'Electrons to Enlightenment,' a new five-part series produced by Wisconsin Public Radio's syndicated 'To the Best of Our Knowledge,' takes a look at the conflicts and commonalities between science and religion. The brainchild of producer Steve Paulson, the series illuminates the debate over key questions about existence with help from some very prominent thinkers. Beginning on Nov. 19, it will include interviews with Karen Armstrong, a top scholar in the history of religion; E.O. Wilson, the founder of sociobiology; and Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and atheist.
The series is very much a collaborative effort by 'To the Best of Our Knowledge' staffers. However, Paulson developed the idea after winning a Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship in Science and Religion. 'When I got the fellowship,' he says, 'I thought this would be a natural thing to spin into a series.'
Seminars and lectures Paulson attended last June in Cambridge, England, as part of the fellowship helped sharpen his thinking on the compatibility of science and religion.
Each program in the series is organized around specific ideas. Rather than coming down on one side or the other of any debate, the programs try to lay out the issues and then let listeners decide which ideas they find the most compelling.
While Paulson recognizes that science and religion are often in furious conflict in contemporary society, he has little interest in the reductionist us-vs.-them reporting on religion that is the norm in mainstream media.
'I think coverage of religion in the big media is pretty appalling,' he says. 'It tends to just focus on controversies. You know when you hear about religion, you're going to hear about the debate over school prayer and creationism. Should the Ten Commandments be displayed in some public place? That's where the discussion of religion is, and that's not the experience in most people's lives.'
Paulson's fellowship led to long interviews with Armstrong, Wilson, Dawkins and other major voices in discussions about the current roles of science and religion. He's published transcriptions of six of them at Salon.com, and that work only whetted his appetite for delving deeper into complex subjects like the nature of consciousness and the debate over whether some force or being could have provoked the Big Bang's creation of the universe.
'The belief-vs.-unbelief question, for whatever reason, really seems to hit a nerve among our listeners,' Paulson says. 'My sense is that there's just this hunger out there among people to think about and even debate these issues.'
'Electrons to Enlightenment' airs five consecutive Sundays beginning Nov. 19: 9 a.m. on WERN (88.7 FM) and noon on WHA (970 AM).
Have questions about Sundance 608, the theater complex currently under construction at the redeveloped Hilldale Mall? We do too. Finally, Robert Redford's Sundance Group has posted information about the theater at www.hilldale.com/sundance.html. A succinct Q&A covers the prospective opening date (spring 2007), the physical configuration (six theaters, a cafÃ, a bistro, a seasonal rooftop bar and a gift shop/boutique) and much more.
Among other things, Sundance's PR people dispel the persistent rumor that Redford has purchased a condo in Madison. They also lay out the complex's programming strategy, which includes screening independent films from around the world as well as 'quality selections' from major distributors.