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Feb 1, Professor Joe Barnhart

February 1st, 2009, Roundtable Meeting, Led by Professor Joe Barnhart, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Pellissippi State, 10:30 a.m. (come early for coffee and fellowship) - Children's Program in Adjoining Room - Pellissippi State Technical Community College, Goins Administration Building, Cafeteria Annex.

Speaker: Professor Joe Barnhart, retired Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas

"Nonoverlapping Magisteria"
(Do science and religion address exclusive domains?)

Do science and religion address exclusive domains? Let each domain go about its business and then study each on its own terms. Is religion primarily the individual's emotional experiences and the religious community's self-reinforcing ritualistic behavior? So viewed, the theological claims may be taken as verbal rituals that make no cognitive claims.

Traditionally, however, religions have in fact made strong cognitive claims that produced a wide range of metaphysical theories - from the origin of the universe to the status of a human fetus. Professor Barnhart will show how rational thinking went into the development of theology. In short, metaphysics can be rationally debated.

So, where does science enter the picture? Barnhart conjectures that science, too, seeks to create metaphysical theories. So, where does it differ from religion? Karl Popper argues for falsifiability as the line of demarcation. If theology is not falsifiable, might it have what Barnhart calls "simulated falsifiability" of its own?


Mleeka Learn Houston and Dave Buck will lead the children in a discussion of the book, “The Mitten,” by Jan Brett.

Applications to real life will deal with skepticism in the absence of empirical evidence.

In the story, a boy loses his white mitten in the snow and animal after animal squeezes inside to keep warm. Eventually the mitten can't stretch any more, and the animals are expelled and go about their business. The boy finds his stretched-out glove but never knows what happened to it. The discussion will center on trying to learn what happened to the mitten from the evidence and then extrapolating to the idea that just because we don't know yet and may not figure out the mysteries of the world within our lifetimes doesn't mean that something supernatural happened. It just means that we haven't found the natural cause yet.

The children may create and share their own "mitten myths" about what happened while Nicki wasn't looking. Through such an exercise, the children can realize how easily others do the same and pass it off as fact.

Dave will follow the story with a craft activity.

Posted by pking
Jan. 26, 2009