First Lecture 2015
Every year, one faculty member is chosen by Westmont's President, Dr. Beebe, to give what is known as the First Lecture during Orientation. The First Lecture was inaugurated in 2008 and serves as a transition between a high school and college learning environment. This year's distinguished faculty member is Dr. Michael Everest, Chair of the Chemistry Department. Dr. Everest has chosen John Polkinghorne's Science and Religion in Quest of Truth to lecture on. All new students are expected to read this book prior to arriving for Orientation.
John Polkinghorne, an international figure known both for his contributions to the field of theoretical elementary particle physics and for his work as a theologian, has over the years filled a bookshelf with writings devoted to specific topics in science and religion. In this new book, he undertakes for the first time a survey of all the major issues at the intersection of science and religion, concentrating on what he considers the essential insights for each. Clearly and without assuming prior knowledge, he addresses causality, cosmology, evolution, consciousness, natural theology, divine providence, revelation, and scripture.
Getting to Know the Lecturer
What are your hobbies/favorite things to do in Santa Barbara?
I enjoy hiking in the mountains with my family, cooking, eating in interesting restaurants, and attending Westmont concerts.
What were the best things about your first year in college?
So much was new! I loved the professors and the new ideas in classes. Some of the books and classes (Christ and Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr, Calculus, etc.) really changed the way I think about everything--even to this day. I got to spend a little time in the research lab my first year, too, and that was a great experience. I also really enjoyed getting to know people on my floor.
What advice do you have for the first-year students?
All things in moderation. Sleep. Work. Play. Eat. Worship.
Don't neglect any of it, and don't do any of it too much.
Additionally, although every Westmont class will have something of practical value for your future, every class will also have intellectual gifts to offer you that won't seem immediately relevant. Try to appreciate learning for its own sake, and not just as a means to an end.
Why Science and Religion in Quest of Truth?
I was looking for a book that touched on my personal interests as a scientist and a believer, but would also be accessible and interesting to Westmont students with all sorts of different intellectual interests. I particularly appreciate his ability to discuss the interaction of cutting-edge science and Christianity in positive ways rather than merely addressing potential conflicts between the two. In addition, Polkinghorne is accessible (most of the time) and has something interesting to say to people from diverse academic backgrounds. I think almost everyone can learn something from him--whether about science, Christianity, or the life of the mind, in general.
What should students keep in mind while reading?
Don't feel like you have to agree with the author on everything. (I don't agree with him on everything.) However, I hope you will be open to thinking hard about what he has to say, and that you will be willing to learn something from him, even if you disagree with him at times.