Previous McDevitt Initiatives
Future of Being Human

Chair: Jennifer Glancy, McDevitt Core Professor (2015-2017)

In light of ecological crisis, rapid technological change, and widespread social alienation, what is the future of being human? Inaugurated in Spring 2015 and continuing through Spring 2017, this lecture series fostered a multidisciplinary conversation about what it means to be human in the 21st century.


Eula Biss on “Notes from No Man’s Land: A Reading and Conversation with Eula Biss”

Returning to questions of race, racial identity, and whiteness, critically acclaimed essayist Eula Biss reminds us that we are all interconnected – our bodies and our fates. Along with a reading by the author, the evening will include an exchange with sociologist Farha Ternikar, Ph.D., and conversation with the audience.


Eula Biss is the author of three books: On Immunity: An Inoculation (named one of the 10 Best Books of 2014 by The New York Times), Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism), and a collection of poetry, The Balloonists.


Donovan Schaffer (University of Oxford) on “You Don't Know What Pain Is: Affect, Animals, and the Lifeworld”

Affect theory considers how we interact with each other along registers that are not reducible to language. Like humans, animals arguably have rich religious worlds shaped by pre-linguistic textures of affect. Deprived of these lifeworlds, animals can be thrown into a state of trauma. In light of this, what are the ethical implications of the modern factory farm system, particularly the practice of mass confinement?


Donovan Schaefer, Ph.D., is departmental lecturer in science and religion at the University of Oxford. He is the author of Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power (Duke University Press, 2015).


Dr. Ayanna Haoward (Georgia Institute of Technology) on “Designing Robots for the Inevitable Future”

The Robots are coming! The Robots are coming! The Robots are already…Here. Balancing media fascination with the potentially negative impact of robots on human flourishing, this talk asks how robots might change the texture of our day-to-day experiences for the better.


Ayanna Howard, Ph.D., is professor and Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Endowed Chair in Bioengineering in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her area of research centers on the concept of humanized intelligence, the process of embedding human cognitive capability into the control path of autonomous systems.


Dr. Sharon Betcher on “On Earth’ As in Heaven? En/Crip/Ting, Desire, Developing a Taste for Life in the Anthropocene”

Philosophers have often equated “modern man” with the “man of reason.” In postapocalyptic imagination, “becoming crip” pleasurably exceeds such reduction of human personhood to the “masterful subject.” Theologian Sharon Betcher, Ph.D., explores “crip” as a theological map of hope and deep ecological pleasure – pleasures beyond those available with the reign of capital and its alliance with theological holism.


Betcher is an independent scholar, writer, crip philosopher and would-be farmer living on Whidbey Island, Washington. She is the author of Spirit and the Obligation of Social Flesh: A Secular Theology for Global Cities and Spirit and the Politics of Disablement.



Dr. Bruce Monger (Cornell University) on “The Future of Being Human in the Face of Climate Change”

How do humans affect climate change? What are the implications of climate change for the future of being human? Oceanographer Bruce Monger, Ph.D., makes climate science broadly accessible, encouraging audience members to become citizen activists for policy change. Past generations have brought humanity to the climate change brink. This generation decides if we cross that line.


Monger is senior lecturer in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University. A former postdoctoral fellow at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Monger uses satellite observations to study how natural variability in ocean dynamics impacts marine ecosystems at ocean basin and global scales.



Anne Washburn on “ Why Use Words?”

What is the value of speech in an age of imagery? Playwright Anne Washburn examines the role played by the ancient technology of language in our modern telepathic world.


Anne Washburn’s recent plays include Antlia Pneumatica (Playwrights Horizons), 10 out of 12 (Soho Rep), Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play (Woolly Mammoth, Playwrights Horizons), and transadaptations of Euripides’ Iphigenia In Aulis (Classic Stage Company) and Orestes (Folger). Among the honors she has received are Alpert, Whiting and PEN/Laura Pels Awards, a Guggenheim fellowship, and several MacDowell and Yaddo residencies.

Tracy K. Smith (Princeton University) on “A Reading by 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.



Cathy Gutierrez on “The Deviant and the Dead: Incarnations of Crime” Spiritualists of the 19th century assured the grieving that their loved ones were thriving in the afterlife. Meanwhile, the science of criminology was born, fathered by committed Spiritualist Cesare Lombroso. Investigations into deviance both here and in the hereafter required new techniques for detecting deviants, inaugurating new thinking about human futures.



George Saunders on “A Reading by George Saunders”

George Saunders is the author of four collections of short stories, a novella, and a book of essays. His most recent collection is Tenth of December. He is the recipient of a 2006 MacArthur Foundation Genius grant, and his work appears regularly in The New Yorker, GQ, and Harpers Magazine. He is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME magazine in 2013.


Other Future of Being Human Speakers:


Dr. Ben Dunnung (Fordham University) on “Chrysostom's Serpent: Animality, Gender, and Creation”

Dr. Heidi Ravven (Hamilton College) on “Becoming at Home in the Universe as Well as in Our Own Skin”

Dr. Susan M. Behuniak on “A Monstrous Connection: The 'Demented' and theUndead"

Dr. Denise Buell (Williams College) on “To Be One is Always To Become With Many: What Ancient Christians Can Teach Us About the Future of the Human”

Dr. Rob Dunn (North Carolina State University) on “Lessons From the Human Heart”

Dr. William Rober (Syracuse University) on “Extreme Humanities”

Dr. Thomas Brockelman (Le Moyne College), Lara DeRuisseau (Le Moyne College), and Father David McCallum (Le Moyne College) on “What Does it Mean to be Human in the 21st Century?”



Vulnerable Life

Chair: Todd May, McDevitt Chair in Religious Philosophy (2016-2017)

During the 2016-2017 academic year, the McDevitt Center and the McDevitt chair in Religious Philosophy sponsored Vulnerable Life, a series of public lectures at Le Moyne College engaging the theme of our human vulnerability to suffering and how we can cope with it. The central question orienting the initiative was: Should we seek to overcome our vulnerability, as some philosophies and spiritual practices counsel, or find ways to live with it?

Dr. Todd May (Clemson) on “The Weight of Our Past”

Our lives take certain paths rather than others. And, as we look back on the trajectories of our lives, we often evaluate those paths. Usually, but not always, we affirm them. However, we don’t know how our lives would have turned out if we had followed a different route – or how they will turn out from the point at which we ask. This talk will investigate the difficulty of affirming or rejecting our lives in the wake of this uncertainty.


“What We Must Affirm?”
We who live in relative comfort can find that our comfort rests on others’ sacrifices. These sacrifices occur on at least two levels. One concerns the necessary labor of those who work menial jobs at low pay to support our more enjoyable work. The other, more philosophically vexed, concerns all the horrors of human history that allow us to enjoy our present comforts. This talk will ask how we might relate to these two forms of uneasy indebtedness.

Todd May, Ph.D., is the 2016-17 McDevitt Chair in Religious Philosophy at Le Moyne College and Class of 1941 Memorial Professor at Clemson University. May earned his doctorate from Penn State University in 1989, and has been at Clemson since 1991. He has authored 14 philosophical books, among which The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism has been influential in recent progressive political thought. His most recent work, addressing a more general audience on fundamental questions of human existence, include A Significant Life: Human Meaning in a Silent Universe (2015) and A Fragile Life: Accepting Our Vulnerability (2017), from which these two lectures are drawn.


Dr. Shelly Kagan (Yale) on “ Death, Deprivation and Rational Regret” Is death a bad thing? According to the “deprivation account,” death is bad because the dead don’t get the various goods that they would have if only they were still alive. But it’s not normally a misfortune when a merely possible good doesn’t come your way: Bill Gates didn’t write you a check for a million dollars today, but it would be silly to be upset at that. So how can death actually be bad? This talk will explore a promising answer.


Shelly Kagan, Ph.D., is the Clark Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. Kagan’s main research interests lie in moral philosophy, and in particular, normative ethics. Kagan is a popular lecturer at Yale, known for his introductory lectures on death and ethics. His course on death has been turned into an Open Yale Course that is particularly popular in China and Korea. His books include The Limits of Morality (1991), Normative Ethics (1997), The Geometry of Desert (2012), and Death (2012), a book based on his Yale course and a national bestseller in South Korea.


Dr. Richard Moran (Harvard) on “The Philosophical Retreat to the Here and Now” Certain philosophies (both Western and Eastern) describe us as prone to forms of attachment that are illusory, and promise to indemnify us against the hazards of life by exposing such illusions. One such hazard is that of transience and temporal life itself, and it is sometimes urged that since the present is the only genuine reality, attachments to the past or the future are forms of illusion we can and should be free of. This talk raises some questions about the ideal of “living in the present.”


Richard Moran, Ph.D., received his doctorate from Cornell University in 1989 and began teaching at Princeton University, then at Harvard University, where he has been since 1995. His interests include philosophy of mind and moral psychology, the nature of testimony, and aesthetics and the philosophy of literature. His 2001 book Authority and Estrangement: An Essay on Self-Knowledge was hailed as “one of the most striking and original books in the Philosophy of Mind written in the last ten years.” Moran also has published papers on metaphor, and on imagination and emotional engagement with art.


Science & Religion in Modern America

Chair: Father Coyne, McDevitt Chair in Physics (2014-15)

This initiative brought eminent scholars from the sciences and humanities to Le Moyne College to share their reflections on relationships between science and religion with the campus community, members of other regional academic and religious institutions, and the public. By embodying Le Moyne's Catholic and Jesuit belief in the unity of all knowledge, "Science and Religion in Modern America" provided a compelling example of informed and respectful conversation about these vital issues.

Dr. Paul L. Allen (Concordia University) on “How to be A Christian Darwinist”

Charles 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.


Dr. Terrence W. Tilley (Fordham University) on “Faith: Science and Religion”

A key problem in the science versus 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.


Dr. Kenneth R. Miller (Brown University) on “Bringing Peace to the Tangled Bank-

Evolution, God, and Science in America Today” 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.


Dr. Robin Kimmerer (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry) on
“What Does the Earth Ask of Us”

Though the earth provides us with all that we need, we have created a consumption-driven economy that asks, “What more can we take from the earth?” and almost never “What does the earth ask of us in return?” Indigenous environmental philosophy is rich in teachings of how we might enter into reciprocity with the more-than- human world. This lecture asks whether we can create a symbiosis between indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge that can guide us to sustainability.

Dr. Christina Z. Peppard on “Facts and Values: Environmental Science and Ethics in the Catholic Church”

What does environmental change have to do with debates about religion and science? Against the backdrop of the Catholic Church’s multifaceted relationship to scientific inquiry throughout the past few centuries, this lecture focuses on evolving Catholic teachings on the intersections of environmental degradation, social justice, and political economy – and their importance for the 21st century.

Other Science and Religion in Modern America Speakers

Dr. Elizabeth Drescher (Santa Clara University) on “Praying Between the Lines: Prayer Practices of American Nones”

Dr. Donald Lopez (University of Michigan) on Buddhism and Science: Past, Present, and Future”

Dr. Micheal Ruse (Florida State University) on “Does Evolution Have a Purpose?

Dr. Mary-Jane Rubenstein (Wesleyan University) on Multiverse Cosmologies at the Limits of Modern America”

Dr. Wesley J. Wildman (Boston University) on “ The Three Domains of Science and Religion”

CNY Cybersecurity Connections: Today’s Challenges, Opportunities and Trends

Chair: Marcus Rogers, McDevitt Chair in Computer Science (2014-15)

“Fraud, Privacy, and Bring Your Own Device” Questions, conversations and concerns around privacy and fraud are no longer reserved for security and technology professionals. Decision makers also need to understand the impact security challenges have on privacy and fraud policy within their organization. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from leading industry experts about these critical issues.

Orin Kerr
Kelley Misata

Shawn O’Reilly, Upstate Medical University
Orin Kerr, George Washington University
Kelley Misata, George Washington University
Paul Silba, New York Power Authority
Laurie Venditti, Infragard


Dr. Rogers is the director of the Cyber Forensics and Security Program in the College of Technology at Purdue University and a professor and fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He has served as the international chair of the Law, Compliance and Investigation Domain of the Common Body of Knowledge Committee, chair of the Planning Committee for the Digital and Multimedia Sciences Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, chair of the Certification and Test Committee of the Digital Forensics Certification Board, and former advisory board member of the Digital Forensics Certification Board.

Other Cybersecurity Connections Speakers

Tim Casey (CISSP, IAM) on “Risk Assessment and Threat Modeling”
Rebecca Bace (Panelist for Cybersecurity Connections Panel Discussion, fall 2015)
Jean Pawluk (Panelist for Cybersecurity Connections Panel Discussion, fall 2015)


Dr. Peter Saulson (Syracuse University) on “Observation of Gravitational Waves: From a Binary Black Hole Merger”

In the fall of 2015, scientists from the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) measured ripples in the fabric of space-time – gravitational waves – arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. Peter Saulson, Ph.D., who has been engaged in the search for gravitational waves for almost 35 years, will discuss what this spectacular discovery means.


Saulson served two terms as leader of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the main group searching for gravitational waves. He is currently the Martin A. Pomerantz ’37 Professor of Physics at Syracuse University, where he has taught for 25 years. Saulson is a graduate of Harvard University and Princeton University.

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