Sister Ilia Delio argues religion and science are compatible in lecture

Sister Ilia Delio speaking at the “God, Evolution, and the Power of Love” lecture. (Photo by Rosetta Goza)

On Saturday, Nov. 4, Mountain Top Lectures and the University of North Georgia hosted a lecture by Sister Ilia Delio called “God, Evolution and the Power of Love,” on the Dahlonega Campus.

Sister Delio came to share her theories on how science and religion are interconnected. She claims part of the problem with the world today is that religion, especially Christianity, has yet to adapt to modern times.

“We are twenty-first century people with a medieval religious cosmology,” Sister Delio said. “So, you know, functionally, we’re living in this very fast-paced, scientific, technological world, religiously we’re between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.”

Sister Delio, a Franciscan Sister, began as a scientist with a master’s in biology, a Ph.D. in pharmacology, and trained in research science. Her focus was the brain and spinal cord, working on Lou Gehrig Disease, looking at the electrical dysfunction of the disease in experimental animals. She left research science and entered a monastery of discalced, Carmelite nuns where she experienced a radical way of life cut off from the world. She stayed for a few years before being sent to live with German Franciscan Sisters in New Jersey, who sent her to Rutgers University to study theology. She went for a master’s degree but “realized it was really a lot of fun” and “sort of a science unto itself” and wound up staying for the Ph.D. Her first teaching job was in Science and Religion at Trinity College in Connecticut. She spent a great deal of time trying to understand how the two interact and how modern science impacts the understanding of core doctrines and ended up writing several books on the subject. This led her to develop a whole new paradigm.

Mountain Top Lectures began as a collation of book clubs with an interest in theology, and developed into a group that recruits speakers to give lectures to help foster a better understanding of various religions, theology, spirituality, science, and how they impact our lives in the 21st century. A committee chooses and books the speakers a year to a year and a half in advance based on the results of an after-lecture survey.

“The Unbearable Wholeness of Being” by Ilia Delio.

Unfortunately, while a good half of the auditorium seats were filled, only two out of the substantial audience were UNG students. This is due to how little publicity Mountain Top Lectures has at the University of North Georgia, according to Dr. Michael Proulx, professor of history at UNG and board member for Mountain Top Lectures. Proulx says while Mountain Top Lectures is seven years old, it has just finished its second semester installment with UNG acting as its new venue. He encourages students and faculty at UNG to take advantage of the unique opportunities of having speakers who ask challenging questions about provocative issues in a discussion-friendly environment.

“We’re not trying to force anyone to believe anything,” Proulx said. “We’re providing opportunities for them to think about what they believe and why they believe it. It’s always a good thing to self-examine where you are in life, where you’re going, and how you’re getting there.”

Mountain Top Lectures keeps all previous lectures in a digital archive on its website while the actual lectures can be found at deliomtl. Similarly, Sister Ilia Delio has her own website.

The next lecture takes place on April 7, 2018, with Dr. Justin Barrett, a cognitive scientist and Professor of Psychology at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology. He is also one of the forefront researchers known for his work in the cognitive science of religion.

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