Hi! I’m not sure if this is the proper venue for this observation so please remove it or forward it to the appropriate people. I have been a member of ASA for more than 15 years. I have attended a few local chapter meetings and went to my first national meeting in Waco because of the proximity. I have heard a lot about the national meeting since a friend of mine from graduate school faithfully attends every year.
I have to admit much of the conference was not what I expected. To me the conference evoked images of the late 19th century when white men of privilege had the leisure to discuss theories without end over their cups of tea. There are two problems that I have with this image.
1) I know that ASA over the years has tried to get more women and younger scientists to be involved in the organization. But I was still appalled by the lack of diversity. I did not really see anybody like me (an Asian-American women) and even fewer people like the Black and Hispanic PhD students that I work with everyday. I know that most of my students attend church regularly. I have been to a conference where more than 75% of the 100+ these recent PhD graduates gave thanks got God and/or Jesus when they had the chance to say a few words to the audience. Why are these young scientists of color not included in the discussion of faith and science? Is it because they already have enough obstacles to surmount being minorities that adding faith to the mixture will make it even more difficult. Yet they acknowledge their faith and their faith communities as a primary factor in their success.
2) I have to admit that I am biased towards application and not theory and that I found the conference very theoretical. Even though my PhD is in the Earth Sciences, I am not interested in the past but in the present. And maybe the more seasoned ASAers have this figured out but where are the discussions on how to talk to scientists about your faith? There were plenty of things on how to expose your churches to science but not the other way around. Or how does one deal with prejudice in the workplace because of your faith. I did appreciate the talks (mostly engineering ones) where the speakers talked about how their faith directs the research that they do. Not only so that magnificence of the creator is seen through the complexity of the world but also how are called to be stewards and serve the world. I wonder if the (over)emphasis of theoretical issues is as much a turn-off to other young scientists of color as it is to me.
I still learned things at the conference and enjoyed my few conversations with the attendees (I have to admit that after all these years I still find white men intimidating especially in large groups or if they are over 6′ even if I already now them so I tended to stay to myself or listen from outside in the hallways) but I’m not sure if my experience was a positive enough one to want to go back again.