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Past Center Events

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Human Ecology and Socioecological Ethics

Friday, April 7, 2016
John Hart, Ph.D.

Pope Francis’ ecological justice encyclical, Laudato Sí, declares that Mother Earth and the poor cry for justice. Its human ecology theme teaches that people are interrelated and mutually interdependent with Earth and all living beings. A complementary insight is that Earth is a sacred commons in which community could be cultivated and conserved by socioecological praxis ethics: the integration of social justice – within and among human communities – with the well-being of Earth and all life. Human ecology and socioecological ethics, related in concrete contexts and complemented by Indian elders’ spiritual teachings, will stimulate creation of a holistic Earth community.

Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger

Tuesday, April 4, 2016
Ben Dunning, Ph.D.

In conversation with recent philosophical inquiries into the interrelation of animal difference and sexual difference, this lecture considers the interplay of these two registers of difference in the thought of the 4th century preacher John Chrysostom. The elusive figure of the serpent in the Genesis creation account allows Chrysostom to align radical subjection, animality, and femininity – thereby serving as the transfer point for refiguring Eve's own position after the fall in these terms. Ben Dunning, Ph.D., is a professor of theology at Fordham University. He is the author of Christ Without Adam: Subjectivity and Sexual Difference in the Philosophers' Paul; Specters of Paul: Sexual Difference in Early Christian Thought; and Aliens and Sojourners: Self as Other in Early Christianity.

Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger

Monday, March 21, 2016
Peter Saulson, Ph.D.

Peter Saulson, Ph.D., is the Martin A. Pomerantz ’37 Professor of Physics at Syracuse University. After earning his degrees at Harvard and Princeton and working at MIT, he came to Syracuse, where he has served on the faculty for 25 years. For almost 35 years, he has been engaged in the search for gravitational waves, a cosmic messenger that has just allowed us to find black holes and to study their properties in unprecedented ways.

A Reading by Tracy K. Smith

Monday, March 14, 2016
Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is director and professor of creative writing at Princeton University. Her third collection of poems, Life on Mars, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Ordinary Light, which was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Nonfiction and selected as a Notable Book by the New York Times and Washington Post.

Becoming at Home in the Universe as Well as in Our Own Skin

Monday, February 22, 2016
Heidi Ravven, Ph.D.

Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza believed that a turn inward in conscious self-reflection in order to understand ourselves and our unique experiences within the entire universe offers human beings our only possibility of freedom and transcendence. Recognizing ourselves in the world and the world within us enables us to engage passionately in wider and wider domains that become dimensions of our very selves, thus transforming our motives from self-serving to benevolent and responsible. Discoveries from the new brain sciences may be proving Spinoza right! The lecturer for this event is Heidi Ravven, Ph.D., Raven is a professor of religious Studies at Hamilton College and a fellow in neurophilosophy in the Integrative Neurosciences Research Program.

The Deviant and the Dead: Incarnations of Crime

Monday, November 9, 2015
Cathy Gutierrez, Ph.D

The 19th century religious movement of Spiritualism brought assurances to the grieving that their loved ones were thriving in the afterlife. At the vanguard of multiculturalism, Spiritualists threw open the pearly gates to include all humanity, all religions and races, with the consequence that they admitted even criminals into heaven. At the same moment, the science of criminology was being born, fathered by committed Spiritualist Cesare Lombroso. Investigations into deviance both here and in the hereafter required new techniques for detecting and finding the deviant hiding in plain sight and inaugurated new thinking about human futures

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines

Monday, November 2, 2015
Dr. Michael Mann

A central figure in the controversy over human-caused (“anthropogenic”) climate change has been “The Hockey Stick,” a simple, easy-to-understand graph Professor Mann and his colleagues constructed to depict changes in Earth’s temperature back to 1000 AD. In this lecture, Professor Mann tells the story behind the Hockey Stick, using it as a vehicle for exploring broader issues regarding the role of skepticism in science, the uneasy relationship between science and politics, and the dangers that arise when special economic interests and those who do their bidding attempt to skew the discourse over policy-relevant areas of science. In short, Mann attempts to use the Hockey Stick to cut through the fog of disinformation that has been generated by the campaign to deny the reality of climate change and, in so doing, will reveal the very real threat to our future that lies behind it.

A Monstrous Connection: The 'Demented' and the Undead

Monday, September 21, 2015
Susan M. Behuniak, Ph.D.

When the very human yearning for immortality is viewed through the lens of pop culture, our obsession with vampires, wizards, witches, and zombies becomes more understandable. Perhaps depictions of these fantastical characters allow us to grapple--from a safe distance--with pressing questions of mortality, meaning, and personhood. But casual references to the undead can also be harmful. This talk will focus on one of these instances: the implications of applying the zombie trope to people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Assessing Pope Francis' Call For An Integral Ecology

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Dr. Christiana Peppard (Fordham University), Dr. Lawrence Tanner (Le Moyne College), and Dr. Jame Schaefer (Marquette University)

The inaugural event in the Sustaining Earth Series addressed: (1) the contents of the encyclical itself and their place within the broader context of Catholic thought and Francis' papacy; (2) the science of climate change; and (3) our ethical implication in climate change and the action that Pope Francis is calling Catholics - and others - to take.

To Be One is Always To Become With Many: What Ancient Christians Can Teach Us About the Future of the Human

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Denise Buell, Ph.D., Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Religion, Williams College

How might wrestling with ancient materials help transform contemporary understandings of the human and perhaps even change practices of how we are human? Both the biological category of microbes and the ancient notion of the pneuma afford occasions to explore what happens when we cannot presume the boundedness of any creature. The radical vulnerability of all creature, including human ones, both exhilarates and terrifies, but above all requires a response.

Lessons From the Human Heart

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Rob Dunn, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University

Most of the important discoveries likely to heal your heart come from basic biology. Fungal taxonomy, evolution, and the biology of rare monkeys have more to do with saving the heart of someone you love than do innovations in surgery, transplants or even the biology of heart cells.

Extreme Humanities

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
William Robert, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Religion, Syracuse University

Edges are engaging. They're where things get really interesting. When human beings reach their edges, touch their limits, extreme things happen: things like ecstasy, transgression, bliss, dissolution. How might we make sense of such extreme experiences? What might they teach us about being human?

What Does it Mean to Be Human in the 21st Century?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Thomas Brockelman, Ph.D., Provost and Professor of Philosophy; Lara DeRuisseau, Ph.D., Core Director and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; and David McCallum, S.J., Ed.D., Executive Assistant to the President for Mission Integration and Development

Le Moyne professors from across the disciplines joined together to discuss what it means to be human in the 21st century.

Bringing Peace to the Tangled Bank – Evolution, God, and Science in America Today

Monday, November 17, 2014
Kenneth R. Miller, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, Brown University

Scientifically, biological evolution is the key to understanding the extraordinary diversity, beauty, and unity of life. However, for many Americans, evolution is a doctrine at odds with faith and is to be resisted at all costs. In this lecture, Kenneth Miller, Ph.D., argues that this opposition is misguided, and even antithetical to the Christian tradition of seeing faith and reason as complementary ways of knowing. Ultimately, Miller contends, America’s religion and science debate is driven by a deep antagonism between extremists on both sides of the issue. The solution is not to split the difference, but to come to a genuine understanding and appreciation of the true depth of scientific and religious thought on the issues at hand. When this is done, both sides may come to realize, as Charles Darwin did, that there is indeed beauty, wonder, and even grandeur in the evolutionary view of life.

Faith: Science and Religion

Thursday, October 16, 2014
Terrence Tilley, Ph.D., Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology, Fordham University

A key problem in the science vs. religion debates in the popular media is the failure to recognize that the debates are actually about matters of faith, not about science or religion. Building on his book Faith: What It Is and What It Isn't, Terrence Tilley, Ph.D., will show that conflict or convergence between science and religion is a conflict or convergence of a person's or a community's faith.

How to be a Christian Darwinist

Thursday, September 25. 2014
Paul Allen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology, Concordia University

Darwin's theory of evolution has been characterized as 'universal acid' that dissolves much of what we think we know about the world, including religion and human nature. In this lecture, Paul Allen, Ph.D., builds on non-reductionist readings of evolutionary theory to show that Darwinism does not necessitate a materialist worldview and is, in fact, conducive to a Christian understanding of creation, to moral endeavor and to the idea that we are saved by God because it helps bring to light the person of Jesus Christ in a fresh way by giving us new insight into self-sacrifice and bodily resurrection.

Praying Between the Lines: Prayer Practices of American Nones

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Elizabeth Drescher, Ph.D., Santa Clara University

When asked what practices they find “spiritually meaningful,” only one traditional religious practice – prayer – is consistently mentioned by the religiously unaffiliated, including Nones who self-identify as agnostic, atheist, or humanist. What does it mean when Nones report that they “pray?”

Buddhism and Science: Past, Present, and Future

Thursday, April 22, 2014
Donald Lopez, Ph.D., A.E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Michigan

The compatibility of Buddhism and science has been claimed, both in Asia and the West, since the nineteenth century. Those claims persisted through the twentieth century and have now extended into the twenty-first, marked most recently by the mindfulness boom. This lecture will provide a brief history of the relationships between Buddhism and science and offer some reflections on what is at stake as the teachings of an ancient Asian sage are offered as solutions to the problems of the modern world.

Multiverse Cosmologies at the Limits of Modern Science

Thursday, March 11, 2014
Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Religion, Wesleyan University

In recent years, an increasing number of astro- and quantum physicists have begun to suggest that, in addition to our universe, there might be an infinite number of others—the hypothetical compendium of which has come to be called “the multiverse.” This lecture will briefly introduce different models of the multiverse in order to address its central questions: How did an infinite number of inaccessible universes become a respectable scientific hypothesis? What distinguishes multiverse cosmologies from metaphysics, fiction, or mythology? And can these distinctions hold, or does the emergence of multiverse cosmologies herald a reconfiguration of the very categories of physics, philosophy, and religion?



Does Prayer Heal the Sick?

Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014
Candy Gunther Brown, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University

Should scientific evidence be used to evaluate claims of healing through prayer? Candy Gunther Brown, Ph.D., will address what medical records, clinical studies, surveys and long-term follow up reveal about the effects of praying for healing. She is the author of Testing Prayer: Science and Healing (Harvard University Press, 2012). The lecture is offered in conjunction with a course developed with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Enduring Questions grants program, What Does Prayer Do ( 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this lecture do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Christ and the Pelican Chick

February 6, 2014
Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., C.S.J., Distinguished Professor of Theology, Fordham University

In Darwin’s account of the evolution of species, pain, suffering, and death are companions of life across its entire adventure. How might we interpret this awful fact in a world that Jewish and Christian faith sees as God’s good creation? Using the example of the back-up pelican chick, this lecture places the death endemic to the natural world in dialogue with Jesus Christ’s cross and resurrection. The result is a way of thinking about salvation that makes room for all creatures.

Here is the handout that accompanies the lecture:  On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin (1857)

Seeking a Theology Earth Can Live With

November 19, 2013
Anne M. Clifford, C.S.J., Ph.D., Msgr. James A. Supple Chair of Catholic Studies, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa?

?For nearly fifty years ecological and environmental scientists have drawn attention to eco-system problems attributable to human choices. Increases in Earth’s heat-trapping gases alone pose not only global economic stresses but also threaten Earth’s fragile ecosystems. Taking Ignatius of Loyola’s emphasis on seeking God’s will through discernment as its inspiration, this lecture will draw on Catholic creation faith and social justice principles to propose a pro-life theology our planet can live with.

Does Evolution Have a Purpose??

October 24, 2013
Michael Ruse, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the History and Philosophy of Science Program, Department of Philosophy, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

The Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries introduced a change of metaphors, from the world seen organically to the world seen mechanically. No longer was there place for ends or final causes in science. Instead, everything was supposed to be understood simply in terms of matter in motion. Biology, however, proved to be remarkably recalcitrant. As Immanuel Kant concluded, it seems impossible to think of individual organisms without appeal to purposes and, as life scientists sought non-biblical solutions to origins, they replaced the Judeao-Christian, human-centered history with a history based on progress culminating in humans – from Providence to Progress. This lecture examines evolutionary biology today and asks whether teleology or end-directed thinking has finally been left behind or continues to lurk even in the minds of the most stridently naturalistic thinkers.

Emergence: Systems, Organisms, Persons ?

September 24, 2013
Nancey Murphy, Ph.D., Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California Panasci Family Chapel

Our Scientific account of the universe maintains that, over billions of years, more and more complex entities have emerged - from hydrogen and helium to atoms near the beginning to humans near the end. But how does the more complex arise out of the less complex? This lecture explains the approach to this issue developed in complex dynamical systems theory; a fascinating new area of study that provides new tools for explanation and is sweeping across the sciences.

Scientific Cosmology, Philosophy and Creation Theology: Creative Mutual Interactions

March 14, 2013
Robert John Russell, Ph.D., Ian G. Barbour Professor of Theology and Science and founding director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California

Rather than approaching the relationship between Christian theology and natural science from a fixed, one-sided perspective, exploring their creative mutual interaction involves reformulating theology in light of science as well as drawing on this reformulated theology in developing topics for scientific research. This lecture illustrates the value of this approach by exploring the mutual interaction among scientific cosmology, philosophy, and creation theology.

Jesuit Spirituality and Academic Theology: Karl Rahner and Ignacio Ellacuria

February 7, 2013
J. Matthew Ashley, Chair, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame

While St. Ignatius did not found the Jesuits with the explicit idea of establishing and operating colleges and universities, this is probably the accomplishment for which they are best known today. But what are the connections between Ignatian spirituality and the multi-faceted work of a modern college or university? This lecture draws on Karl Rahner and Ignacio Ellacuria — two 20th century Jesuits who worked in very different settings — to illuminate this important issue.


Evolution and The Problem of Evil

December 6, 2012
Thomas F. Tracy, Ph.D., Philips Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine

Using a new theology of nature according to which God's creative purposes are realized in and through the evolutionary process, Dr. Tracy examined the role of suffering and death in the world God has made.

Christian Spirituality for Seekers

November 27, 2012
Dr. Roger Haight, S.J., Scholar-in-residence at Union Theological Seminary

In this lecture Fr. Haight discussed who make up today’s seekers and if the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, a 16th century priest and founder of the Society of Jesus, can be relevant to them. He also explained how the Exercises possess a powerful appeal for all people. These ideas are further developed in his most recent book, “Christian Spirituality for Seekers: Reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola” (Orbis 2012).

Evolution, Creation and Intelligent Design

September 20, 2012
Francisco J. Ayala, Ph.D., University Professor, Donald Bren Professor of Political Science and Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Irvine

Dr. Ayala was the inaugural speaker for the launch of the Science and Religion in Modern America initiative at Le Moyne College, September 20, 2012. Dr. Ayala discusses scientific evolution as a very creative process whereby scientists seek to explain by natural processes even the most complex of living organisms. This scientific quest as such neither asserts nor denies the work of a creator God. Some scientists have invoked the need for intelligent design and, therefore, a designer. In so doing, they are stepping outside the bounds of science.

The Universe is Our Home: We are Co-Creators in the Jesuit Tradition

February 16, 2012
Fr. George V. Coyne, S.J., McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy

This lecture was given in celebration of the official opening of the new science building at Le Moyne College.


Return of the Text Conference Sessions

The following five videos are of each keynote speaker during The Return of the Text: A Conference on the Cultural Value of Close Reading that was held in Syracuse, New York from September 26th through September 28th, 2013.

‘Shameless’: The Career of a Pejorative from Augustine until Now
Steven Justice, Ph.D., Professor of English at the University of Mississippi



A Saint Speaks Up: Angelic Texting in the Early Middle Ages
Albrecht Diem, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University




Who is Saadi? Thoreau on the Formation of Subjectivity
Branka Arsic, Ph.D., Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University



Thoreau: Awaking to an Answered Question
Mitchell Breitwieser, Ph.D., Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley



Theology as a Kind of Reading
Charles Mathewes, Ph.D., Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia