Judaism and Science

Judaism and Science

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Below are two messages continuing the thread on Judaism and Science. In the first message, Frederick Gregory notes a recent book relevant to Norbert Samuelson’s commentary in Meta 099. Gregory cites an edited volume by David Hollinger entitled “Science, Jews, and the Secular Culture.”

In the second message, Norbert Samuelson describes the thinking behind a February 2000 conference on Science and Judaism at Arizona State University. The conference theme is “What is the Human?” Samuelson describes the participants, the structure, the readings, and the process for this continuing discussion.

— Billy Grassie

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From: Frederick Gregory <[email protected]> Organization: University of Florida Subject: Re: Meta 099: Judaism and Science

On the science and Judaism question a most relevant recent source for the situation in the U.S. is the collection of essays by David Hollinger under the title “Science, Jews, and Secular Culture”. Particularly in his “Introduction” and in Chapter 2, “Jewish Intellectuals and the De-Christianization of American Public Culture in the Twentieth Century,” he chronicles the influx of Jews into university faculties right after World War II (they had been viturally excluded from American academe prior to then). He shows how much of modern secular culture was conditioned by these Jewish intellectuals who, being disaffected from any kind of orthodox Judaism, turned to science as a source for their secular worldview. In the course of applying the above story as at least a partial explanation of the transition from “a generic, transdenominational Protestant culture” that had come to be taken for granted by the end of the 19th century to an acceptance of “a pluralism in which Christianity is acknowledged to be but one of several legitimate religious persuasions in America,” Hollinger suggests that this question is nested within a larger one, which he does not answer: “Why is Christianity in the United States so persistent in the twentieth century?”

Other essays explore specific episodes under the general theme of the title.

Frederick Gregory Department of History University of Florida P.O. Box 117320 Gainesville, FL 32611-7320 email: [email protected] Phone: (352)-392-0271 Fax: (352)-392-6927 Homepage: http://web.clas.ufl.edu/users/fgregory

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From: [email protected] Subject: Judaism and Science

In this posting, I would like to say something about the plans for the Science and Judaism workshop at Arizona State University in 2000 — plans formulated in the light of my first presentation and the subsequent discussion of it. The workshop will be held on the ASU cam pus on Sunday, February 27 and Monday, February 28. The theme will be “What is the Human?”

In general the workshop will have the following three goals: (1) To explore a cooperative, rather than competitive, interdisciplinary model of academic study. ( 2) To develop the area of Judaism and Science as a distinct subspeciality within the academic discipline of Science and Religion. And (3) to build bridges of interdisciplinary cooperative study with the academic study of Judaism and the other academic disciplines, including the life sciences, religious studies, and philosophy.

More specifically, the goals for this particular workshop are (1) to explore what the life sciences and Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah can teach us at this point in intellectual history about human beings as human beings in relationship to the other forms of life in the world, and (2) to build bridges of interdisciplinary cooperative study with the academic study of Judaism and the academic disciplines in the life sciences, religious studies, and philosophy.

There will be four ninety minute sessions held on the two days. Each session will begin with a 10 minute (AT MOST) by a presenter and a 20 minute (AT MOST) response by the respondent. The presenter will be a scientist who will summarize the paper that was prepared in advance and distributed to the respondent (no later than the end of September) to prepare their response. The paper will do two things: (1) Summarize the kind of research they are engaged in, and (2) think beyond their academic discipline about how their research affects what they think about human nature. The major emphasis should be on the second topic. The respondent will be a scholar of Jewish texts, either philosophical or kabbalistic. The response will focus on (1) what they learn about human nature from the presenter’s paper and (2) how that learning correlates, if at all, with what they learn from the kinds of Jewish texts the responder studies.

In writing their papers the presenter and respondent should assume that every participant has read the assigned books on life sciences (THE ORIGIN OF HUMANKIND by Richard E. Leakey [Basic Books, 1996] and HOW THE MIND WORKS by Steven Pinker [WW Norton & Co., 1999]), Judaica (BACK TO THE SOURCES by Barry Holtz [NY: Simon and Schuster, 1984]), and religion and science (RELIGION AND SCIENCE by Ian G. Barbour [Harper, 1997]).

In order to keep the workshop small enough for actual conversation to take place, the sessions will be by invitation only. We expect to continue the workshop into a second year where the presenters will be scholars of Jewish philosophy and/or Kabbalah and the respondents will be scholars involved in the life sciences. At the end of the second workshop all the participants will be invited to write papers of their own on the workshops’ topic, and we then hope to publish the collected papers from the presenters, respondents, and participants as a book.

Finally, participants will be limited to (a) those involved in our e-mail discussion group on science and religion in relation to the 1999 ASU science and Judaism conference, (b) all interested members of the Academy for Jewish Philosophy, and (c) faculty and students from the Life Science departments and programs, the Religious Studies and Philosophy Departments, and the Jewish Studies Program at ASU who will read in advance the four assigned books (by Leakey, Pinker, Holtz, and Barbour) and the four sets the workshop papers and responses.

For the Feb, 2000 workshop, the presenters and respondents will be the following:

Session 1: Ken Mossman (at ASU, a professor of Microbiology and the director of the Radiation Protection Facility) and Hava Tirosh Samuelson (at ASU, an associate professor of History and an expert on Kabbalah).

Session 2: Carl Feit (at Yeshiva U, a professor of Biology) and David Novak (at the U of Toronto, a professor of Jewish philosophy).

Session 3: Elliot Goldstein (at ASU, an associate professor of Biology) and Kalmand Bland (at Duke U, a professor of religious studies and Jewish philosophy).

Session 4: Kenneth Kendler (at Virginia Commonwealth U, a professor of biological psychiatry) and Elliot Wolfson (at New York University, a professor of Jewish studies and an expert on Kabbalah).

Among those who will be participants are Jean Cahan (at the U of Nebraska, in philosophy), Elliot Dorff (at the U of Judaism, in rabbinics and Jewish medical ethics), Richard Gale (at the U of Pittsburgh, in philosophy ), Bernard Levinson (at the U of Minnesota, in Biblical studies), Ze’ev Levy (at Haifa U, in Jewish philosophy), Heidi Ravven (at Hamilton C, in philosophy), Robert Russell (GTU, director of CTNS), and Solomon Schimmel (at Hebrew C, in Jewish psychology), Other participants will include members of the faculties of religious studies, philosophy, Jewish studies, and the life sciences at ASU

Norbert Samuelson Grossman Chair of Jewish Studies Arizona State University Tempe, AZ

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