2002 - 2004: Bar Ilan University
God's Works and God's Words: Between Observation & Exegesis, Matter
& Spirit, and Science & Religion
2003-2004 Lectures and Activities
2002-2003 Lectures and Activities
2001-2002 Lectures and Activities
Organizing Committee/Working Group
For centuries, philosophers and theologians have spoken of God's "two
books." Bonaventura called them the liber naturae and the liber
scripturae. Francis Bacon, generations later, called them "the book
of "God's Words" and the "the book of God's Works." Still
later, natural theologians like William Paley maintained that the book of nature
reflected the grace of God no less than the book of scripture.
Though scientists and scholars, when in a particularly poetic frame of mind,
occasionally speak today of "two books," the vitality of the metaphor
has greatly diminished. The notion that nature and scripture are both the product
of a single divine author has been largely replaced, until recently at least,
by the notion that science and religion are irremediably foreign and necessarily
This is a great shame. Taken seriously, the "two books" metaphor could
have tremendous value today, more for the productive questions it raises, than
for answers that it in itself might provide. Viewing nature and scripture as
two books raises questions about how knowledge is (or ought to be) attained.
To what extent, for example, might science be viewed as an exegetical pursuit?
And if science is seen as a sort of exegesis, are there ways in which its methods
can be augmented or improved by incorporating sophisticated exegetical techniques
developed by theologians over the centuries?
The "two books" metaphor also raises questions about universalism
and particularism. Natural philosophers and scientists have for centuries looked
to nature as a realm that reflected the glory of God, but not of any particular
conception of God. Men such as Kepler, Newton, Paley and many others were persuaded
that the study of nature could transcend confessional diffferences, and thus
be a way for people of different religions to worship and glorify God jointly.
Perhaps the "book of nature" admits companionable, joint exegesis
on the part of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Moslem and other scientists, in
a way that scripture never could.
Finally, the "two books" metaphor raises questions about the anture
of reality (and the reality of nature). Ought God's Works and His Words each
be seen to represent its own unique reality? What is the relationship between
these representations? To what extent ought the autonomy of each representation
be protected, and to what extent ought the two representations be interleaved?
Reconsidering the relationship between God's "Book of Works" and His
"Book of Words" will allow us to find fresh answers to questions such
as these. To do so, we propose to bring together natural and social scientists,
philosophers, historians, literary critics, theologians and others to explore
constructively these metaphors and their implications. We plan to invite scientists
and scholars of international reputation to spark our discussions, but we expect
that the most valuable conversation will take place in the small group of faculty
members from Bar Ilan and Israel's other universities, which will meet every
month, we hope permanently.
Our emphasis will quite naturally be on Jewish perspectives, though we will
try to broaden our inquiry to include Christian and Moslem perspectives, whenever
possible. We will recruit participants from outside the university, including
faculty at other universities, and other members of Israel's scientific, religious,
and cultural elite, though the value and purview of our project go well beyond
the rarified realm of the academy. Although we will strive to enrich our discussions
with historical analyses, our focus will be contemporary. The goal of our discussion
is to reach deeper understandings that will help scientists and scholars solve
2003-2004 Lectures and
Program details coming soon!
2002-2003 Lectures and
Spring 2003 Lecture Series
Click on the lecturer's name for a brief biography.
February 11, 2003
"Buber & Levinas: Bypassing the Problem of Evil"
Putnam, Harvard University
February 25, 2003
"Religion & Science: Conflicts and Interactions"
Adin Steinsaltz, Institute for Judaic Studies in the CIS
March 11, 2003
"Monotheism as a Harbinger of Science"
Elia Leibowitz, Tel Aviv University
March 25, 2003
"Science, Religion and Religious Disputation in Judaism"
Menachem Fisch, Tel Aviv University
April 8, 2003
"Science, Morality & War: Oppenheimer and Nuclear Weapons"
Silvan Schweber, Brandeis University & Harvard University
Lectures and Activities
June 4, 2002
Conference: Science and Salvation - A Historical & Philosophical Investigation
of Science & Religion
Philosophy as a Redemptive Project: The Case of Maimonides
Prof. Moshe Halbertal
Seduction, Cultural Exchange and Secular Redeption in the Haskalah Rhetoric
Prof. Shmuel Feiner
Bar Ilan University
The Scientist as Savior
Prof. Matthew Goldish
University of Ohio
Science, Salvation and Original Sin in the Late Seventeenth Century
Prof. Michael Heyd
Noah J. Efron, Ph.D. (Committee Chairman)
Chairman, Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science, Bar Ilan University
Dr. Noah J. Efron is chairman of the Graduate Program for the History &
Philosophy of Science at Bar Ilan University, where he specializes in the relationship
between science and religion, focusing on Jewish attitudes toward nature and
science. Efron received a Metanexus/Templeton grant for research, writing and
publication of a book exploring the constructive interaction of science and
religion, which he is presently writing, called Golem, God, and Man: Human
and Divine in the Age of Biotechnology. Efron has been a fellow of the
Dibner Institute at the Massachusetts Instituite of Technology and a Rothschild
Fellow at Harvard University. He received a B.A. with High Honors, from Swarthmore
College, and a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Tel Aviv University.
He has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Tel Aviv University,
and the Jerusalem affiliate of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Efron recently
edited a special volume of Science in Context devoted to Jews and science
since the renaissance. He has written many essays appearing in academic journals,
books, and encyclopedias, and is a contributing writer for the Boston Book
Review. His book, Trembling with Fear, about religion in Israel,
is being published by Basic Books. Dr. Efron has been awarded grants from the
National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Mellon, Rothschild, and Thomas
J. Watson Foundations, as well as the Israeli Academy for Higher Education.
He was also a member of the organizing committee of the Science and the Spiritual
Quest (SSQ) conference which took place at Bar Ilan University in 2002.
Click on the name of a committee member for biographical information.
- Nathan Aviezer, Professor and Chair,
Department of Physics, Bar Ilan University
- Menachem Fisch, Associate
Professor, Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science &
Ideas, Tel Aviv University
- Aryeh Frimer, Ethel
and David Resnick Professor of Active Oxygen Chemistry, Bar Ilan Univeristy
- Ely Merzbach,
Professor, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Bar Ilan University
- Dov Schwartz,
Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy and Graduate Program for the
Study of Contemporary Judaism, Bar Ilan University
- Avy Susswein,
Chair, Program in the Brain Sciences and Professor, Department of Life Sciences,
Bar Ilan University
- Noam Zohar, Rabbi;
senior lecturer, Department of Philosophy; Chair, Graduate Program in Biotechnology,
Bar Ilan University
Bar Ilan University - Templeton Research Lectures Website
Noah J. Efron, PhD
Bar Ilan University
Graduate Program for History and Philosophy of Science
Committee for Interdisciplinary Studies
Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan, Israel 52900