Joplin Interfaith Coalition plans panel discussion on science and religion set for Saturday

May 2—The Joplin Interfaith Coalition and South Joplin Christian Church will hold a panel discussion on science and religion Saturday. While the topic can be contentious, organizers said, the discussion will be focused on building understanding in the community rather than division.

"This is definitely part of our intentional ethos as the interfaith coalition," said Colleen Carroll, pastor of South Joplin Christian Church. "Our goal is to facilitate dialogue and build relationships without confrontation. This is to help people within the Joplin-area community to have an opportunity to see and meet people firsthand that may have very differing viewpoints from themselves and yet recognize that we're all part of one beautiful community."

The panel discussion will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Peace Lutheran Church, 3100 N. St. Louis Ave. The public is invited to attend, and refreshments will be provided.

Carroll said the coalition looks for topics that will be interesting to the public. The coalition held a similar panel in the past, and it was well received. This time, the event is including speakers from scientific fields who will bring in their perspective.

The panel discussion will specifically explore ways those in the scientific field see their personal faith and science interacting.

"We often hear of religions where, especially in conservative circles, you are almost told to suppress your scientific discovery or what the scientific world puts forth," Carroll said. "That's the paradigm we're trying to address — in what ways science and religion intersect."

In Saturday's panel discussion, the coalition invited speakers whose professions are in the scientific field to talk about the connections between their vocations and their religious beliefs.

These panelists include:

—Michael Garoutte, from Peace Lutheran Church and part of the chemistry department at Missouri Southern State University.

—Aadil Denmayza, with the Joplin Islamic Center, a lithium-ion cell manager and former imam of the Islamic Society.

—John Metcalf, with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a chemist.

—Bradley Shelby, with the Buddhist community, science communicator and a paleontologist.

—Paul Teverow, with the Joplin United Hebrew Congregation, will discuss scientific perspectives in modern and classical Jewish writing.

Panelists will answer a set of questions from moderator Carroll, such as if their sacred texts address methods of scientific inquiry. If there's time, they will also take questions from the audience at the end.

Carroll said panelists understand and agree to the principle that the discussion will share perspectives for the sake of building understanding and trust. The discussion isn't meant to be argumentative or be an opportunity to proselytize, she said, but to provide people in the community an opportunity to meet people who might have different viewpoints.