The McDevitt Center

Past Center Events

See Video Archive from Return of the Text Conference

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 (www.whatdoesprayerdo.net)? 

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