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Notre Dame Professor Delivers Townes Lecture on Faith & Reason

Dr. Christian Smith, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, will deliver the Charles H. Townes Lecture on Faith and Reason Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. in Shaw Hall of the Younts Conference Center on the Furman University campus.

Smith’s talk, “Why Scientists Playing Amateur Atheology Fail,” is free and open to the public.  A book signing and reception will follow his remarks.

Smith will also speak earlier on Nov. 15 at a luncheon presentation in Younts Conference Center.  His 11:45 a.m. talk, “Understanding the Role of Parents in the Inter-generational Transmission of Religious Faith and Practice to Children,” is free and open to the public by reservation on a first-come, first-served basis (call 864-294-3777 or email  Reservations are required by Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Smith’s Tuesday evening talk examines the capabilities and limits of scientific authority to help us know what we can and cannot rationally believe about possible religious truths.  In it, Smith explores questions such as: Do natural and social scientists have the capacity to make claims about the existence of God, the meaning of the universe, or other metaphysical positions? Can science prove or disprove religious beliefs? Is atheism more scientific than belief in God?

Smith is the Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, and principal investigator of a number of research projects including the National Study of Youth and Religion, the Intergenerational Transmission of Religious Faith Project, and the Science of Generosity Initiative.

Smith is the author, co-author, or editor of numerous books including To Flourish or Destruct: A Personalist Theory of Human Goods, Motivations, Failure, and Evil (Chicago 2015); Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood (Oxford 2011); What is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (Chicago 2010); Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Emerging Adults (Oxford 2009); and Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford 2005), among others. He has also authored or co-authored numerous journal articles.

Smith received a bachelor’s in sociology from Gordon College (Wenham, Mass.) in 1983, and received a master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University (1987, 1990). He has also studied Christian theology at Harvard Divinity School and other Boston Theological Institute schools.

Smith taught six years at Gordon College before moving to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he served 12 years as a faculty member and as Associate Chair of the Department of Sociology from 2000 to 2005. In 2006, Smith assumed his current position at the University of Notre Dame. Since his arrival at Notre Dame, he has brought in more than $20 million in research grant funds to the university.

For more information, contact the Furman University News and Media Relations office at (864) 294-3107.

About the Charles H. Townes Lecture Series on Faith & Reason
The Charles H. Townes Lecture Series on Faith & Reason has been funded through gifts from the John Templeton Foundation and Nobel Laureate, the late Charles H. Townes (1915-2015), Furman University Class of 1935. Townes held the rank of University Professor of Physics in the graduate school of the University of California-Berkeley and was a member of the Furman Board of Trustees.

A Greenville native, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964 for his contributions to the development of the maser and laser. In 2005, he was awarded the Templeton Prize for his efforts to build bridges between science and religion. According to the Templeton website, Townes’ “seminal 1996 article, ‘The Convergence of Science and Religion,’ established him as a unique voice—among scientists, in particular—seeking commonality between the two disciplines.”

This lecture series named in his honor seeks to continue Townes’ spirit of inquiry and dialogue by inviting discussion of significant human questions that are addressed by both faith and reason.

Last updated August 5, 2022
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Clinton Colmenares
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