Student Lecture Series Debuts with Talks on Christian Science and Squirrel Diabetes

Carl Spielvogel ’13 discussing squirrel diabetes

Eager to learn about the dangers of diabetes in squirrels, as well as what it’s like to grow up as a Christian Scientist, students crowded into the Chandler Room in Hawthorne-Longfellow Library on a recent evening to listen to talks given by Bowdoin seniors Carl Spielvogel and Daisy Alioto.

Spielvogel and Alioto were the two debut speakers of Food for Thought, a new lecture series that invites students to talk about whatever they want in front of their peers. Organized by Bowdoin Student Government, the series is meant to draw out the many unusual or enlightening stories students have to tell.

“The thought process was essentially that there are a lot of people around campus who have really fascinating interests or experiences, or are passionate about things that most of us might not even be aware exist,” Jordan Goldberg ’14 said. “And so we’re taking the opportunity to bring some of these interests and experiences to the campus at large, while providing students with a fun study break (and snacks!).”

In the minutes before 9 p.m. on Monday night, students flooded the Chandler Room to secure a seat. During the next hour, Spielvogel and Alioto captivated the audience’s attention. Though Spielvogel’s original interest in diabetes in squirrels had been an academic one (he considered completing an Honors’ Project on the subject), Monday’s speech was pure comedy. He presented a series of photographs depicting squirrels finishing off half-empty beer cans and blueberry muffins, as well as shared with the audience his conspiracy theory about the recent disappearance of squirrels on campus.

Alioto’s presentation, “Go Away, I’m Having a Healing: Growing up as a Christian Scientist,” provided students an opportunity to learn and ask about a religion with which few are personally familiar. Her anecdotes and reflections on life as a Christian Scientist on a college campus inspired a stream of questions from the audience, as well as a discussion about the presence of religion in the Bowdoin community.

Though she has not been particularly vocal about her religious beliefs during her time at Bowdoin, Alioto said has always found her network of friends and acquaintances to be open-minded and supportive. She finally decided to share her story with the Bowdoin community to encourage conversations focused around topics such as religion — ones that students tend to view as taboo or uncomfortable. Alioto sees these conversations as crucial to fulfilling Bowdoin’s commitment to diversity. “We have to embrace the differences we were born with, and we have to embrace the difference we’ve ascribed to in the course of our lives, in order to create the type of diversity Bowdoin aspires to,” she said. “People like that multiplicity, they crave that, though they might not be the first in line to offer up whatever beliefs or ideas are closest to their heart.”

Alioto said she was pleased with the reception she received, as well as students’ interest in hearing more about her beliefs and experiences. “I think people really appreciated the personal nature of my talk and my desire to think critically about something I love and believe in — something I was born into but also, along the way, I chose,” she said. In turn, Alioto appreciated the audience’s willingness to “[ask] incredibly thoughtful questions and basically [give] the gift of intellectual exchange back to me.”

Both Spielvogel and Alioto’s speeches left the audience and Bowdoin students-at-large wondering: what would I talk about given the opportunity? All students are encouraged to sign up to share their perspectives (or interest in campus wildlife) with their classmates, and even though the calendar might limit the number of speakers this year, Goldberg pointed out that “everyone can participate by showing up to the events and enjoying the talks and food!”

Food for Thought will be held every other Monday at 9 p.m. in the Chandler Room in Hawthorne-Longfellow library. Interested students can sign up, or nominate a friend, by filling out this online form.

Story and photos by Lidey Heuck ’13

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  1. It’s difficult to embrace the diversity of thought that Christian Science presents when untold numbers of adults and children have died of wholly treatable diseases like diabetes, measles, tumors, etc. etc. while relying on prayer.

  2. There have been thousands upon thousands of verified Christian Science healings of what other systems of healing would call “hopeless and incurable diseases”. There are facts to back my statement. One also can find facts to show that hundreds of thousands of deaths occur every year under some form of medical treatment. Public thought has been educated to accept deaths under medical treatment.

  3. Hi Mary,

    That’s not really what Christian Science is to me. I always take the best care of my health. I’ve just found that spirituality is particularly helpful.

  4. Anne, the thousands of healings you mention are not proof of the power of Christian Science, but proof of the power of people’s minds to confirm what they wish to be true. The causal connection is never demonstrated in any of these healings. There’s a fatal assumption that the recovery of a disease is attributable to prayer, with no consideration for the possibility of self-limiting diseases, an effective immune system, the results of reducing stress in the body, etc.
    Compared to CS healings, medical science requires a much greater burden of proof, and that’s how we know it works. It doesn’t rely on someone’s assumption of what healed them, while ignoring all the failures.
    Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of deaths under medical care, but also millions of recoveries (with recoveries that are more outstanding than anything ever published in the CS Journal). And medical science tracks successes and failures, giving us an accurate success rate for any particular treatment. Can CS provide that? No, because they ignore failures, blaming the patient or practitioner for not having the correct understanding. What an unnecessary and antiquated burden to place on a patient.

  5. Mary Beth says:

    Mary, The medical industry is a business. It generates billions of dollars of sales each year. The pharmacuetical industry is another billion dollar business. In spite of all its recources, my mother, as are many, many others each year, was diagnosed with an incurable disease and given a death sentence. When my grandparents turned to Christian Science, my mother was completely healed. My grandmother wanted nothing to do with Christian Science. But, my mother was her only child and she was desperate. After my mother’s healing, she became a Christian Scientist for the rest of her long life. Many years later, I also had a physical problem that left doctors completely stupefied as to why I could even still be alive. So, twice I wouldn’t even be here today if not for Christian Science.

    The number of Christian Scientists in the world has always been a tiny percentage of the population – very tiny. And yet, there are over 80,000 verified healings of all different types of diseases, many declared incurable by the medical profession. Those numbers don’t include my mother’s healing or mine. They also don’t include thousands of other healings that people have never written down and sent in.

    If you think that the recoveries listed in these 80,000 examples are not more amazing than the medical profession has done, it’s only because you have no idea what’s in those pages. In addition, these healings occur with no prodding or poking or feeling like a piece of meat; and, no harmful side affects. I know of two women, personally, healed of breast cancer and two friends of friends healed of breast cancer, one of whom, was not a Christian Scientist, was under medical care and was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. It just so happened that her best friend was a Christian Scientist. She and her mother started praying with her and she was completely healed. This happened just a few years ago.

    And, it doesn’t stop there, I’ve had healings of a variety of situational problems, too. These include financial dilemmas, job issues, relationship problems, and more. Christian Science prayer led me to my perfect husband. Christian Science prayer has helped me with every area of my life. It is not mind over matter, even though our thoughts do tend to rule our experience. It is an understanding of God and our relationship to Him. Let me give you an example. A friend just posted this on Facebook from an article in the April, 2013 CS Journal. I think it’s beautiful and I think the Christian Science way of life is a beautiful way to live. The article is called “Christian Science Dispels Hopelessness.”

    “In the deepest sense, Christian Science is the Science of Love, the law of Love, that’s the simplicity and purity of it. But oh, how the carnal mind -fearing the exposure of its nothingness – resists this comforting idea that God is an ever-operative divine Principle instead of a ‘comfortable’ human person! Yet we must know Love as Principle – and man as the offspring of this Principle – to overcome the fear of finding ourself in a hopeless situation.” ♥

  6. Mary Beth,

    You seem convinced of the claims of Christian Science because of a lot of personal experiences of improved health after prayer.
    But oftentimes, people recover from diseases without praying or without even believing in spirituality or gods. Sometimes these recoveries also baffle doctors and beat the odds.
    If they waved magic crystals or burned smoke or pricked skin with needles or praised the devil before recovery, are they justified in thinking that the crystal, smoke, needle, or chant is what CAUSED the healing?
    There’s an important methodology in separating correlation from causation so we don’t fool ourselves.

    And oftentimes Christian Scientists (including teachers and lecturers) will pray and never recover from a disease or injury.
    But these cases are never published in CS literature.

    Yes, it’s true that medicine is a business, just as CS is. Did you know that Mary Baker Eddy charged $5000 (in todays dollars) for her 2-week healing course called Class Instruction?

    But one distinction is that medical science doesn’t claim to heal everything. Christian Science says it can heal anything and everything, and if you fail, it’s the fault of your thinking or the world’s thinking.

    It’s a disgusting thing to tell a child that the microbes attacking his immune system are caused by his “ignorance or sin”.
    We have a better understanding of disease now. Study medicine and science objectively for a week and you may see the difference. You may realize all that you don’t know now, and may prevent yourself from unnecessarily putting a child’s health at risk by treating appendicitis or diabetes or measles with prayer.

  7. I think what she did was very courageous especially in this modern world that tends to look down upon religious beliefs from the start. I am reminded of Paul’s defense against Agrippa: “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” Paul didn’t just mince words or argue small things he swung for the fence. Death (the king of matter in that all things material will disintegrate, the law of entropy, the material world is temporal) is nothing compared to God. The arguments raised above are like those against Paul and any Christian or a belief in God that is love as John writes. Is this the power of the human mind to deceive itself? Well no more so that the same power to deceive tiself with the material world – since it is the same mind that perceives all. Are the forces perceived by the human mind in the material world the correct or real forces or are the spiritual forces of Divine Mind, God, the only real forces. As Mary Baker Eddy wrote we tread on forces… Modern material science confirms this from the other perspective. The Heisenberg principle makes mince meat of those who lay their belief on material forces as the true and only ‘reality’. we went from solid masses to atoms with comparative miles of empty space between them held together by forces to atoms held together by forces themselves and being made up of energies. E=M(C2) all is energy in the material viewpoint, just at lower velocities. Then you have dark matters and dark energies as necessary to satisfy the modern scientific view of the world. Unseen (except perhaps in the case of dark matters, only seen by their effect – the shadow of their existence) and certainly not understood things/forces. All supposedly anchored on giant infinite branes and multiple dimensions… the physical sense trusted so much can be easily fooled, are based upon supposed forces, but which comes first. One’s healing or miracle is another’s fooled sense and one’s definite sensory input are fooled senses based upn faulty and fake forces. Many die in the care of doctors as caring and human as their caregivers intentions are. Germs, viruses and sickness evolve to overcome material cures. Many who check into hospitals get worse while there and for completely different and new reasons than for which they initially went and weere treated. I say this not to put down the good intentions of doctors and others in the medical professin but to point out the fallacy that material medicine is some perfecting and ever improving cure to material woes, sickness and diseases. The same argument as falacously raised against Christina Science treatement claiming that many in Christian Science treatment die of common sicknesses easily curable by material medicine. There is no proof of this. There is proof spiritual prayer helps those even under medical treatement to better result that are unexplained by material medicine. Everyone may have their own belief, but to say Christian Science is somehow crazy talk or dangerous is in effect saying a belief in the all power of the God of Love is so. I say which force do you believe, those of your faulty physical senses supposedly based upon quarks particles and M-branes susceptible to the Heisenberg principle’s uncertianty and founded in vast quantities of unknown matter and energy; or that of God? One may choose which to believe but be careful when throwing around name calling and unspported accusations – Untold deaths? That is one’s own perception and bias showing on the face of the statement. It is argued they must be happening because they are not accounted for. However how are they known if they are untold? On the other hand, the scientific process has said nothing to those deemed incurable or on the verge of death who for some reason unknown to material science become totally cured. Bones witnessed by the medical profession as broken, healed of any sign of a break, etc., etc., etc. With the God of Love all things are possible. This is what I choose to know. Why should it be called incredible? Any more than a universe created out of nothing based upon energy forces. My understanding works for me, as for many others, on a daily and continual basis… as much as someone who reaches for pills constantly or takes aspirin (still unknonw as to how it ‘works’ exactly).


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