The Science of Jewish Identity

ELI talksTomorrow afternoon, Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman, founder and director of Sinai and Synapses, will be a guest of ELI on Air. He’ll be discussing how our identities are formed, and what the science of self means for Jewish identity.

To join the conversation, click over to YouTube tomorrow at 1 p.m. You can also share your questions on Facebook in advance, or through YouTube or Twitter (using #elitalks) during the event.

Who Will Win This Year’s Templeton Prize?

Templeton PrizeThe winner of the 2014 Templeton Prize will be announced on March 13 at a news conference at the British Academy in London at 6:30 a.m. EDT. The prize, valued at about 1.8 million dollars, “honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”

You can watch the winner announced via a live webcast.

Faith Interviews

Rebecca Catto, a research associate at the Religion and Society Programme and the principal investigator for The Young Atheists research project, let us know that she is organizing a series of free events in Central London in which public figures reflect upon faith and its place in science, politics, and popular culture.

Tomorrow, at the first event in the series, British biologist and humanist Sir John Sulston will be interviewed by Andrew Brown of The Guardian on the topic “Can the World Afford Religion?”

Watch This Video-Streamed Dialogue Event

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Richard Dawkins, and Sir Anthony Kenny will explore “the nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin” at Oxford University today. Specifically, they will discuss whether science, philosophy, and theology in dialogue can “map a more progressive route for reflecting upon such matters.” The event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST, has long been sold out, but you can watch a webcast of the event for free (or watch the archived video shortly after the event).

Margaret Yee, co-convener of the dialogue with John Hedley Brooke, sent along a list of the submitted big questions to be addressed:

Stage One: Current human individuals

Isabel Richards (undergraduate, Physics and Philosophy, University College)

Across centuries and across cultural and religious boundaries, literature and other art forms have demonstrated the capacity of individual human beings to express an independence of spirit, of thought, and of creativity. Does capacity for individual expression require explanation?

Dr. Angeliki Kerasidou, D.Phil (Oxf), Researcher in Bioethics, Ethox Centre, Oxford

The issue of “human nature” is a highly controversial one in the circles of philosophy and theology. Could biology help philosophers settle this debate?

Catherine Milnes (Head of Classics and Religious Studies, Sandbach High School)

Given that religion is such a universal feature of the human condition, is not the concept of religiosity worthy of scientific investigation?

Dr. M.M. Yee, Senior Research Fellow, St. Cross College (Principles of Knowing: Science, Humanities & Theology)

Are “heaven” and “hell” simply poetic images spoken by a Welsh bard, which, in a scientific world, are best understood as concepts of a bygone age and not treated as fact?

Stage Two: Origin of the human species

Dr. Robert Gilbert: Fellow and Tutor in Biochemistry, Magdalen College

Do you think that human scientific knowledge can be wholly explained by biological evolution?

Isabel Richards

Human beings are immensely imperfect, with so many of our potentialities unrealized. Are these failures of evolution, or are they failures of design?

Stage Three: Origin of Life

Berry Billingsley, Lecturer in Science Education, Reading University, and Principal Investigator of a project looking at children’s ideas about science and religion.

Surely if the truth is that the Universe is billions of years old and life evolved, it would have been better when the Bible was written to say nothing about how humans began. Did the writers essentially get it wrong?

Stage Four: Origin of Universe

Dick Wolff, Local United Reformed Church minister and city councillor (degree in mining engineering)

Is the sense of wonder that there is anything at all (a) an interesting but ultimately valueless human experience, or (b) the unresolvable puzzle that lies at the heart of what makes us distinctively human, and therefore the starting point for all intellectual endeavor? [n.b. asking why there is anything at all is not the same as asking how or why what there is came to be]

Berry Billingsley

When a scientist says “There’s probably no God” what does this mean—is it a statistic or based on empirical results, is it based on a historical inquiry—what kind of a statement is this?

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