Published on March 3, 2015 by Sean Flynt
The program, funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, fosters in participants the interdisciplinary skills and understanding central to the study of science and religion.
Donaldson, a mathematics and computer sciences professor, is a co-founder and senior fellow of Samford’s Center for Science and Religion. “It’s a great opportunity, personally, but also for Samford to have somebody in this program,” he said of the SCIO honor.
In the summers of 2015 and 2016, Donaldson will join 25 other participants from universities around the world for seminars in Oxford, and will work on an original research project. The two month-long seminars will include lectures by eminent scholars in science and religion, mentoring, tutorials and cultural activities related to the study of science and religion.
Donaldson’s proposed project will build upon the Center for Science and Religion’s ongoing, Templeton-funded exploration of neural evolution, but will allow him to focus more intently on the questions of cognition and consciousness that interest him most.
“If you’re going to have a relationship with God it’s going to somehow be built around the fact that you’re an intelligent, conscious being,” Donaldson said as he described his proposed SCIO project. He wonders at what point the creatures humans once were became capable of the divine/human relationship, how evolution might continue to change humans and change that relationship, and what role new technology might play in advancing both evolution and religion. “There are some deep theological questions that spin out of the science,” he said.
Donaldson will address some of those questions through publication of his SCIO project, but he hasn’t decided if he will write journal articles or a book. To help him in the process, the SCIO honor also includes funding to support a research assistant at Samford. Donaldson has selected freshman University Fellows honors student Sarah McGhee for that role. He said the psychology major will help with literature research, culling the large amount of published information he will evaluate for his project.
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.