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2001 - 2003: Columbia University


2002-2003 Lectures and Activities
2001-2002 Lectures and Activities
2000-2001 Lectures and Actvities
Project Leader
Organizing Committee/Working Group
Additional Information



The scientiffic drive to comprehend the natural world intersects with the contemplative urge to behold it. The more transparent the working of nature becomes, the more ardent becomes the yearning - of the scientist, the philosopher, the poet, and the priest - to bear witness to the orderliness, the intricacy, the far-sightedness, and the wit of the cosmos. Such yearning, however, conflicts with the forces that separaate matters of fact from matters of value, that sequester science from religion. Academic specialization and cultural homogeneity divide those who search for data from those who search for meaning, while narrowness of ambition and distress with ambiguity can divide the data-searching and meaning-searching aspects of the individual.

Intellectual, professional, and personal forces have converged of late in this country and abroad to begin to reconcile matters of faith with matters of discovery. With advances in understanding the basic mechanisms of thought, perception, and emotion, serious scholars and investigators are measuring up to the challenge of harmonizing their objectiuve knowledge of the natural world with their subjective experience of it. Issues of spirituality transcend traditional denominational observance to infuse such technological activities as medicine and psychology with reverence for the irreducible mystery of human lives. At the same time, alarm is sounding at the peril of not explicitly acknowledging the consequences, in terms of human values and meaning, of scientific and technological discoveries.

It is our hope that these lectureships and inter-disciplinary seminars that will engage scholars and practitioners from the sciences and the humanities in consequential work - the work of envisioning and then incarnating durable and generative connections between science and religion. With the support of the Templeton Foundation, these projects will irreversibly influence their home institution, Columbia University, and, by virtue of the regard in which Columbia is held, will lead to conmstructive change throughout the academic and lay world.



2002-2003 Lectures and Activities

May 2-3, 2003
Colloquium: Narrative Medicine

The care of the sick often unfolds without attention to narrative, yet patients enact the urgency of telling of illness and the necessity of being heard. Medicine is learning to develop the narrative competence to recognize, absorb, interpret, and honor the narratives of patients and their care-givers. Narrative medicine, or medicine practiced with narrative competence, can understand the complexities of stories, their agents, and their listeners, thereby growing in empathy, ethicality, and effectiveness.

The colloquium, "Narrative Medicine," convened practitioners of literature and medicine with scholars of narratology, autobiographical studies, and trauma studies to probe the consequences of adopting narrative practices and literary training in health care. The more deeply we understand how these approaches work, the more powerfully will we be able to deploy them.

For more information, including webcasts of the talks, see

Writing and Healing
Charles Anderson, Professor of Rhetoric and Writing, University of Arkansas
Respondent: Eric Marcus, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Professor of Medicine, Columbia University

Reconstructing Illness
Anne Hunsaker Hawkins, Professor of Humanities, Penn State College of Medicine
Respondent: Jeffrey Borkan, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine, Brown Medical School

Memory, the Body and the Self
James Olney, Voorhies Professor of English, Louisiana State University
Respondent: Steven Marcus, George Delacorte Professor of English and Comparitive Literature, Columbia University

The Clinical Imagination
Adam Verghese, Professor of Medicine, University of Texas
Respondent: Robert Pollack, Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion, Columbia University

Illness and Narrative Identity
Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Respondent: Ursula Heise, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Illness is Biocultural
David Morris, University Professor, University of Virginia
Respondent: Priscilla Wald, Professor of English, Duke University

The Consequences of Witnessing Trauma
Dominick LaCapra, Professor of History, Cornell University
Respondent: Catherine Riessman, Research Professor of Sociology, Boston College



2001-2002 Lectures and Activities

March 24-25, 2002
Colloquium: On the centennial of William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience

In 1901-1902 William James delivered the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion at Edinburgh, published as The Varieties of Religious Experience: a study in human nature. James was a professor of philosophy at Harvard who helped establish academic psychology in this country. He brought to the topic of religious experience a broad acquaintance with contemporary work in both psychology and philosophy.

James writes well, and Varieties is illustrated with quotations from reports of religious experience gleaned from his reading of classical religious authors and from contemporary sources, including pamphlets, letters and journal entries. Despite his claim that the psychological description had expanded so much that philosophical analysis had to be postponed, James uses these accounts to describe and evaluate different forms of experience, and to propose a "science of religions" that would range beyond the distinctly Protestant culture he represented.

After a period of neglect, American pragmatism has enjoyed a renaissance during the past twenty-five years, bringing renewed interest in James's writings on the part of historians, philosophers, and students of literature. The centennial anniversary of Varieties provides an occasion for reexamining a book that has always elicited a wide audience and can provoke fresh thinking about religion and its relation to science. -- Wayne Proudfoot, PhD, Columbia University

For more information, including webcasts of the talks, see

'Damned for God's Glory': William James and the Scientific Vindication of Protestant Culture
David Hollinger, Chancellor's Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley

Pragmatism and 'an unseen order' in Varieties
Wayne Proudfoot, Professor of Philosophy of Religion, Columbia University

The Fragmentation of Consciousness and The Varieties of Religious Experience: William James's Contribution to a Theory of Religion
Ann Taves, Professor of History of Christianity and American Religion, Claremont School of Theology and Professor of Religion, Claremont Graduate University

The Varieties of Ordinary Experience

Jerome Bruner, University Professor, New York University School of Law

Some Inconsistencies in James's Varieties and general discussion
Richard Rorty, Professor of Comparative Literature, Stanford University



2000-2001 Lectures and Activities

Lecture Series: "Experiencing the Mysterious"
Four scholars - a bioethicist, a chemist, a philosopher, and a Buddhist Tenzin, each renowned for his or her work on questions that lie at the margin of a scientific and a religious subject - raise questions from their research and offer reflections on work and life, and the complex relationship between the two.

For more information, including webcasts of the talks, see

March 21, 2001
A Bioethicist's View from Academe to Public Service and Back
Ruth Fischbach, Professor of Bioethics in Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

March 28, 2001
The Many-Sided Conflict Between Science and Religion
Philip Kitcher, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University

April 3, 2001
Manjushri's Wisdom Sword: A Buddhist View of Religion and Science
Robert Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Columbia University

April 17, 2001
Old Wine, New Flasks: Reflections on Science and Jewish Tradition
Roald Hoffmann, Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters (Chemistry and Chem Bio), Cornell University, Spring 2001 Visiting Professor at Columbia



Project Leader

Robert Pollack, Ph.D.
Professor of Biological Sciences, and Chair, Center for the Study of Science and Religion, Columbia University

Robert Pollack is currently Professor of Biological Sciences, Lecturer in Psychiatry at the Center for Psycholannalytic Training and Research, and Director of the Center for the Study of Science and religion, at Columbia University.

Dr. Pollack is the author of more than a hundred research papers on the oncogenic phenotype of mammalian cells in culture, and has edited many books and reviews on aspects of molecular biology.

Since 1994 Dr, Pollack has concentrated his efforts on questions that lie at the margin of science and religion. His 1994 book, Signs of Life: The Language and meaning of DNA, received the Lionel Trilling Award, and has been translated into six languages. His second book, The Missing Moment: How the Unconscious Shapes Moden Science, was released by Houghton Mifflin in September 1999, and will appear in Japanese translation in 2000. His latest work, The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith: order Meaning and Free Will in Modern Science, will be publoished by Columbia University Press later this year, as the inaugural volume of a new series of books on Science and Religion.

He serves on the advisory boards f the John Templeton Foundation, California Newsreels, The Fred Friendly Seminars, the program in Religion and Ecology of the center for the Study of World religions at harvard University, and as a Senior Consultant for the Director, Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is a Fellow of the AAAS, and the World Economic forum in Davos; and a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association. He is a director and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of AMBI Inc. (NASDAQ).

Dr. Pollack grew up in Brooklyn, attended public schools, and graduated from Columbia College with a major in physics in 1961. He holds a Ph.D. in biology from Brandeis University. he has been a research scientists at the Weizmann Institute and att Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an assistant professor of Pathology at NYU medical Center and an associate professor of Microbiology at the State University of New York at Stony Book.

He has been a Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia since 1978, and was a Dean of Columbia College from 1982-1989. He received the Alexander hamilton Medal from Columbia University, and has held a Guggenheim Fellowship. he has been a meber of the century Association since 1997.

Since 1998 Dr. Pollack has been the President of the Hillel of Columbia University and Barnard College, located in the new Robert K. Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life. Dr. Pollack's wife Amy is an artist; their daughter is a physician.



Organizing Committee/WorkingGroup

Click on the name of a committee member for biographical information.
  • Rita Charon, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University
  • Neil Gillman, Aaron Rabinowitz and Simon H. Rifkind Professor, Department of Jewish Philosophy, Jewish Theological Seminary of American
  • Piet Hut, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Institute for Advanced Study
  • Darcy Brisbane Kelley, Professor of Bioloical Sciences, Columbia University
  • Philip Kitcher, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
  • Joan Konner, Professor of Journalism and Dean Emerita, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
  • Robert Pollack (Principal Investigator), Professor of Biological Sciences, and Chair, Center for the Study of Science and Religion, Columbia University
  • Wayne Proudfoot, Professor of Religion, Columbia University
  • Allan Rosenfeld, MD, FACOG, Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
  • Robert Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Chair of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Columbia University



Additional Information

Center for the Study of Science and Religion, Columbia University


Robert Pollack, Ph.D.
Columbia University
Center for the Study of Science and Religion
3041 Broadway, MC 9601
New York, NY 10027

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Fax: 212-851-1829


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