School celebrates 75th anniversary with mini-symposium on evolution

Maureen Nagg

Professors from the College of Arts and Sciences explored a variety of theories and issues surrounding evolution yesterday at the college’s first mini-symposium.

“Evolution Across Disciplines” brought together experts from social sciences, humanities and biological sciences to present a theory of evolution from within their field of study.

“Science and religion are both interested in the universe and the human being,” said Jeffrey Wattles, associate professor of philosophy. “They both attempt to tell their side of the story.”

While the difference between the scientific and religious theories of evolution are obvious, the difference between religious evolution stories isn’t as blatant.

The Bible contains six creation stories, each with slight differences from the others. Things like the word used for God, the sequence of events and the creation of man and woman differ in some of the six Bible stories, said David Odell-Scott, chair and associate professor of philosophy and coordinator of religious studies.

However, he said, no story has privilege over the other.

“These accounts were not critiqued on whether they were accurate or not,” Odel-Scott said. “Rather, the criteria was whether or not the material would inspire Orthodox faith.”

A large contrast to the Bible’s creation story was the evolution theory of genome patterns of living things.

Walter Hoeh, associate professor of biological sciences, presented two differing theories of mitochondria evolution and illustrated the process of choosing the best hypothesis.

“Scientists do not prove anything,” Hoeh said. “They test hypotheses and choose the best explanations.”

From genome to fertility rates, the next topic of discussion addressed how fertility affects populations and demographics as a whole.

One profound effect fertility rates have on women is to reduce the chances of breast cancer, said Richard Meindl, chair and professor of anthropology.

“Every birth a woman has drops her chances of breast cancer by 7 percent,” Meindl said. “Every 12 months of breast feeding decreases the chance of breast cancer by 4 percent.”

The college held the mini-symposium to celebrate its 75th, anniversary and it hopes to make the symposium an annual event.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Maureen Nagg at [email protected].