Faith and culture take the stage

By Linda Nguyen

Staff Writer

The Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning will host the annual Symposium on Faith and Culture titled “Technology and Human Flourishing,” which will begin at 1 p.m. today in the Bill Daniel Student Center and end Saturday evening. The symposium will be held in the Bill Daniel Student Center and Cashion Academic Building.

The symposium will look at the role of technology in today’s culture and will feature speakers from Baylor as well as professors from around the country.

Dr. Lori Baker, associate professor of anthropology at Baylor will speak about her work as director of Reuniting Families, which is a program that helps communities identify the bodies of undocumented immigrants who die crossing the U.S. border and reunite their remains with their families.

Baker said her faith influenced her to pursue her work reuniting the families.

“I am driven by my faith in my choices of research topics,” Baker said. “Because of my faith, I got involved in human rights work years ago. I wanted to do more using my forensic science skills and felt a calling to help with the identification of deceased immigrants.”

Another speaker from Baylor is Dr. S. Kay Toombs, associate professor emeritus of philosophy, who will speak about how technology relates to people’s lives and needs.

Toombs is part of an agrarian-based Christian community that focuses on sustainable living in terms of growing the food they eat and providing for their material needs.

“I am going to explore how new technology, Internet, cellphones, social media have changed the way we relate to nature, to the land, and to each other and consider the effects it has on our abilities to sustain the environment and sustain our culture,” Toombs said.

Dr. Ralph Wood, university professor of theology and literature, will talk about the role of modern technology in people’s lives.

“More specifically, what is the proper relation between technics and human life?” Wood said. “What good or ill do they bring to human beings? These questions require answers, but they can’t be answered from within the world of technics. You’ve got to have a viewpoint, a stance beyond it, and I will argue that this vantage point should be theological.”

The symposium will also feature professors from a variety of other institutions across the country.

Dr. Ian Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will speak about scientism and technology.

“Scientism refers to the erroneous belief that science is all the real knowledge there is,” Hutchinson said. “This is an opinion that is widespread in our culture. It is a distorted influence on what we think about many things. It distorts science and non-sciences disciplines like history, the arts, humanities, and it also distorts the understanding of the relationship between science and religion, notably Christianity. That’s one of the main reasons I’m interested in it.”

Hutchinson said that he will talk about scientism and how scientism is related to technolopy. “Technopoly” is a word coined by Neil Postman that refers to an out-of-control self-actuation of technology.

“It has a kind of troubling influence on society where people are looking more and more to technology for answers to problems,” Hutchinson said. “Technology itself is being elevated to the status of something that is self-defining.”

The symposium talks are free for Baylor faculty, staff and students. To register, go to the Institute for Faith and Learning website. Registration is $175 and student registration for non-Baylor students is $75, which includes all events and meals.

A complete schedule and list of speakers and presenters at the conference can also be found on the website, http://www.baylor.edu/ifl/index.php?id=88447.