Faculty Research Forum Focuses on Religion, Amphibians, Buddhism and Evil

April 06, 2010

Dr. David Weiss, assistant professor of communication, Dr. Peter Schneller, associate professor of education, Dr. Brandon Sheafor, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Paul Tidman, associate professor of philosophy and religious studies were the featured pesenters at the recent Faculty Forum at Mount Union College.


Dr. David Weiss, assistant professor of communication

Dr. David Weiss, assistant professor of communication

Weiss, who enjoys researching and discussing controversial topics, took the idea of separation of church and state and applied it to the George Bush Jr. and John Kerry campaigns in the election of 2004.

'Even though many fight for separation of church and state, religion finds its way in - especially in the Election of '04,' said Weiss. 'There was not just a mention of God as it used to be, but linking God and God mentions to personal faith and to political missions in the world.'

Weiss showed how Bush was consistent in presenting his faith and how it ties with his political view; however, Kerry changed his strong viewpoints on separation of church and state throughout the campaign. 'The Bush and Kerry campaigns were a walk away from a traditional concept of a political campaign, a concept in which you acknowledge God exists, but you don't identify and talk about your own faith,' said Weiss.

Schneller took the audience through his time in a part of India where Buddhism is a way of life and compared it to American way of life. He illustrated the seven lessons Buddhists abide by in order to live a peaceful life. These seven lessons are: equanimity, interdependence, impermanence, compassion, esteem/self-esteem, 'others before self' and respect.

The most important lesson he touched on was the concept of 'others before self,' which is the motto of Tibetan schools. He told of a heart-warming and surprising story of a beggar, who, on a rainy day saw Schneller without an umbrella and gave it to Schneller. 'I thought, I can't take his umbrella, but he absolutely insisted,' Schneller said.

This was a hard thing for Schneller to do especially since this man had nothing, but this man was putting others before himself. 'The thing about putting others before yourself is that you have to accept that others are going to put you before themselves,' said Schneller.

Sheafor took his research in a different direction, studying the decline in amphibians in the world due to a fungus that is often called BD, which is taken in by the epidermis of the amphibian. Currently, one-third of all amphibians are threatened by this fungus and forty-three percent of all species are declining.

Because of Sheafor's interest in this along with other professors, Mount Union made history. 'Mount Union was the first to report cases of this fungus in wild amphibians,' Sheafor said.

Tidman's research on pointless evil made the audience really think analytically about what he was presenting. He asked the question 'could there be a point to pointless evil?'

Through his research on the claims of whether there is a God and whether evil exists, Tidman was made the claim that there is a point to pointless evil.

'It's possible that God could not have created a world with any moral good with no pointless evil; therefore it is possible for pointless evil to have a point,' said Tidman.

The Forum, begun by Dr. Santosh Saha, professor of history, was moderated by Dr. John Kirchmeyer, professor of computer science and information systems. Opening and closing remarks provided by Dr. Truman Turnquist, interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College.

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