Conference Updates

IRAS Summer Conference on Star Island: June 22‐29, 2019 The CRISPR Apple on the Tree of Knowledge: Bioengineering, Gene Editing, and the Human Future


The following press release provides details about the upcoming summer IRAS conference on Star Island. We think this year’s theme is particularly enticing, especially to those interested in learning more about the advancement of human gene editing technology and its impact on our lives and the world. We invite you to join us at the IRAS 2019 conference on Star Island to renew spiritually, explore matters of consequence, and gain knowledge about the world as it might ideally be. You can register for IRAS here.

Star Island is once again hosting the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science Conference this summer from June 22‐29. Star Island is one of the nine Isles of Shoals located seven miles off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Star has a storied history: in the 1600’s it was the busiest fishing port on the East coast. In the 1800’s, artists, writers and intellectuals flocked to the Oceanic Hotel ‐ one of the last of the original Grand Hotels. For the last 100 years, Star Island has offered an all‐inclusive summer retreat experience for families, youth, and adults, hosting a wide variety of themed conferences and personal spiritual centering opportunities. There is something for everyone on Star Island, whether you enjoy swimming, attending intellectually stimulating theme talks, or just sitting in a rocking chair looking out at the open ocean. The island also offers a look into the cutting edge sustainability technology of the Green Gosport Initiative, including the largest off‐grid solar array in New England, a sophisticated composting system, independent water and wastewater facilities, and more. Island systems and sustainability tours are available in addition to other historic and behind‐the‐scenes tours. The island even has its own museum, Vaughn Cottage, home to the famed Isles of Shoals poet Celia Thaxter’s original writing desk, first edition work, and hand‐painted pottery. People of all backgrounds are drawn to Star Island for its recreation, natural beauty, and simplicity. What keeps people coming back year after year is the abundance of kindness and community. Attending a conference like IRAS is a treasured family tradition for so many, and guests consistently describe their experience on the island as magical.

The 2019 theme of the summer IRAS conference is The CRISPR Apple on the Tree of Knowledge: Bioengineering, Gene Editing, and the Human Future. Program co‐chairs Arvin Gouw and Ted Peters, and conference chairs Maynard Moore and Abby Fuller, have lined up an array of accomplished speakers to address the challenges and possibilities we face with the advancement of CRISPR technology. Human gene editing is quickly outstripping the decision‐making mechanisms we have in place for approving or regulating technology usage. The technology to directly manipulate the genomes of plants, animals and even humans is developing rapidly and is already in use. Can it be rationally managed and applied ethically? What are the medical, economic, environmental, and social consequences of genetic manipulation? At this conference, scientists, theologians, religious scholars and ethicists will offer illuminating and thought‐provoking perspectives on the issues surrounding the gene editing technology known as CRISPR/CAS9. Scientists will explain the technique of gene editing with CRISPR and ethicists will ponder the impacts on society, from pest control to designer babies. What are the implications for agriculture and world hunger? What about medical advances that are too costly for most of the world? Theologians and religious scholars will discuss how we understand human nature and responsibility from within various religious traditions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Most fundamentally, IRAS will explore ethical issues such as therapy versus enhancement; species elimination versus global epidemics; germline intervention; and the long‐term effects of bioengineering and genome editing that are within the realm of CRISPR possibility. The following speakers will be presenting at the 2019 IRAS summer conference on Star Island:

Dr. Arvin Gouw and Dr. Ted Peters –Conference Program Co‐Chairs
Dr. K. N. Siva Subramanian ‐ Professor of Pediatrics & Obstetrics/Gynecology, at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington D.C. Dr. Michael Ruse ‐ Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University, Gainsville
Dr. Lisa Fullam, Th.D. ‐ Professor of Moral Theology, Santa Clara University, California
Dr. Arthur M. Sutherland ‐ Associate Professor of Theology and African‐American Culture, and Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Loyola College of Maryland, Baltimore
Dr. Nadine Vicenten ‐ Harvard’s Personal Genomics Education Center Dr. Gary Sherman ‐ Associate Vice President for Program Innovations, Virginia Technological Institute and University; Former Senior Scientist for Food Security, USDA
Dr. William B. Hurlbut ‐ Consulting Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University Medical Center; President’s Council on Bioethics (2001‐2009) Dr. Gayle E. Woloschak ‐ Professor, Departments of Radiation Oncology, Radiology, and Cell & Molecular Biology, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Dr. Constance Bertka, Unitarian Universalist, Doctorate in Earth Sciences, Co‐Director of Human Origins at the Smithsonian, and Professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. will be this year’s Conference Chaplain

To learn more about IRAS on Star Island and to register for the conference, visit

IRAS cultivates a community of informed and respectful inquiry and dialogue at the intersections of science with religion, spirituality and philosophy in service of global, societal and personal well‐being.

Learn more at


Island Historian

Star Island is pleased to announce that Isles of Shoals historian Ann Beattie will be in-residence on the island this summer and available to provide historic talks and tours.

Ann is an educator with a fascination for the Isles of Shoals and its rich history. She combs through historical records, salt cod recipes, and journals of Shoalers in an effort to capture and revive the unique stories that bring Shoals history to life. Ann is a former president of the Isles of Shoals Historical and Research Association and has served as a Board member of the Portsmouth Athenaeum. She leads tours of the Shoals and hosts several week-long history programs on Star Island. Ann always has an intriguing tale to tell about a place so magical it will steal your heart.

Be sure to stop by and meet Ann in Vaughn Cottage or schedule a program for your conference!

Learn more about Ann’s programming below:

Isles of Shoals: Historical Programs

The Wondrous Isles of Shoals: Explore four centuries of life on the nine stark and hauntingly beautiful Isles of Shoals through a series of fascinating historical images. Investigate the role the Isles played in the worldwide fishing trade of the 17th century and the resort industry in the 19th century. Discover the natural and cultural wonders of the Isles of Shoals today.

An Abundance of Cod ~ The Fishing Era at the Isles of Shoals: Discover how cod fueled the settlement of New England and go back in time to the era when the Isles of Shoals was the busiest spot in the New World. Explore legends from the past of pirates, ghosts and shipwrecks on the islands.

The Grand Resort Hotel Era & Modern Times at the Isle of Shoals: Find out why hundreds of people packed their trunks and spent the summer at one of the Isle of Shoals resort hotels in the 19th century and why hundreds of people continue to explore the natural beauty of the Shoals today.

140 Years at Sea ~ The Oceanic Hotel: Investigate the legacy of the Isles of Shoals’ grand Oceanic Hotel, one of New England’s few remaining Victorian resort hotels. Hear tales of the subterfuge and rivalry that inspired the building of the Oceanic on Star Island and the renowned Appledore House across the harbor. Discover how flames destroyed the hotels, and
learn of the ingenious effort in creating a second grand Oceanic Hotel.

The Infamous Isles of Shoals: Investigate the lore and legends of the Isles of Shoals and determine the truth behind stories of pirates, treasure, ghosts and murder just 10 miles of the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire. Learn of the isolated village of Gosport on Star Island and the seemingly peculiar behavior of its residents.

The Artistry of the Isles of Shoals ~ Celia Thaxter’s Salon: Something about the mystery of islands and the endless sea vista seems to ignite creativity, and the Shoals have inspired writers, musicians and artists for centuries. Explore the lives and work of the famous visitors to poet Celia Thaxter’s salon and discover how they collaborated to produce some
of their finest pieces.

Mystery, Murder & Mayhem at the Isles of Shoals: Over 125 years ago, two women were murdered on an isolated island at the Isles of Shoals. One woman survived and the story she told scandalized the nation. Revisit the crime and decide for yourself whether the man convicted for the murders was really responsible for the tragic deaths on Smuttynose Island.

All programs: 1 hour, $100

Ann Beattie

On the Island

Video Archive

  • Star Island’s Shining the Star Campaign concluded in 2012. Click here to view a presentation on what this campaign achieved for Star Island.
  • The following videos were produced and edited by longtime Shoaler and videographer Sara Schoman, who has also shared some notes about their production. Each video can play right in your browser, and right-clicking the direct download link and choosing Save As (or your browser equivalent) allows you to save them for offline viewing on your computer.


On the Island

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 4

A Shoaler in the Making, Part 4 by Nelson Linscott

“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.” William Shakespeare

Across the dock to the gangplank, I pushed Baxter in his stroller toward the good ship Thomas Laighton. I now had a posse of well wishers, friends and helpers, when I had just one when I arrived to the dock, Ally my point of contact from Star Island . The crew helped lift my most precious cargo Baxter, strapped into his stroller, wide eyed and wondering what this was all about. I visualized a rumpled, dirty bag of anxiety left on dry land on the bank of the Piscataqua River across from my home in Kittery. Soon the boat was filled with Shoalers going to their promised land. I was swept away with them without effort, without plans other than to let it be. I carried in my heart a seed of hope that I was going to plant on that little island ten miles out to sea. The boat’s engine rumbled to life. The passengers also sprang to life. Baxter let out a few sharp barks. He realized he was in for a ride. The ropes were thrown and we pulled into the fast moving river. The Memorial Bridge center span began rising. We were on the way!

The day was perfect – warm, but not hot, a few wispy clouds and light breezes. I turned back to look at the city of Portsmouth and my home of Kittery as we left the mouth of the river and entered the Atlantic Ocean. To see the landmarks I was so accustomed to on land, now the vantage point of the sea side was thrilling. Baxter was enjoying it too as a stream of well wishers scratched his head and welcomed him aboard. Then, my eyeglass lens fell out.  Sure enough the tiny screw that tightened the eyeglass frame around the lens was missing. I thought , I hope this isn’t a sign of how this trip will go. On my hands and knees I searched for the tiny screw to no avail. I explained to a young lady sitting on the deck below me what I was looking for. After picking the screw up off the rough deck she looked at me with a smile and said, “Is this it?” I was elated! “Thank you!” Maybe this is how the trip was going to go. No matter what happened there was someone there who had your back. With the point of my little jackknife, I replaced the screw tightly, cleaned the lens off and was completely sure this was going to be a trip to remember.

I have been taking photographs since the 1960’s. I was slow coming around to digital photography, but when I did, I knew it was going to change my photography completely. I had learned from old school 35 millimeter cameras with out light meters. I knew how to control depth of field, light, speed. Having that prior experience on old school equipment made digital photography easy. Instead of technical concerns, I could pour my energy  into the creativity part of photography. I had plans of photographing this trip with many people who couldn’t wait to see them. I started clicking away at the dock in Portsmouth. I also planned to keep a journal. I started it from the day I was informed that I won the Veteran’s Raffle. 

Baxter, getting a bit nervous, needed to mingle. Mingle we did. Though I didn’t know a soul on the boat, I felt like I have known many forever. Though Baxter wasn’t 100% physically, he was into the mingling. Before long, the Isles of Shoals were clearly visible. I could sense the excitement on the Thomas Laighton. I looked up at the clear blue cap over planet earth and Wordsworth’s “Prelude” floated like a cloud into my head. “There are in our existence spots of time which with distinct preeminence retain a fructifying virtue, whence, depressed by trivial occupations and the round of ordinary intercourse, our minds, especially the imaginative power, are nourished, and invisibly repaired.” This trip would provide spots of time, not one, but many. They began as distinct as the sky was blue, as the Island Star is beautiful and as Shoalers are Shoalers. 

On the trip out, the smell of the ocean, the gulls and the fast disappearing mainland kept me busy, not only looking but taking photos. I picked Baxter up and let him wander around. I looked at his right rear leg sticking out at an unnatural angle as he limped painfully. “Oh Baxter”, I thought. “I hope you will be OK.” That worry set off the anxiety, but I took advantage of a trick a therapist had taught me. I said aloud, “Stop!” and changed what I was thinking about. It worked and I picked Baxter up so he could see the water. With Baxter in my arms, a stream of well wishers welcomed us. Baxter was loving it. I was a little tentative. Soon the Star Island was in sight. The trip was shorter than I anticipated. I carefully put Baxter in the stroller to his disappointment. Looking over the bow, I gazed at our destination. I was immediately surprised by the buildings standing so tall and stately against a perfect spring sky. My heart was pounding. We were almost there.

We bumped the dock and the ropes were tossed. On the dock, young people grabbed the ropes, working in unison like they had done this a million times, but it was the smiles and the enthusiasm that piqued my inquisitiveness. These people loved their work. To my right I heard jubilant singing. Due to my deafness, I could not pick out the words, I knew this was a welcome song. I stared in amazement at the smiling faces in unison singing to us. I had to ask a friend for the words and now that I know them I am even more enamored of the song, the Shoalers and the Island.  

S-T-A-R, S-T-A-R, Oceanic, Oceanic, ra, ra, ra – you DID come back, you DID come back, you DID come back!

With much help from the crew, and Baxter in his stroller, we departed the Thomas Laighton. I walked the down the dock, the paved path, past the blooms, the gazebo, and the flag. I stood in awe at this grand hotel, the Oceanic, all painted white, proud, and majestic. I felt small in many ways. People causally walked by enjoying the day. I looked down at Baxter who was busy looking and taking it all in. As I was nearing a trance-like state of meditation, a voice broke the spell. “Let me show you your room, Nelson.”  It was Ally. We had arrived.

Photos by Nelson Linscott

On the Island

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 3

A Shoaler in the Making, Part 3 by Nelson Linscott

“Joy is of the will which labours, which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph.”  William Butler Yeats

It was April and I worked on my packing list. Making sure you have everything is essential when you are a beat up old guy and your best friend is an even more beat up eleven year-old miniature Australian shepherd. Just the medical equipment, prescriptions, Baxter’s things and his dog food was a substantial load. My anxiety was building. Though I was in treatment for PTSD, the disorder is a constant battle. At home, I didn’t deviate from my unconscious schedule. I don’t swim and I fear water. I avoid groups and certainly don’t seek attention in places I am not familiar with. I’m Buddhist and I didn’t know much about the Universalists. I started dreaming about Star Island on April 14th. In the dream, Baxter was healed and running in open spaces on Star. Since I had only seen photos of the island, my overactive imagination filled in the scenery and people. On April 18th, I came back to Star in a new dream! Though it was April, June 16th was quite a ways to go, I read everything I could find about Star Island. My dreams occurred often and increased in an enlightened discovery of a place I hardly realized even existed a few months before.


As the snow disappeared and the buds of all the trees burst forth in greenery, I traveled around the coast looking out to sea to the islands. Baxter was not walking well, so I bought, with the money my friends and acquaintances gathered together to help me and Baxter,  a sling to carry him in. Baxter weighs close to thirty pounds. What was I thinking? My back is in terrible shape with degenerative disc disease. I was thinking of thirty pounds as I thought of it when I was twenty years old. The sling lasted a day. I was hobbling. I thought, “Who will carry me now?  Sciatica set in. This is not what I had planned.

 I started looking for alternatives. Baxter’s doctor suggested a wheeled contraption that Baxter could be strapped into, lifting his hindquarters off the ground in a harness connected to two wheels. He lent me one. Trying to strap a wiggly, scared dog into one of these carts was difficult. Baxter was horrified and didn’t trust this equipment at all. I returned it the next day. On Amazon, I saw a baby carriage for dogs and with two day delivery and $30 – I soon was pushing Baxter down the road. Baxter loved it! I was still hobbling.

With my back in tatters, I called my pain specialist and agreed, very reluctantly, to epidural steroid injections. I have had several rounds of these shots and I don’t like them and have had very little improvement from them but, “Hey, I am going to Star Island!” In a few days I found myself face down on a table, shirtless under the “C-arm” having my back drilled with needles too big not to be nervous. At least the local anesthesia would give me relief for the afternoon but it would take three days to tell if the injections worked. They did not. Now I was going to rely on ibuprofen and “grin and bear it”. At least Baxter’s problems were solved. 

Suddenly it was June. I live in Wallingford Square, Kittery which is the site of Kittery Block Party once a year, every June. It was on the same day as my departure to Star Island. There is no vehicle traffic allowed in the square for the whole day. I carried my baggage from my apartment up the hill to the laundromat to be picked up by my brother, Ronnie, to drive us to Portsmouth. I headed back to get Baxter in his stroller and as I wheeled into the laundromat parking lot, Ronnie pulled in. My heart was pounding in anticipation of the trip. Baxter knew something was going on and was smiling like I was. Off we went.

As I waved goodbye to Ronnie, I had the feeling I was walking into another world. I hadn’t been on a vacation for a decade. Health problems, divorce, poor decisions, continual PTSD and depression had stifled my once indomitable spirit. I stopped, staring at the Thomas Leighton, the people, the river, and took it all in. Suddenly I had cold feet. I was scared. Baxter was fidgeting in his stroller. I got edgy and irritable. “Baxter, take it easy”, I said. I was looking for an excuse to turn around. Change can be a trigger of PTSD. I use an exercise when the “stinkin’ thinkin'” sets in. I physically say “STOP!” and change the direction of my thoughts. I pushed forward. As I neared the people, I heard my name being called. It was Ally Miner, my point of contact, and her smile dissolved all my fears and apprehension. It was the first smile of many I would experience as I checked in and sat with the people also heading to Star Island. My acceptance was unconditional and overwhelming. A tear came to my eye. I was leaving a bag of misery on the dock. I felt like I was home for the first time in a long time, maybe the first time in my life.

Photos by Nelson Linscott