Biology professor meets Archbishop of Canterbury



Building on her years of working to build relationships between science and faith communities, on June 23, biology professor Nalini Nadkarni presented on environmental and ecological justice at The Most Reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Archbishop, spiritual leader of 85 million Anglicans and Episcopalians, is on sabbatical to visit the Virginia Theological Seminary and invited Nadkarni, along with two theologians and a water rights lawyer, to speak on issues of ecological justice, reconciliation and forgiveness.

The group virtually met the Archbishop and the Right Reverend Ian markham, Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary.

“It was a learning experience for me to experience the respect, open-minded language and behavior that surrounded this meeting,” said Nadkarni. “The fact that he initiated this and is learning about social and environmental justice during his sabbatical to study and understand the processes of ‘reconciliation’ impressed me as being exactly what leaders of all. kinds are needed, and that was a welcome signal from one of the major religious leaders of our time.

Nadkarni spoke about the complexity of interactions in nature, drawing on his own research in forest ecology. She suggested ways for scientists and faith groups to work together to solve environmental problems, including inviting scientists to religious conferences and encouraging interactions with local groups such as citizen science projects in churches and seminars.

“I concluded by saying that there are many scientists who would be interested in contributing to positive actions and interactions with faith groups, and who have offered whatever help I could give,” says Nadkarni. “The Archbishop has expressed his gratitude for this information and will be in contact with those participating in this conversation for feedback on the steps he plans to take.” It will also include Nadkarni’s contribution in a book he is writing while on his sabbatical.

Nadkarni says she was happy to hear that the Archbishop and Dean Markham were aware of issues of environmental conservation and environmental justice, including initiatives to save existing wildlands.

Locally, the meeting gave rise to discussions with the Right Reverend Tyler Doherty, Dean of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Salt Lake City. Doherty and Nadkarni will explore opportunities to discuss care for the Earth with devotees from an Episcopalian perspective.

Also in June, Nadkarni delivered a speech at a conference organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Dialogue on science, ethics and religion (DoSER) titled “Forward Together: Where Science, Ethics and Religion Cross in a Changing World”.

The recorded speeches of the conference are now available.

The conference celebrated on 25e anniversary of the DoSER and the common ground and concerns of scientists and faith groups. “There are many intersection points for engagement right now,” Nadkarni said, citing his own efforts, those of other DoSER scientists and the conference attendance of scientific leaders such as Sudip Parikh, CEO of the AAAS, which is the largest professional science company in the world. Others were initiated by individuals or religious groups, including Interfaith power and light, which disseminates information on climate change through leaders of faith-based groups.

Nadkarni’s opening speech was highlighted in the National Catholic journalist, and the conference as a whole was published in the journal Science showing, she said, the extent of influence of a single presentation.

“It would be impossible to attend this conference and NOT be impressed by the number of scientists and faith-based people involved in these exchanges,” Nadkarni said. “A quote from Nancy Adelman, a member of the faculty of the Catholic University, said:“ Scientists and people of faith speak a common language, which is awe-inspiring and amazed by the world at large. Meet on common ground and consider our common interest.

Learn more about Nadkarni’s work with faith groups here.


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