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Hawley, Lake, Burns Participate in Science and Humanities Symposium

Associate Professor of Physics Dr. Scott Hawley, Vice President for Spiritual Development Dr. Todd Lake and Provost Dr. Thomas Burns recently participated in the Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford (SCIO) North American Colloquium held last weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida. The North American Colloquium is an event of the Bridging the Two Cultures of Science and the Humanities project funded by Templeton Religion Trust and The Blankemeyer Foundation.

The Colloquium was designed to bring together Bridging the Two Cultures (BTC) faculty and their senior academic officers. Hawley, Burns and Lake met with faculty, provosts, spiritual directors and student life directors from private Christian universities around the United States and Canada to discuss ways to integrate the discussion of science, faith and humanities topics in all aspects of university life.

Hawley was previously selected to participate in the Bridging the Two Cultures project for summer 2018 and 2019 on the research topic of “Christian Responses to the Ascendency of Artificial Intelligence.” His work involves collaborating with University of Oxford faculty and other Christian scholars from around the world to address challenges and opportunities posed by the increasing prevalence and power of Machine Learning (ML) systems and their impact on society. His scholarship to date, supported by the grant, produced two peer-reviewed publications which, while still in press, have already received favorable attention by international A.I. experts. The grant has also impacted Hawley’s classroom.

“My project for this grant, ‘Christian Responses to the Ascendancy of Artificial Intelligence,’ has spilled over greatly into the new course I’ve been teaching this semester, PHY2895.02, Machine Learning and Neural Networks.  This is a ‘gen-ed course which received BellCore approval because of the deep integration of ethics in the curriculum. This embedded ethics curriculum is on the cutting edge of computer science education.”

Hawley’s grant also supports Belmont efforts to integrate faith, science and the humanities studies on campus, including sponsoring the launch of a Science and Religion Club at Belmont. The student organization, in partnership with the colleges of Theology and Christian Ministry and Sciences and Mathematics, will host a campus visit by theologian-of-technology Brent Waters, March 19-20. In addition, the grant has enabled a number of events on and off campus, and Bunch Library has been able to add a number of books related to the integration of faith, science, technology and ethics in the past year.

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