ISSR is pleased to announce the following events taking place on the 17th November 2017 in Boston, USA.

EVENT #1: M17-105

TITLE: “Attending to Symbiosis: Theology and the Connectedness of Nature”

DATE: Friday, 17 November 2017

TIME: 10:30 am to 1:00 pm

LOCATION: Sheraton Boston-Republic A (Second Level).


Few recent developments in biology are as striking as our new appreciation of mutually beneficial symbiosis: the hair on a sloth is adapted for growing algae, which forms an important source of calories for its host in return; the earliest known fossils of life on Earth are of symbiotic communities; garden centres stock spores of fungus that extends the root system of trees, and is nourished with sugars in return. Mutualism – beneficial relationships between organisms of different species – is no longer seen as a marginal curiosity; it is now known to be profoundly widespread.

Evolution now seems to present the story of shifting patterns of benefit, not simply of competition. Some of its most momentous developments have involved the symbiotic engulfing of smaller organisms by larger ones (endosymbiosis), as with chloroplasts and mitochondria.

There are important practical consequences. Aspects of human health depend on our relationship with the bacteria, or microbiome, of our gut. Something as fundamental to agriculture as soil is shaped and preserved by symbiotic relationships.

Beginning with a survey of the state of contemporary scientific knowledge, this panel will address the relative lack of theological attention to these developments, and consider their significance for a theological understanding of nature, not least in the form of their consequences for systematic theology and theological ethics.


Daniel Castillo, Loyola University Maryland

Andrew Davison, University of Cambridge

Adam Pryor, Bethany College

Professor Katherine Sonderegger, Virginia Theological Seminary

Wesley Wildman, Boston University and the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion



EVENT #2: M17-203

TITLE: “CRISPR/Cas and Human Germline Gene Editing: Possibilities and Perspectives”

DATE: Friday, 17 November 2017

TIME: 2:30 to 5:00 pm

LOCATION: Sheraton Boston – Republic B (Second Level).


This mini-conference addresses the possibility of human germline gene editing from the perspectives of religion, bioethics, and public engagement. New genome-editing techniques, including CRISPR/Cas, enable precise changes to the genome. Applied to medicine, these techniques open up new ways for researchers to counter diseases such as cancer. They also have the power to make additions, deletions, or other alterations in the human genome. These alterations may include gene editing in particular patients (so-called “somatic cell gene therapy”) or in future children, perhaps affecting their offspring indefinitely (“germline modification”).

The first speaker is Richard O. Hynes, co-chair of the Committee on Human Gene Editing: Scientific, Medical, and Ethical Considerations of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. Working with counterparts in the Royal Society and the Chinese Academy of Science, for instance in hosting the International Summit on Human Gene Editing, this Committee has been central to discussions by experts and the general public on promises and challenges presented by advances in gene editing. Professor Hynes is the Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research at MIT, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He will comment on the state of the technical advances and what they suggest for future uses in human germline modification.

Three panelists will offer a response and engage Prof. Hynes in discussion. They include (1) Laurie Zoloth, Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School and President of the AAR in 2014, whose work brings together advances in biomedical research, bioethics, and religion; (2) Ron Cole-Turner, a Vice President of the International Society for Science and Religion and editor of Design and Destiny: Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Human Germline Modification; and (3) John H. Evans, Sociology, University of California, San Diego, a leading expert on public and religious responses to advances in biotechnology and a member of the NAM/NAS Committee on Human Gene Editing. At least 30 minutes is reserved for public discussion.

Questions to be explored in this mini-conference include technical, bioethical, religious, and social issues. What level of precision and safety are made possible by the new techniques? If approval is contingent upon safety, what level is required? What are the most likely first steps to be proposed for use in human germline gene editing? Could someone create in offspring genetic qualities that have not existed in people before? Could a gene drive be installed in a human? Could people be modified so they could not breed with the unmodified?  How are new gene editing techniques changing the bioethical and religious conversations about germline gene editing?

It is expected that this mini-conference will be webcast. For details, please visit the website of the National Academies [] just before the conference occurs. The International Society is grateful to acknowledge that the webcast is supported by the National Academy of Medicine’s Kellogg Health of the Public Fund.

The ISSR also gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the American Academy of Religion in offering this event and the co-sponsorship of two Units of the AAR: Bioethics and Religion Unit and the Human Enhancement and Transhumanism Unit.


These events are free and open to the public at no charge. There is no need to register in advance. These sessions take place the day before the opening of the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. The ISSR encourages registration and attendance at AAR, but anyone wishing to attend only the ISSR events need not register for AAR.


ISSR would also like to announce the following two events taking place at the AAR Meeting itself. Both of these events will be taking place on the 18th November 2017 in the Hynes Conference Center, Boston, USA.


EVENT #1 M18-306

THEME: Human Enhancement: Biological Frameworks and Cyborg Theologies

DATE: Saturday, 18 November 2017

TIME: 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm

LOCATION: Hynes Convention Center, Boston. Fairmont Copley Place-State Suite A (Lower Lobby Level).


This event features two new books with the authors in dialogue with a critical interlocutor, Jennifer Thweatt, and with the audience. The first book, The Myth of the Moral Brain by Harris Wiseman (2016), asks whether human enhancement technologies can make human beings more moral. Can they save us from our animal nature? What even makes us think we need “saving” from our natures? Wiseman argues that moral functioning is complex, embodied, and “enworlded.” It is mediated by biology but not utterly determined by it. He argues that we must constrain grandiose hopes regarding moral bioenhancement, while allowing room for the fruitful exploration of the biology of morality.

The second book, Cyborg Theology: Humans, Technology and God by Scott Midson (2017), observes that today, we see ourselves as part of nature and, at the same time, as radically transformed by technology. Midson draws on some of the deeper nuances of Donna Haraway’s work to suggest that the cyborg idea can rejuvenate theology, mythology, and anthropology in order to challenge the anthropocentrism directed towards nature and the non-human in our society. Through an imaginative reading of the myth of Eden, Midson proposes that it is indeed possible for humanity to be at one with the natural world even as it vigorously pursues novel, “post-human” technologies.

Jennifer Thweatt is the author of Cyborg Selves: A Theological Anthropology of the Posthuman (Routledge, 2012).

For more information, please contact Ron Cole-Turner at

Harris Wiseman, International Society for Science and Religion
Scott Midson, Lincoln Theological Institute and University of Manchester


EVENT #2 M18-404

Science and Religion Hospitality Event

DATE: Saturday, 18 November 2017

TIME: 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm

LOCATION: Hynes Convention Center, Boston. Fairmont Copley Place-St. James Room (Lobby Level)


Please join us for refreshments and conversation at this year’s Science and Religion Hospitality Event, sponsored by:

The Zygon Center for Religion and Science (Zygon Center), which offers graduate courses at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, hosts public lectures and visiting scholars and shares offices with Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. (

The International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) is an honorary academic society of established scholars in religion with expertise and publications in one or more of the natural sciences, scientists with a commitment to dialogue with religion, or historians and philosophers of science. More on the ISSR can be found at The ISSR events at the AAR & SBL Annual Meetings are listed at

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) is now a Program of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). CTNS supports research, provides MDiv and doctoral courses through the Ian G. Barbour Chair at the GTU, and publishes the peer-reviewed Journal Theology and Science. Check out our extensive resources at

The Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion (IBCSR), which sponsors research in the scientific study of religion, supports Boston University’s Religion and Science Ph.D., publishes the journal Religion, Brain and Behavior and the monthly IBCSR Research Review. (

The Institute for Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS), which is an open-membership organization that holds annual summer conferences and co-publishes the peer-reviewed journal Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. (

This page will be updated with further information, such as room locations, as the information becomes available. Questions may be addressed to Ron Cole-Turner at