Benedictine’s Discovery Day Returns with Great Success

First In-Person Event in 3 Years Sees Big Crowds and Renewed Interest

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Benedictine President Stephen Minnis, Dr. Chris Shingledecker, Dr. Stephen Barr, Dean Kimberly Shankman

Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., hosted its 26th Discovery Day on April 6, but it was the first in-person event in three years. Only seniors at the school had witnessed a “normal” Discovery Day with student research presentations, a keynote speaker in the auditorium, and other activities around the Atchison campus. This year's 53 presentations included a play, vocal and instrumental musical performances, a wide variety of academic projects, and a keynote address from Stephen M. Barr, Ph.D., president of the Society of Catholic Scientists (SCS) and a noted particle physicist.

Crowded venues were the norm as students, faculty and staff of the college filled classrooms and auditoriums to hear students present their independent research on subjects outside the regular curriculum. Projects included developing software for the James Webb Space Telescope, a historical discussion on the Sons of Liberty, an app to access the Internet without a data plan, methods to harvest solar energy, modern uses of the ancient astrolabe, a closer look at the Crazy Ivar character in Willa Chather’s O Pioneers! and much more. The day even included a Robot Battle Competition, featuring small, hand-sized robots with names like Mouse Trap, Wrenchy, and Dinosaur.

See some photo highlights!

Barr, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Delaware, former Director of its Bartol Research Institute, is known for his work in particle and nuclear physics, but his keynote presentation, “Science and Religion: The Myth of Conflict,” came from his perspective as the president of the SCS. He said that while science and religion tend to look at things in different ways, they are not necessarily conflicting ways.

“Many people think there’s a conflict between science and religion,” he told the packed house in O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium. “But I am a scientist for many of the same reasons that I am religious: a sense of wonder, a passionate desire to know the reason behind things, the belief that there is a reason behind things, and the deep conviction that everything holds together in some coherent way.”

“For me, both the Catholic faith and modern science make sense of the world,” he continued. “Science tells us about the things that we can observe and measure. Our faith has a much wider scope and deals with much deeper questions, questions about the ultimate cause of the universe’s existence and order, the purpose of human life and our own destiny. It tells us about spiritual realities, of God and man, love and truth, good and evil, sin and redemption.”

He went on to demonstrate how many of the most notable scientists in history such as Newton, Kepler, Copernicus, Descartes, and Cassini were also deeply religious. He said there were even many priests who made significant contributions to science, including Fr. Georges Lemaitre, credited as the father of the Big Bang Theory.

“Not only has religion, and Christianity in particular, including the Catholic faith and the Church, been a great friend of science and played a very positive role in its history,” he concluded, “But the things discovered by science, especially in the 20th century, contrary to what many people think, have actually in a number of ways tended to agree with the fundamental religious ideas about the universe and our place in it.”

Barr writes and lectures frequently on the relation of science and religion and has served on the editorial advisory board (now the advisory council) of the religious intellectual journal First Things since 2000. His writing has also appeared in Commonweal, National Review, Modern Age, The Public Interest, America, The Wall Street Journal and other publications. In 2002 he gave the Erasmus Lecture, sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Public Life. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI awarded him the Benemerenti Medal for service to the Catholic Church. In 2010 he was elected a member of the Academy of Catholic Theology.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.