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Friendship Project News

University Hosts Global Warming/Environmental 'Friendship Group'

Akron, Ohio, Aug. 31, 2007 — Twenty-five scientists and evangelical ministers gathered at The University of Akron recently for a meeting of the “Friendship Project,” a movement to stop global warming and address other major environmental issues such as massive species losses.

The meeting was equally split between science-related and religion-related topics, according to Dr. Stephen Weeks, professor of biology in The University of Akron's Integrated Bioscience Program. “For the former, there was general discussion that evangelicals and secular scientists need to communicate better to change public opinion about global warming, specifically, and conservation more generally,” Weeks says.

Dr. Carl Safina of the Blue Ocean Institute discussed the degradation of the earth's biological realm, including issues related to global warming. “He outlined several reasons why religious and science constituencies need to band together to stem this loss of ‘the creation,'” says Weeks. Safina is a conservation biologist who has written several books and is the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, dubbed “the genius award.”

Rev. Ken Wilson, an evangelical minister at the Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., and regional director of about 100 Vineyard churches, “noted that evangelicals have not traditionally been identified with environmentalism and have generally been distrustful of science and scientists,” Weeks notes.

“He said these ‘anti-science' positions are mainly due to bundling of issues into liberal, for example, gay rights, abortion rights and environmentalism, vs. conservative, such as preservation of marriage and right-to-life groups. He also cited several biblical references that made it clear that valuing the biological world is deeply rooted in the Bible, and that Christians should therefore be true advocates of environmental stewardship.”

The event at UA, held Aug. 24, followed a similar national event held in January organized by Edward O. Wilson, a renowned ecologist and evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, Nobel Prize winner Eric Chivian, and Richard Cizik, evangelical minister and vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

That meeting, Weeks says, “went exceptionally well; both constituencies felt they had many more things in common — and thus could work together — than they had originally anticipated.”

Attendees at the UA-hosted meeting also discussed how to foster better internal communications and how to recruit others to broaden the discussion and “smooth over the rough edges” that have formed between science and religion. “There was general agreement that both sides were open — in fact eager to follow — these discussions,” Weeks says.

“It was suggested that teaming up campus InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA groups with professors might be the best way to jump-start these dialogs, and that after continued interaction, we could reach out to evangelical ministers nearby the various campuses to extend the project into the local churches.” InterVarsity is an evangelical campus mission serving more than 35,000 students and faculty on more than 560 college and university campuses nationwide.

Science participants — 13 biologists and one geologist —came from The University of Akron, Kent and Cleveland State universities, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the College of Wooster, Baldwin-Wallace College, the University of Michigan and the Blue Ocean Institute.

Evangelicals included members of Intervarsity, Vineyard ministries and the Dearborn, Mich., Free Methodist Church.

Others were from Ohio State and Case Western Reserve universities and the universities of Michigan and Cincinnati.

The group hopes to spread this interaction between science and religion to local levels across the country, Weeks says.

-from the University of Akron News

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