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Being Human: The Nexus of Science & Spirituality

Posted by on Thursday, March 7, 2019 in Events.

A two-day science communication event sponsored by the AAAS, Vanderbilt Graduate School, Russell G. Hamilton Leadership Institute & Communication of Science and Technology Program


Exploring Who We Are: Public Engagement on Human Evolution

Speaker: Dr. Briana Pobiner, Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History
Respondent: C. Nolan HuizengaAssociate Pastor, Second Presbyterian Church, Nashville, TN

Tuesday, March 19, 2019
4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Student Life Center, Ballrooms A & B
Reception to Follow
Open to the Public

Dr. Pobiner  will discuss her experiences exploring ways to promote conversation around the question “what does it mean to be human?” through her efforts leading public engagement activities in the Smithsonian’s Hall of Human Origins, involvement with a traveling public library exhibit on human origins, and research on the teaching and learning of human evolution in US high school biology classrooms.

Dr. Briana Pobiner Bio: Briana Pobiner is a paleoanthropologist whose research centers on the evolution of human diet (with a focus on meat-eating), but has included topics as diverse as cannibalism in the Cook Islands and chimpanzee carnivory. She joined the Smithsonian in 2005 to help establish the Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). In addition to continuing her active field, laboratory, and experimental research programs, she leads the Human Origins Program’s education and outreach efforts as well as public programming, website content, social media, and exhibition volunteer training. Briana has also developed a formal research program on evolution education and science communication. Briana has a BA from Bryn Mawr College (1997), where she created her own major called Evolutionary Studies, and an MA (2002) and PhD (2007) in Anthropology from Rutgers University. In addition to her position at the NMNH, Briana is an Associate Research Professor of Anthropology at the George Washington University.

AAAS Workshop:

Science Communication & Engagement with Religious Publics

Wednesday, March 20, 2019
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Student Life Center, Board of Trust Room
Registration Required

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will be directing a workshop for scientists seeking to expand or improve their science engagement with diverse publics, particularly with individuals who hold religious perspectives and faith-informed worldviews.Representatives from the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology and the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DOSER) program will guide discussion and offer tool and  strategies for constructive and inclusive science dialogue. Space is limited and participants must register before March 11th.

Panel Discussion:

Vanderbilt Scholars at the interface of science and society

Joseph B. Fanning, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, Director of the Clinical Ethics Consultations Service
Maithilee KundaAssistant Professor of Computer Science & Assistant Professor of
Computer Engineering
David WeintraubProfessor, Director of Undergraduate Studies & Director of Program in Communication of Science & Technology

Wednesday, March 20, 2019
1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Student Life Center, Ballrooms A & B
Reception to Follow
Open to the Public

Joseph B. Fanning, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He serves as the Director of the Clinical Ethics Consultations Service and works with patients, families and clinicians on ethical concerns that arise in patient care. He received undergraduate training at Birmingham-Southern College (B.A. 1993); completed masters work at Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div., 2000, Th.M., 2001); and earned his doctorate in the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt University (Ph.D. 2008). His research focuses on the role of communication and interpersonal skills in the development of therapeutic relationships across clinical contexts. He has co-authored a book based on fifty-five patient interviews titled,  What Patients Teach: The Everyday Ethics of Healthcare (Oxford University Press, Fall 2013). He has also co-authored articles on the philosophy and practice of clinical ethics consultation. In 2009, Fanning co-edited with Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton a special issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics that focused on spiritual and religious issues in medical genetics. Most recently, he authored the book, Normative and Pragmatic Dimensions of Genetic Counseling (Springer Press, 2016) where one of the chapters focuses on the role of spiritual assessment in genetic counseling.
Maithilee Kunda is assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering at Vanderbilt University. Her work in artificial intelligence, in the area of cognitive systems, looks at how visual thinking contributes to learning and intelligent behavior, with a focus on applications for individuals on the autism spectrum. She currently directs Vanderbilt’s Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence and Visual Analogical Systems, and is one of the founding investigators of the newly endowed Frist Center for Autism and Innovation. She holds a B.S. in mathematics with computer science from MIT and a Ph.D. in computer science from Georgia Tech, and in 2016, was recognized as a visionary on the MIT Technology Review’s annual list of 35 Innovators Under 35.
David Weintraub received his Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Astronomy at Yale in 1980 and his PhD in Geophysics & Space Physics at UCLA in 1989.  He is a Professor of Astronomy at Vanderbilt University, where he also directs the Communication of Science and Technology program.   His books include Life on Mars: What to Know Before We Go (2018), Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It? (2014), How Old is the Universe? (2010), and Is Pluto a Planet? (2006). He has also authored over 70 peer-reviewed papers in professional journals and co-written seven astronomy books for children.