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The 2008 Charles H. Townes Student Fellowships Announced

2008 Charles H. Townes Student Fellowships

Announced at the end of the 2008 CTNS J. K. Russell Research Fellowship Conference, Program Director, Nathan Hallanger presented the 2008 Student Fellowship awards to GTU doctoral students, Braden Molhoek and Oliver Putz. His verbal presentation is here on the left.

You may read the submitted statement on each student's research by clicking each name below.

Braden Molhoek, “Human Nature and Genetic Enhancement.”

Oliver Putz,
"In The Image of God: Moral Animals and Special Creation"


Braden Molhoek (L), Charles Townes, Robert Russell and Oliver Putz.

In 2004 CTNS established a fund to provide support to doctoral students in theology and science at the Graduate Theological Union.  In 2006 the CTNS Board of Directors voted unanimously to rename the Graduate Student Fellowship in honor of Charles H. Townes, a distinguished scientist and a longtime member of the CTNS Board of Directors. For those of you who may not know, let me remind you of Charles Townes’ accomplishments.  It is extremely rare for even the most distinguished scientist to accomplish something that changes the course of civilization.  Yet that is exactly what he has done with his participation in the discovery of the maser and the laser.  From CD-players and bar-code scanners to cataract and cancer surgery and dentistry without anesthetics and countless other advances, the laser has forever changed the entire landscape of our world.

But what is of even greater importance for us, gathered here today to celebrate and discuss the work of George Coyne, is that for years Townes has been a champion of the intellectual validity and ethical voice of religion to an often skeptical and even dismissive scientific community.  He has been unremittingly outspoken in his conviction that science and religion are convergent rather than in conflict or in isolated realms.  In particular, science should not be co-opted into the service of atheism and materialism but instead celebrated as a lasting partner with religion in service to the wider culture.  He has consistently voiced his conviction on an international stage.  As a recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics with over two dozen honorary degrees and membership in many learned societies, he represents the world of theological education to the highest levels of the academy and intellectual culture.  He has given energy, vision, and financial support to institutions seeking to bring science and religion into responsible and respectful dialogue, and he has addressed international audiences with the message that science can be a partner with religion in the quest for the ultimate meaning of life. 

The purpose of this Fellowship is to publicly recognize and offer modest financial support to doctoral students who have demonstrated the clear ability to do highly promising research on issues related to theology and science.  The selection is based on academic excellence, and students in the GTU doctoral program whose research focuses on theology and science are eligible to apply. With the Fellowship carrying his name, Charles Townes’ pioneering leadership in scientific research and his internationally recognized voice for the creative interaction between science and religion will inspire its recipients.

Let me say a few words about each of our recipients. The awards go to one student early in his or her education and one student nearing the completion of his or her degree.

Braden Molhoek holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in genetics and religion, and a master’s degree from the Boston University School of Theology, where he studied with two GTU graduates, Wesley Wildman and Kirk Wegter-McNelly.  He is pursuing his Ph.D. at the GTU in ethics and social theory.  He is interested in issues of bioethics, particularly relating to genetics.  In this context, he has written on Christian understandings of human nature in light of the issue of genetic enhancement, where he points out that nonreligious explorations of the issue do not have Christianity’s developed notion of the future, a focus on community, and a sense of the inherent dignity of individuals; Christian understandings of human nature, he argues further, also provide greater warrants for these positions than nonreligious understandings.

Oliver Putz received a Ph.D. in biology from the Free University of Berlin.  He subsequently received two postdoctoral positions, one at the University of Texas and one at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He received his master’s degree in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and is currently pursuing his second Ph.D., in systematic and philosophical theology, at the GTU.  He has published articles in a number of scientific and theological journals, and he received a Planning Grant from the CTNS Science and Transcendence Advanced Research Series (STARS) in 2007. His doctoral research focuses on an expanded notion of the imago dei such that all creatures capable of self-consciousness—and thus capable of moral reasoning—are included among those created in God’s image.

Please join me in congratulating our two deserving recipients of the Charles H. Townes Graduate Student Fellowships, Braden Molhoek and Oliver Putz.



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