Le Moyne initiative to explore science, ethics of care for creation

Drawing on perspectives from both science and religion, Le Moyne College will explore pressing ecological concerns and effective responses to them as part of a new initiative launching on the campus this fall.

“Sustaining Earth: Insights from Science and Religion,” a forthcoming series of public events, will be organized through the college’s McDevitt Center for Creativity and Innovation.

The series “is motivated by our sense of the urgency of the growing threats to our environment and by our conviction that a full understanding of these threats and effective responses to them must draw upon both scientific and broadly religious insights and perspective,” according to material provided to the Sun by Jesuit Father George Coyne, endowed McDevitt Chair in Physics. (Father Coyne spoke to the Sun via email while on a break away from campus. The Sun is grateful for the generous gift of his time.) Events will supply scientific information about environmental threats and their causes along with insights on “our human relation to the environment and our ethical obligations to care for the environment, all with the intention of helping to foster informed and concerted action to sustain our earth,” according to the materials.

The series will kick off next month with “Assessing Pope Francis’ Call for an Integral Ecology,” a panel discussion of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’” with three expert scholars: Dr. Christiana Z. Peppard, assistant professor of Theology, Science and Ethics in the Department of Theology and affiliated faculty in the Environmental Policy Program and the Program in American Studies at Fordham University in New York; Dr. Lawrence Tanner, professor of Natural Systems Science and director of the Center for the Study of Environmental Change at Le Moyne College; and Dr. Jame Schaefer, associate professor in the Department of Theology at Marquette University in Wisconsin. The panelists will discuss the encyclical and its context, the science of climate change, and the ethical implications of that change and the actions Pope Francis is calling for, according to Father Coyne.

The talk aims “to provide an assessment of the encyclical by experts, so that everyone might enter into a dialogue which advances the urgency of the serious ecological issues which the Pope addresses,” said Father Coyne. “The pope’s declarations leave no room for an escape from action based on claims that the science involved is inconclusive. He invites dialogue but he is clearly not hesitant. It is obvious that he has consulted widely and wisely among experts on the environment, climate change, economics, sociology, demographics, etc. and he has taken firm positions based on those consultations. It is urgent that all of us participate in an assessment of those positions, so that we may act accordingly upon them.”

“Laudato Si’” “has far exceeded the expectations of almost everyone: believer, atheist, scientist, humanist, politician, wealthy, poor and so on,” Father Coyne said. “It may very well provoke one of the most important dialogues between science and religion since the days of Charles Darwin. The pope invites all who dwell on the surface of the earth to enter into dialogue about the environment with an attitude of urgency that we together must take action.”

“Assessing Pope Francis’ Call for an Integral Ecology” will be held Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. at Le Moyne College’s Panasci Family Chapel. The talk is free and open to the public. The event has been organized in collaboration with the Peace and Justice Committee of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, and is sponsored by the Diocese of Syracuse.

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