Technology's Benefits and Drawbacks Will Be Focus of Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture

Oct. 15, 2012

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (Oct. 15, 2012) - "Technology and Human Flourishing" will be the theme of the 2012 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, hosted by the Institute for Faith and Learning, on Thursday, Oct. 25, through Saturday, Oct. 27.

"Technology changes us--and the world around us--in countless ways," said Darin H. Davis, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy and director of the Institute for Faith and Learning at Baylor. "It eases our labor, cures diseases, provides abundant food and clean water, enables communication and travel across the globe, and expands our knowledge of the natural world and the cosmos. The stuff of science fiction is now, in many cases, reality, and it can make our lives longer, healthier, and more productive than ever.

"But technological advance is not without complication, and even ardent proponents of technology recognize that our present age of innovation is fraught with concern for unintended consequences," Davis said. The event invites reflection about how technology contributes to and, at times, compromises human flourishing, Davis said.

"How should we understand and evaluate both the promise and peril of the things we create? What implications arise for our understanding of what it means to be human and live well? How might theological considerations--in particular Christian convictions about the things we make and how we use them--illuminate our understanding of technology?

"Technology that eases our labor, for example, can detach us from a meaningful sense of work. What can cure disease also can encourage us to view the human body as something to be engineered, modified, and immortalized. Techniques that produce more food from less land can have ruinous, long-term effects on the environment. Likewise, even as technology makes possible instant communication with others around the world, it often creates distance between ourselves and people near to us; while it enables unprecedented mobility, it can undermine the stability necessary for families and communities to thrive. And as technology provides ever increasing knowledge, we quite reasonably wonder whether such knowledge is being used to bring about a wiser, more just world."

Speakers will include:

� Lori Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology at Baylor, a physical anthropologist whose research included ancient and modern human population variation, the peopling of the Americas, forensic science and human rights. She is director of Reuniting Families, an effort to identify and repatriate to families the remains of undocumented immigrants who die crossing the southern U.S. border. Her work has been featured in Discovery Magazine, National Geographic, NPR, The Washington Post, USA Today, MSNBC and The Wall Street Journal.

� Patrick J. Deneen, the David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame.In 2006, he became the founding director of "The Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy" at Georgetown University. He served as principal speechwriter for Joseph Duffey, former director of the United States Information Agency. He authored The Odyssey of Political Theory and Democratic Faith and received the American Political Science Association's Leo Strauss Award for Best Dissertation in Political Philosophy in 1995.

� Jean Geran is founder and president of Each, Inc., an organization committed to building and providing the technology necessary to support those working to care for and protect vulnerable children globally. She has been a member of the policy planning staff at the U.S. Department of State responsible for issues including human rights, trafficking in persons, child protection, refugee policy and governance. She also served as the director for Democracy and Human Rights on the National Security Council, as advisor on United Nations reform and as an abuse prevention officer for USAID in Iraq.

� Ian H. Hutchinson, Ph.D., is professor of nuclear science and engineering and the Alcator Project Co-principal of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served as head of the MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering from 2003 to 2009. From 2000 to 2004, he was editor-in chief of the journal Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, and he was the 2008 chairman of the division of plasma physics of the American Physical Society. He is the author of Monopolizing Knowledge: A Scientist Refutes Religion-Denying, Reason-Destroying Scientism.

� Peter Kilpatrick, Ph.D., the Matthew H. McCloskey Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. From 1983 through 2007, he was on the faculty of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University, serving as department chair from 1999 to 2007. He was founding director of the North Carolina Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center from 2004 to 2007. Since 2009, he has taught a course in technology, engineering, and ethics at Notre Dame. He co-organized a 2010 conference in Budapest entitled "Human Dignity in the Modern Academy: Challenges at the Interface of Science, Technology and Medicine."

� Nancey Murphy, Ph.D., professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary. She serves on the board of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Berkeley, and is a member of the executive committee of the International Society for Science and Religion. Her first book, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning, received the American Academy of Religion's Award for Excellence and the Templeton Award for best book in theology and science. Two books, Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature (co-edited with W. S. Brown and H. N. Maloney; Fortress, 1998) and Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (co-edited with R. J. Russell and A. R. Moore) also received the Templeton Award.

� Rosalind W. Picard is founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group, co-director of the Things That Think Consortium, and leader of the Autism & Communication Technology Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also co-founder, chief scientist and chairman of Affectiva, Inc. Picard is the author of Affective Computing as well as nearly two hundred scientific articles and chapters in multidimensional signal modeling, computer vision, pattern recognition, machine learning, human-computer interaction, and affective computing. In 2005, she was honored as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for contributions to image and video analysis and affective computing. Picard holds multiple patents, having designed and developed a variety of new sensors, algorithms, and systems for sensing, recognizing, and responding respectfully to human affective information.

� Russell R. Reno is the editor of First Things. Previously, he was professor of theological ethics at Creighton University. He is the general editor of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible and author of the volume on Genesis. His books include Fighting the Noonday Devil--and Other Essays Personal and Theological, In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity and Redemptive Change: Atonement and the Christian Cure of the Soul.

� S. Kay Toombs is associate professor emeritus of philosophy at Baylor University. Diagnosed in 1973 with multiple sclerosis, she explores her firsthand experience of chronic progressive debilitating disease in order to reflect on issues relating to the experience of illness and disability, the phenomenology of the body, the experience of disability, the care of the chronically ill, the challenges of incurable illness and the relationship between health care professionals and patients. Her book, The Meaning of Illness: A Phenomenological Account of the Different Perspectives of Physician and Patient, has been translated into Chinese and Japanese.

� Ralph Wood is University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor. He formerly served at Wake Forest University, where he became the John Allen Easley Professor of Religion in 1990. He has taught at Samford University, Regent College and Providence College. His books include Chesterton: The Nightmare Goodness of God, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South, Contending for the Faith: Essays in the Church's Engagement with Culture, and The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth.

Events will be in the Bill Daniel Student Center, 1311 S. Fifth St., and Cashion Academic Center, 1400 S. Fourth St. For a schedule or to register, visit

Regular registration is $175; student registration is $75. Both registrations permit entry to all conference events. Baylor faculty, staff and students may attend all activities except the meals for free. Registration is required only of those Baylor attendees who are presenting or wishing to dine.

Special group registration pricing may be available for groups of students attending the conference with faculty sponsors from their institutions. A group's faculty sponsor should contact the Institute for Faith and Learning.

To learn more, call (254) 710-4805 or email


Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


The Institute for Faith and Learning was founded in 1997 to assist Baylor in achieving its mission of integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment, and its goal of becoming a university of the first rank committed to its Baptist and Christian heritage. Since its founding, the Institute has developed several major programs in support of this mission, cultivating high-quality research, sponsoring conferences, mentoring students, and encouraging teaching faithful to the Christian intellectual tradition.

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