Conference explores religion, philosophy

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

Baylor joined with Georgetown University and the University of Notre Dame to host a conference Thursday to discuss the philosophy of religion.

The conference is being held on the Georgetown campus located in Washington, D.C., and will last until Saturday night.

The conference will be held annually, moving between the three universities and coming to Baylor in 2012, according to a university press release.

Dr. Michael Beaty, chair of the philosophy department, explained the idea behind beginning this conference.

“The idea of the conference was basically to bring people together, both people who have well-established reputations as well as some younger faculty, to talk about issues in the importance of the area of the philosophy of religion,” Beaty said.

Beaty said the philosophy of religion includes a wide range of topics, including “questions about whether it is reasonable to believe God exists, are there any good arguments for God’s existence and issues about the characterization of God, what are God’s attributes.”

Dr. Jonathan Kvanvig, distinguished professor of philosophy at Baylor, organized the conference and explained its value in a Baylor press release.

“These conferences provide the opportunity for our faculty and students to see what first-rate work is being done elsewhere, and also allow us to showcase the equally good work being done in our department,” Kvanvig said. “Such opportunities are essential to the mission and future of Baylor University as a Christian research university.”

Beaty said he feels this conference and future conferences hosted by these three universities will help to advance this field of study.

“One value of the conference is having really good scholars pushing the field forward and having other scholars participating,” Beaty said.

“Second is the visibility it gives to Baylor as it participates at these high-level conferences, and as it does it in cooperation with other outstanding research universities.”

The conference will include speakers from Baylor, Georgetown and Notre Dame as well as other universities throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.

Dr. Trent Dougherty, assistant professor of philosophy at Baylor, will be co-presenting at the conference a paper he coauthored with Alexander Pruss, associate professor of philosophy at Baylor.

“[We] are going to be presenting a paper…on the problem of evil and suffering for Christians, and how it is a lot like the problem of anomalies in scientific theories,” Dougherty said.

Dougherty further explained the topic of the paper.

“Sometimes scientific theories make predictions about almost everything and sometimes those don’t come true, so there’s a problem for the theory. But you don’t just give up the theory because there is something that doesn’t quite fit, you keep working with it,” Dougherty said.

He said perseverance is also common among Christians.

“In a way, Christianity is a lot like a scientific theory. It is a theory about everything,” Dougherty said.

Dougherty said he believes the value of these conferences is to make progress in understanding different philosophical theories about religion.

“One of the values is that we make some progress, even if it is only small, in understanding these questions,” Dougherty said.

“Even if we don’t solve the problems, we can better clarify the questions in hope that somebody else can solve the problem. Also, we [as scholars] can get a new perspective on the problems and perhaps find that they don’t need solving at all.”