WISL On scifun.org

Science and Religion in Jewish Thought,
Or, What Maimonides Really Meant

Thursday, September 17, 2009

7:30 p.m.
Seminar Hall, Room 1315
Daniels Chemistry Building, UW-Madison Campus

Introductory remarks given prior to the lecture by WISL Director Bassam Shakhashiri:

On behalf of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this evening’s public lecture. I am Bassam Shakhashiri, the director of the WISL. First, a few brief announcements. Anyone who wishes to be added to our mailing list for information about the wide range of our activities should send an email to scifun@chem.wisc.edu.

This lecture is being videotaped, and will air later on local cable stations, as well as on MMSD-TV. We will provide more information on how to view this program on television or on the internet as it becomes available. I would also like to draw your attention to the “Science and Religion in Jewish Thought” display in the Shain Tower lobby. It contains a selection of books related to this topic. More information, including a selected bibliography, can be found at: http://www.scifun.org/wisl/nadler.html.

Nadler Display

On a personal note, today I am celebrating the 52nd anniversary of my arrival in the United States. My family and I are very grateful for the wonderful hospitality and great opportunities we continue to enjoy. Also, this fall I am very proud to be starting my 40th year as a UW-Madison chemistry professor. This also means that this year’s “Once Upon a Christmas Cheery, In the Lab of Shakhashiri” holiday lecture will be my 40th. This is a milestone that I am very proud of, and I hope to see you all there. To obtain free tickets to the December 5 and 6 events, please visit our website.

The mission of the WISL is to promote literacy in science, mathematics and technology among the general public and to attract future generations to careers in research, teaching and public service. Science literacy does not require detailed knowledge of any particular field, but rather a broad appreciation and understanding of what science is capable of achieving and, equally important, what science cannot accomplish. Science literacy is a measure of our values as a society. It is necessary for the democratic process to work. Science literacy is for everyone: chemists, artists, humanists, all professionals, the general public, youth and adults alike.

Science, Religion & Ethics is one of the programs of the WISL. In it we explore and promote civil and respectful discourse on important issues such as the relationships between science and religious beliefs, and how they may influence or impede progress in society. Two of the strongest forces in society, worldwide, are science and religion. Some view them as being at odds with one another, having irreconcilable differences, while others see them as dealing with different domains of life.

Both can help nourish us. Both can help us lead good lives. From both we learn about ourselves and about who we are. Science and religion can bring us together to advance the human condition and to sustain and protect our planet. To those who say that science and religion are at odds with each other, I say perhaps there is a misunderstanding … or perhaps ignorance. Some political and religious leaders entice their followers to stifle human creativity and impede scientific progress. It is difficult to see how such leadership serves the well being of society.

Last spring, we had a major session on “Science and Islam,” presented by astronomy professor Nidhal Guessoum of the United Arab Emirates. Tonight, our session deals with “Science and Judaism.” Our speaker, Steven Nadler, is an intellectual who addresses matters related to religion and science. He is a professor of philosophy at UW-Madison. He received his bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and both a Master’s and PhD degree from Columbia University.

Steven Nadler joined our faculty in 1988, and has been recognized for his teaching and for his scholarship by named professorships. He is the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy, and also serves as chair of the philosophy department. He is founding director of the Center for the Humanities here at UW, and was among the first to accept WISL’s reach across campus to bring faculty, students, and the greater Madison community together in promoting science literacy and pursuing the connectivity between science and the humanities.

Dr. Nadler’s research has been devoted to the study of philosophy in the 17th century, with special interest in Descartes and Cartesian philosophy, as well as Spinoza and Leibniz. He is well versed and is an expert on metaphysics, moral philosophy, ancient philosophy and Jewish philosophy. He has been a visiting professor at several universities in the U.S. and abroad. He knows several languages including French, Latin, Ancient Greek, German, Dutch, Hebrew and Yiddish.  He has published numerous articles and many books.

His topic tonight is “Science and Religion in Jewish Thought, or, What Maimonides Really Meant.” But before I turn the program over to Professor Nadler, I would like to present him with a SCIENCE IS FUN t-shirt and mug. And most importantly, I’d like to present him with a replica of the sifting and winnowing plaque from Bascom Hall. Its message is one that he holds dear:

Sifting and Winnowing

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Professor Steven Nadler.

Watch the Video


To view the full-sized poster for this event, click here.

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For more information contact SciFun@chem.wisc.edu