2009 Abstracts

October 1, 2009 Student Scholarship Symposium

Donor Assisted Fertilization: Consumerism and Parent-Child Relationships
By Molly Reynolds, Senior

Assisted fertilization, in which parents now have the opportunity to choose probable physical characteristics of their offspring, raises critical ethical questions.  Rather than emphasizing the potential child’s wellbeing, this form of IVF can become a self-serving form of consumerism.  Current donor criteria and compensation, as well as the use of donor profile systems encourage parents to focus on choosing a donor with perceived desirable characteristics rather than considering the ramifications that the choice will have on their relationship with the child.  After discussing the current methods of choosing and matching donors my paper explores the following questions: When does wanting what is best for a child become self-serving of parents?  Is it possible to choose objectively the characteristics one believes necessary for a successful life?  Does choosing a donor in assisted fertilization shift the focus from creating a child to creating a perfect child, and does that quest become detrimental to the parent-child relationship?  Using journal articles, government data, essays, and available agency information, I argue that, while some amount of consumerism is an inevitable byproduct of choice, reducing consumerism in the reproductive market and preserving the parent-child relationship must be the focus reproductive technologies in order to ensure the wellbeing of potential children.

Reawakening to our Everyday Sublime at Walden Pond and Lake Michigan
By John Linstrom, Senior

“[T]he great has terror for its basis . . . the beautiful is founded on mere positive pleasure.”  Thus Edmund Burke drew the aesthetic distinction between the sublime and the beautiful, a distinction which continues to permeate western conceptions of experiential value today.  Within the American environmentalist dialogue, the romantic idealization of the sublime experience has paradoxically resulted in an unnatural understanding of nature, relegating natural sublimity to specific, nonhuman locations (mountaintop, sea-swept vista, etc), thereby severing culture from ecology and distancing human society from responsibility for environmental stewardship.  This project demonstrates a broader view of the natural sublime which focuses on how sublimity is experienced rather than where it can be found.  After a cursory historical overview of the concept of sublimity and its contribution to current human/nonhuman rift, I take a critical look at the ways in which Emerson and Thoreau attempted to redefine sublimity to be apprehensible in any situation if only one become perceptive of it.  Thus, wilderness is encountered even at home, demanding an intentional, immediate relationship and reuniting culture and ecology.  The final element of this project is an attempt to read landscape and experience as well as books, so I will spend some time describing my experiences hiking and camping in Lake Michigan dune land, which formed an invaluable part of my research.


February 19, 2009

A Modern Myth: The Story behind Columbus and the Flat Earth
By Stephen Molnar, Senior

Western society tends to pride itself on its knowledge of the past. We believe our collective knowledge of past events is more or less reality. However, our history is fragile and blatant fabrications can even still successfully masquerade as truth. A prime example of this fragility is the myth that people believed in a flat earth during Columbus’ time. This paper uses primary and secondary sources to show both the falsehood and origins of this myth. The sphericity of the earth was known and accepted by the ancient Greeks; this belief survived through the Roman Empire and was considered fact in Christian Europe and Columbus’ time. How, then, did the flat earth myth become so ingrained in our society? Drawing on local legend, Washington Irving inserted the myth into his highly fictionalized biography of Columbus, which propagated it throughout the Western world. During the conflict involving Darwinism, two positivist, revisionist historians, John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White, cemented the idea as historical fact in their books specifically written to disparage the Church. This shocking tale shows how personal bias in historical research can misguide the perception of generations and warns modern society to be a careful steward of history.

Insights from the Ancients: The New Monasticism and Its Challenge to the Contemporary American Church
By James Strasburgh, Senior

Throughout the history of Christianity, one of the most important expressions of Christian faith has been communal living. Stretching from the house churches of the first apostolic orders to the monks of the Middle Ages to the Anabaptist communities of the Reformation, Christians in all time periods have come together to express their faith through living together. Within contemporary Christianity, however, the concept of authentic communal living appears to have been lost. For instance, following Christ today has in many cases been reduced to going to Church on Sunday alone. As a community, we might meet once or twice a week, but we do little to live together and hold one another accountable outside of this structure. Our lives are thus largely structured by other cultural principles, and we fail to embody our call to be of one mind and spirit and to serve the world and the poor as a community. In response to such a crisis, small communities that go by the collective term of the “New Monasticism” have begun to form with the goal of bringing back communal and faithful living to the modern Church. Intentionally relocating to the “abandoned” places of America, these communities have taken examples from past intentional communities, which include living, praying, and studying together, sharing meals and financial resources, and serving the poor, and have implemented them in their lifestyle. As a result, they are providing to us today a tried and true example of what it means to be the Church in the world. Drawing from first hand observational visits of these communities, this paper first brings to life the numerous practices these communities are adopting. The paper also traces these practices genealogically throughout history, tying together connections with past communities and lending credibility to the movement. Through understanding these connections, the paper closes by examining what the New Monasticism offers the contemporary Church and by arguing for a return to more communal oriented practice within the Church.