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God, Science, and Designer Genes

Date: 10/28/2009

img: book coverAlvernia duo Spencer Stober, Ph.D., and Donna Yarri Ph.D., discussed their new book, God, Science, and Designer Genes: An Exploration of Emerging Technologies as part of the 2009 Literary Festival—Life Between the Pages—to a packed crowd today.
“The Human Genome Project left a mountain of data that scientists are now trying to make sense of,” said Stober, a biology professor at the University. “And as we begin to use this information in medical technology, we need to be mindful that what we can do isn’t necessarily the right thing to do.”

For the last five years, Yarri, a theology professor, and Stober, a biology professor, have been meeting along the boundary lines between God and Science to discuss the technology and implications behind designer genes. They’ve brought their discussion into lecture halls, conferences, and even the classroom—in a co-taught Alvernia honors course that carries the same name as the book.

Stober and Yarri even wear baseball caps, labeled “BIOLOGY” and “THEOLOGY” in lectures, to help participants remember that the professors are speaking solely from the perspective of their chosen disciplines. “It often helps people to see that differing opinions have more than just feelings attached to them,” said Stober.

“Also, it’s hard to get ethicists and theologians to understand the science, but I don’t have to do that,” explained Yarri. “I can work with Spence to relay the technical information, and be free to look at the subject from a humanitarian perspective.”

God, Science, and Designer Genes provides a unique approach to studying hot topics such as genetic testing, embryo splitting, and cloning. “We can each look at the subject from our particular disciplines,” said Yarri, “and though we don’t always agree, the important thing is that a dialogue forms, and we can begin to find a common ground to start from.”

The well-anticipated book is now available online through Greenwood Publishing.

  • History: Established as a private four-year liberal arts college in 1958, Alvernia celebrated its 50th year by being awarded university status in 2008.
  • Heritage: Founded by the Bernardine Sisters, a Catholic religious order, the university embraces the Franciscan core values of service, humility, collegiality, contemplation and peacemaking.
  • Motto: “To Learn, To Love, To Serve”
  • Campus: The main campus in Reading is 121 acres, with two satellite campuses in Philadelphia and Pottsville (Schuylkill County).
  • Location: Our residential campus is situated three miles from center-city Reading, in the scenic Blue Mountain area of Eastern Pennsylvania.
  • Enrollment: 3,000 students attend Alvernia including 1,500 traditional undergraduates, 600 continuing education students, and 780 graduate students. Over 77% of first-year students live on campus.
  • Faculty: Our professors are accomplished scholars, experts in their fields, and supportive mentors. The student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. Most classes are 20 students or fewer.
  • Athletics: NCAA Division III, member of the Commonwealth Conference of the Middle Atlantic States Athletic Corporation and member of Eastern College Athletic Conference, 8 men’s and 10 women’s intercollegiate sports.