Green, Braden Molhoek





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



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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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