Religious, scientific clash focus of summer trip

Several UTD students and faculty will travel to England this summer with Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Frederic Farrar and many other great thinkers of the 19th century.

Or rather, the students and faculty will be traveling as Darwin, Huxley, Farrar and other prominent figures of the late 19th century clash between science and religion.

From June 10-17, UTD professors Katherine Downey and Homer Montgomery will lead the second international trip of its kind to intellectual hotspots of London and the surrounding countryside.

“What we’re trying to do on each side is bring our classes into the argument – Katherine from the religious literature and church perspective, and me largely from the science perspective,” Montgomery said.

The trip will feature a concurrent summer course for graduate and undergraduate students taught jointly by Downey and Montgomery. The content will be centered around the scientific revolution at the turn of the 20th century, looking at the debate from multiple viewpoints.

“What both (Montgomery) and I have observed is that (science and religion) are attempting to answer the same questions; they just go about them in a different way,” Downey said.

A significant feature of the trip will be that all of the students and faculty will select historical figures and play the part of the scientific or religious character. Prior to the trip, students will have assigned reading as well as the task of learning as much personal background as possible.

“Once the students are fully imbued with all this and they’ve chosen characters and fully know their characters, then we’ll go to England and do it all there on site,” Montgomery said.

Downey, who has chosen Frederic Farrar – an Anglican cleric – is very excited about this opportunity.

“I’ll be (Farrar) and dialogue with Darwin and Huxley and all these other people that he actually talked to,” said Downey. “We thought of this as a series of conversations that will be facilitated by local scholars.”

Sarah Spreda, the director of the Office of International Education (OIE), was recently selected by the Office of the Provost to attend the trip as an observer. Spreda will determine whether the trip could be institutionalized by the university as an annual event and an opportunity to receive credit.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for UTD students,” Spreda said. Trips are an affordable alternative to study abroad for international experience and credit, she added.

In addition to offering scholarships for international study, the OIE will provide a pre-departure workshop before the summer trip. Students can receive information on safety and security, fill out all of the necessary paperwork and receive general travel tips, Spreda said.

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