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The University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) will be host to the conference lecture series the Midwest Science of Origins Conference (MSOC) from Friday March 30th at 7pm to Sunday, April 1st at 3pm with an array of speakers giving presentations on the naturalistic origins of the universe, life on Earth, humanity, and our morality.  UMM’s Morris Freethinkers student organization has been the driving force behind this conference, organizing this event with help of off-campus groups like the Secular Student Alliance and the Minnesota Atheists.  The event was inspired by a performance from the Discovery Institute’s lecture program Answers in Genesis, which was hosted at the Hosanna Center in Morris last March.  The MSOC will delve into major philosophical and scientific mysteries on topics such as the Big Bang and evolution, while explaining the research and evidence of the scientific principles behind the most accepted and comprehensive theories in the fields of physics, biology, anthropology, and philosophy to audiences who have had little exposure to science so far.

The conference features two UMM professors, Dr. PZ Myers of the Biology faculty and Dr. Dan Demetriou of the Philosophy faculty.  Dr. Myers is the recipient of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)’s 2011 International Humanist of the Year award. His book The Happy Atheist (Knopf, 2012) is forthcoming.  Dr. Myers will be giving a speech on the “Evolution of Creationism” on Friday night at 7:30pm in the Science Auditorium.  Dr. Demetriou is the administrator of http://www.honorethics.org and also has a book forthcoming.  Along with student Miles Taylor, Dr. Demetriou will be giving a lecture on the “Origins of the Honor Ethos” at 5:15pm on Saturday, also in the science auditorium.  Both Dr. Myers and Dr. Demetriou will give their speech in the Science Auditorium on campus.

Morris will also be host to two professors from the Twin Cities campus; Dr. Michael Wilson of the Anthropology faculty and Dr. Marco Peloso of the Physics faculty. Dr. Wilson was awarded the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship from 2008 – 2010 and has received an award from the National Science Foundation for his work “Socioecology of territorial behavior in chimpanzees”.  Dr. Peloso is a recipient of the prestigious McKnight Presidential Fellowship Award from 2007-2010 as well as a frequent guest lecturer on cosmology, most recently at the University of Wisconsin Madison.  Dr. Wilson will be giving a presentation on the origin humanity at 4pm on Saturday while Dr. Peloso will be giving a presentation on the observable universe at 10am on Saturday.  Also, Dr. Peloso and Dr. Wilson will give their speech in the Science Auditorium on campus.

The keynote speaker of this conference is Dr. Neil Shubin,  Robert R. Bensley Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago, author of the bestselling book Your Inner Fish.  Dr. Shubin will be giving a presentation on human anatomy, tracing the evolution of our own morphology back to the physiology of the earliest creatures that walked on land and beyond.  Perhaps most famously known for his discovery of the transitional fossil Tiktaalik roseae, Dr. Shubin has made appearances on The Colbert Report and MSNBC for his work in the field of evolutionary biology.  Dr. Shubin will be giving his lecture at the High School auditorium at 2pm on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, Chris Stedman of Harvard’s Interfaith Chaplaincy will be giving a lecture on the importance of why secular and religious people must work together, with a community service project to follow.  Chris Stedman is the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University, the founder of the Atheist-Interfaith blog NonProphetStatus and columnist for the Huffington Post. His book, Faitheist: How One Atheist Learned to Overcome the Religious-Secular Divide, and Why Atheists and the Religious Must Work Together (Beacon Books, 2012), is forthcoming.  The Stedman lecture will be at the Federated Church of Morris at noon with a free lunch provided for volunteers.  Anyone interested in joining the community service project should register for the conference on-line.  The community service project is also open to the public and anyone is free to participate, but registering would help organizers plan for the community service project.

Every lecture is free and open to the public, but registration at is preferred.  For more information please visit the Midwest Science of Origins Page on our website.

The Morris Freethinkers would like to thank the Secular Student Alliance for their support.

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