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Union professors hope their newly formed Baconian Society will provide thoughtful discussion

JACKSON, Tenn.Oct. 17, 2002 – What does it mean to be human? Is stem cell research right or wrong? Are certain types of cloning ok? Union University professors Hal Poe and Jimmy Davis hope to start a dialogue throughout West Tennessee on these and other issues when their newly established organization, the Baconian Society, gets underway at the end of October.

Poe, Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture, and Davis, associate provost, received a $15,000 Local Societies Initiative Grant by the Metanexus Institute on Science and Religion, an organization that provides grants for colleges, universities and seminaries. The grant pays start-up costs for dialogue groups that explore the exchange between science and religion.

The establishment of the society was a gradual process, according to Davis.

“This was a logical development between what Hal and I did for years,” said Davis. “We developed a course called “Science and Faith” and two books. Now we want to take these questions to a larger audience.”

The society will be open to membership from the whole West Tennessee community for people involved in science and religion. That includes professors, clergy, doctors and nurses, scientists in business and in education, students and the general public.

“We hope to involve not only the Union University students and faculty, but others schools as well, including Memphis schools,” Poe said. “This will not be just a Union group, but a community group.”

The question the society will focus on in its first few years of programming will be the issue of what it means to be human and the topic will be explored in a variety of ways.

“We plan to approach it from many different disciplines,” Poe said. “This question impacts every dimension of life.”

Davis said that some of the more specific topics to be discussed include cloning, stem cell research, abortion, and other recent scientific issues. One goal of the society is, Davis said, to face the challenge of defining what a human is and how to deal with these issues as Christians.

The society will meet twice a semester during the fall and spring semesters of the regular academic school year. Each meeting will include a presentation of a topic by a Union faculty member or a guest speaker. Although the first meeting will be held at Union, Poe and Davis eventually hope to hold meetings at sister institutions.

The first meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. in Hartley Hall in Jennings Hall on Union’s Jackson campus which will be co-sponsored by the Mars Hill Forum, a program offered by Union’s Carl F.H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership. The discussion will be based around Davis and Poe’s most recent book, Designer Universe.

The meetings will follow a formal presentation and response format that will offer a balanced thought from both faith and science. An open discussion will follow the formal presentation time.

Membership will also be available for students, faculty, professionals and others interested in attending meetings. There will be a membership fee, and students will be charged less than other members. A web site for the Baconian Society and email list serve are also available.

The goal of these programs is to encourage the community at large to reflect on how science and religion interact with each other in a society where science and technology is changing rapidly. Poe and Davis also hope that through these dialogues, people will be able to understand the significance of the advances in science and their cultural implications as well as the role of faith and science in the development of culture.

The name of the society is also a significant factor for both men. The original name was the Society for Science and Faith. However, after some thought, they changed the name to the Baconian Society, in honor of the scientist Sir Francis Bacon.

“He is the father of the scientific method,” Poe said. “He was also a philosopher, a scientist, a politician, and a writer. He saw this marvelous interplay of all the different spheres of knowledge. He best represents what we want for this group.”

For more information about joining, contact Hal Poe at (731) 661-5404 or Jimmy Davis at (731) 661-5461.

By Tracie Holden, Class of 2004

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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