Announcement of Dr. Braden Molhoek as the new CTNS Barbour Chair and Director

January 21, 2022

Dear members and friends of CTNS and the GTU:

I am delighted to announce that Dr. Braden Molhoek will become the new Ian G. Barbour Assistant Professor in Theology, Science, Ethics and Technology and the CTNS Director in the summer, 2022, following my retirement in June. Braden’s appointment by the GTU, following on the recommendations which I offered with input from the CTNS Advisory Board and other sources, marks a landmark expansion of our mission in interdisciplinary research, teaching and public service to explicitly include ethics and technology along with theology and science.  It reflects the four goals of our search process which I stipulated in internal documents to the GTU Senior Staff over the past year:      

1) Ensure academic continuity in theology and science at CTNS broadly conceived to guarantee the GTU’s ability to attract outstanding candidates for the Ph.D. in theology and science and to support the continued publication of Theology and Science, now in its 20th year.  

2) Expand our interdisciplinary reach beyond theology and science to include ethics and technology, broadly conceived. This will allow us to attract outstanding candidates for the Ph.D. in ethics and technology and to seek additional sources of program grants beyond those in theology and science. 

3) Ensure programmatic continuity and institutional ‘memory,’ and reward commitment to CTNS and its mission, by an internal promotion within our staff.  

4) Maintain financial stability by drawing reasonably on the current CTNS endowment, including the Barbour Chair and the Russell Family and the Charles H. Townes Graduate Student Fellowships.

Dr. Molhoek is an ideal candidate to take up this broad and complex mantle. His academic track record includes his remarkable work in moral philosophy, bioethics and Christian theological ethics, his extensive involvement in theology and science, his teaching in applied ethics at Santa Clara University and the GTU, and his publications and lecturing at numerous international and national conferences over the past several years. His administrative track record includes working in accounting and more recently as Program Associate for CTNS for the past 16 years.

In 2005 Braden entered the GTU as a doctoral student in ethics and social theory. He brought with him a distinguished academic background. As an undergraduate he was magna cum laude at Ohio Wesleyan University where he majored in both genetics and religion, wining the University’s Founder’s Award for Expository Writing. Braden completed an M.T.S. at Boston University School of Theology cum laude with a major in Philosophy, Theology and Ethics and with Wesley Wildman, a GTU Alum, as his advisor. He also received a Certificate in Science and Religion from the Boston Theological Institute, taking advantage of cross registration through the consortium by taking multiple courses from Thomas Shannon in bioethics. 

In 2007 Braden won CTNS’s annual Charles H. Townes Graduate Student Fellowship for outstanding research in theology, science and ethics. 

Braden's dissertation, titled "Reinhold Niebuhr's Theological Anthropology in Light of Evolutionary Biology: Science Shaping Anthropology Shaping Ethics" placed Niebuhr's understanding of human nature, particularly his doctrines of original sin and original righteousness, into conversation with insights from biology. The final chapter explores how this conversation also affects ethical issues, including the role of friendship in virtue ethics, environmental ethics, and genetic engineering.

Braden graduated from the GTU in 2016 and became a Lecturer in Science, Technology, and Ethics at the GTU supported by CTNS. The following year he and I created and team-taught the course RSST4100, “Science, Religion, Ethics: Bioethics in Light of Theology and Science,” to upper division M. Div. and entering doctoral students. The course was designed to bring together the insights of Ian Barbour on science and religion and on ethics and technology with the "principle based approach" to bioethics articulated by Beauchamp and Childress.  Braden’s lectures were clear, detailed, and insightful, inviting the students into the complex landscape of bioethics and helping them shape their own views and enter into a very creative dialogue over them.  Braden then focused on such crucial topics as stem cell research, genetic engineering, and transhumanism.  Since 2018 Braden has also served as a Quarterly Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Engineering at Santa Clara University, teaching Software Ethics and Ethical Issues in Bioengineering to graduate engineering students.

Braden recently gave a series of presentations at national venues including: 

The Annual Ethics Symposium for the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. His presentation was entitled “Engineering Telos: Flourishing in the Context of AI and Transhumanism.”  

A workshop called New Directions in Theology and the Philosophy of Science at Concordia University of Edmonton.  His presentation was entitled “Responsive Robots, Supple Cyborgs, and CRISPR Humans: Human Nature and Relationships in Light of Artificial Intelligence, Transhumanism, and Human Enhancement.”  

The second annual Christian Transhumanist Association Conference in Nashville. His presentation entitled was “Negative Freedom and Procreative Beneficence: Framing the Kind of Enhancements that Ought to be Pursued.”

Braden’s publications the past several years underscore his growing academic accomplishments.  

“Raising the Virtuous Bar: The Underlying Issues of Genetic Moral Enhancement,” Theology and Science 16, no. 3 (June): 279-287.

“The Umbra of Injustice: Issues of Graduate Student Health, Job Prospects, and Academic Publishing,” eBook by the University of Notre Dame Press from the conference, Practicing Science: Virtues, Values, and the Good Life. Center for Theology, Science & Human Flourishing. 

Response to the CTNS 2018 Russell Family Fellowship Conference published in Theology and Science 17. 

Participant in the 2018 Christian Transhumanist Association conference. 

An expanded and reworked version of the presentation he gave at the Notre Dame Center for Theology, Science, and Human Flourishing conference in London is out in an eBook. 

“Student Mental Health, Job Concerns, and Issues in Academic Publishing: Stifling the Acquisition of Virtue and the Possible Perpetuation of Injustice in the Pursuit of Science,” in Virtue and the Practice of Science: Multidisciplinary Perspectives.  

The presentation he gave at the Army Ethics Symposium came out in a special issue of a peer review national security studies journal with papers from the conference “Engineering Telos: Flourishing in the Context of AI and Transhumanism.” InterAgency Journal 10, no. 3 (August 28, 2019): 85–92.  

An expanded version of the paper he gave at the first Saskatchewan Center for Science and Religion Conference has been published as "Possible consequences of AI and transhumanism: health concerns surrounding unemployment, second class citizenship, and religious engagement," in Spiritualties, ethics, and implications of human enhancement and artificial intelligence, C. Hrynkow, Ed., (Vernon Press, 2020).

Braden has also worked for CTNS since 2005, gaining invaluable administrative skills and increasingly diverse responsibilities. Initially hired as a Research Assistant for the STARS Program (“Science and Transcendence: Advanced Research Series”), a grant funded by the John Templeton Foundation (JTF), Braden gained administrative skills and learned how CTNS operates in detail. Soon he took over the monitoring of the STARS budget, communicating with research grant teams, and assisting me in writing grant reports to JTF. In 2009 Braden was promoted to Program Associate and asked to work with our payroll and tax services providers, handle internal accounting, budgeting, financial reports, and assist in grant writing.  In 2015 CTNS received a three-year grant from JTF to produce a technical assessment of the three major international programs created and administered by CTNS through JTF funding (~$24M). The technical assessment surveyed a majority of participants in these programs. The outcome was the development of a series of strategies for future funding based on the success of these programs. 

In 2015-2016 CTNS transitioned from being an independent non-profit corporation to an internal Program of the GTU. Braden was in charge of all financial aspects of CTNS during this complex period of transition, and he continues to do so up to the present.  Increasingly over these past five years he has served as a closely trusted advisor for me in all aspects of CTNS administration. Personally, Braden is a delight to work with both in academic and in administrative contexts and he is strongly committed to the wider religious community, being an active member of First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley.

In sum, I am delighted to announce that Dr. Braden Molhoek will take over as the Ian G. Barbour Assistant Professor of Theology, Science, Ethics and Technology at CTNS/GTU  and as the CTNS Director. I am confident he will be an ideal successor to my position at CTNS/GTU, a highly valued and loyal member of the GTU doctoral faculty and cadre of Center Directors, and that he will have the academic and the administrative skills, experience and dedication to lead CTNS successfully towards an academically expanded program in theology, science, ethics, and technology, one which will increasingly be secured financially by our growing institutional endowment at the GTU. 


Robert John Russell

The Ian G. Barbour Professor of Theology and Science, 

The Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley

Founder and Director, 

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences

A Program of the GTU