The Cambridge Roundtable on Science and Religion

The Roundtable Archives

Upcoming Roundtables

—Upcoming Event—

Future Roundtables will be described here!

December 16, 2022
Featuring people we trust to bring us a reason to explore some kind of intersection of science, faith and philosophy.

Past Roundtables

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Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, with Steven Pinker, Psychology, Harvard

March 20, 2018
Please be our guest Tuesday March 20, 6-9 PM, at the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge for our next Roundtable on Science and Religion featuring Steven Pinker who will address Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, the title of his new book.   Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophesies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In 75 jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.   Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature--tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking--which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation. With intellectual depth and literary flair, Pinker makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.    Before we adjourn to dinner and discussion, Professor Pinker will answer a single question or comment from each of these three professors: Anne McCants (History, MIT), Mark Ramseyer (Law, Harvard), and Tyler VanderWeele (Epidemiology, Harvard).
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From Fake News to cheating on taxes: How good are we? Why do any better? Wake Forest A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy Christian B. Miller

February 12, 2018
Please be our guest February 12th, 6 to 9pm at our Cambridge Roundtable on Science and Religion at the Harvard Faculty Club as we discuss From Fake News to Cheating on Taxes: How good are we? Why do any better? Weighing insight from science and religion. Our evening will feature Wake Forest A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy Christian B. Miller, author of The Character Gap: How Good Are We? (Oxford, December 2017) Most of us would say that we may not be saints, but we are still honest, kind, and mostly trustworthy. However, hundreds of recent studies in psychology suggest, says Professor Miller, that character flaws prevent us from being as good as we think that we are: in a group of bystanders most of us will do nothing if someone cries for help - but often we will selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger. Why this strange difference? Much depends, argues Miller, on cues in our social environment. Join us for the evening as we explore together what our character really looks like given current scientific understanding.
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Emotional Artificial Intelligence and the Soul, featuring MIT's Rosalind Picard

November 29, 2017
Our evening will feature MIT’s Rosalind Picard, author of Affective Computing, the book that launched the field by that name, enabling robots and technology to develop skills of emotional intelligence, or “emotion AI”. Picard is Founder and Director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, co-director of the MIT Media Lab’s Advancing Wellbeing Initiative, and Faculty Chair of MIT’s Mind+Hand+Heart Initiative. She has co-founded two companies Empatica, Inc. providing wearable sensors and analytics to improve health, and Affectiva, Inc. delivering emotion AI technology including recognition of facial and vocal emotion expressions. 
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The Observations of a Muslim and a Mennonite in Medicine; Joseph B. Martin, Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology, and Former Dean of the Harvard Faculty of Medicine, and M. Faisal Khan, M.D., Tuft’s University School of Medicine

October 25, 2017
October 25 our evening will feature complementary presentations by Joseph B. Martin, M.D., Ph.D., Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology, who served as Dean of the Harvard Faculty of Medicine from 1997 to 2007 and M. Faisal Khan, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Tuft’s University School of Medicine, Associate Chief of Medicine, Carney Hospital, as we discuss The Observations of a Muslim and a Mennonite in Medicine: Examinations of the Body and Reflections on the Soul.
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The Fertility of Doubt and Faith in Science and Religion; Owen Gingerich, Harvard University Emeritus Professor of Astronomy and History of Science, and Dr. John Seel, author of The New Copernicans

September 19, 2017
September 19 our evening will feature complementary presentations by Owen Gingerich, Harvard University Emeritus Professor of Astronomy and History of Science, and Dr. John Seel, former Director of Cultural Engagement at the John Templeton Foundation, presently leading a consulting firm specializing in millennials, as we  address The Fertility of Doubt and Faith in Science and Religion.      
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Muslim Immigrants, Education and U.S. Culture: If intellectual freedom is found in U.S. culture is it from being rooted in religion or is it from being seasoned by science and reason?

March 24, 2017
…consistent with scientific research on faith-based schools religious instruction provides a better standpoint for critical engagement with the dominating culture than does a public school immersed in that culture…   From Muslims in the Melting Pot (First Things, April 2016, published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life) by Boston University Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Charles L. Glenn, PI of a study of Islamic high schools nationwide in a multi-sector study to explore “the relationship between schooling and the formation of moral sensibilities and habits among the young.” Glenn was director of urban education and equity efforts for the Massachusetts Department of Education, including administration of over $200 million in state funds for magnet schools and desegregation.   Serving the faculties of the Boston Islamic Seminary, Hebrew College, and Andover Newton School of Theology, Celene Ibrahim also holds an appointment as the Muslim Chaplain for Tufts University and is completing a PhD at Brandeis University’s Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies with a focus on women in the Qur’an. Previously: M.Div., Harvard Divinity School and B.A., Near Eastern Studies with highest honors from Princeton University.
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Genomic Engineering: What will it take to stay human and define what it means to be human?

September 21, 2016
George Church, Harvard University, Genetics James Sherley, Founder: asymmetrex.com
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Is reality elusive, immersed in mystery, and unknowable?

March 08, 2016
Marcelo Gleiser, Dartmouth College, Physics and Astronomy                                                                                                                      Ian Hutchinson, MIT, Nuclear Science and Engineering        
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The Mystery of Cosmological Constants: Evidence for the Existence of God?

September 30, 2015
Walter Bradley: Baylor University Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, (retired); Texas A&M Dept. Head of the largest Mechanical Engineering Department in the United States. Professor Bradley has received more than $7 million in research funding and has published more than 150 refereed technical papers and book chapters.  He was honored by the American Society for Materials as an elected Fellow in 1993, and the Society of Plastics Engineers honored Professor Bradley with a career-contributions award as the Educator of the Year for the US, Canada, and England in 2011. Randy Isaac: Executive Director of the American Scientific Affiliation, a network of Christians in the sciences; Vice President (retired), Science and Technology, for the IBM Research Division where he had worldwide responsibility for semiconductor, packaging, and communications technologies. Dr. Isaac's Doctorate is in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined IBM in 1977 at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center at Yorktown as a Research Staff Member in silicon technology. Dr. Isaac is a Senior Member of IEEE, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the AAAS, and a Fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation.  
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Science and the Modern World: how should one describe the place and authority of science?

May 14, 2015
Steven Shapin is Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science. Steve is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and with Simon Schaffer, he was the 2005 winner of the Erasmus Prize, conferred by HRH the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands, for contributions to European culture, society, or social science. In 2014, he received the Sarton Medal, the highest honor of the History of Science Society, in recognition of a lifetime of scholarly achievement. His latest book: Never Pure: Historical Studies of Science as if It Was Produced by People with Bodies, Situated in Time, Space, Culture and Society, and Struggling for Credibility and Authority (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).   Since 2010, Walter Kim is Associate Minister at historic Park Street Church in Boston, and has also served as a chaplain at Yale University. Walter received his Ph.D. with distinction from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and maintains research interests in areas of linguistics and in the intersection of biblical theology and culture. Park Street Church is an international congregation, with members from more than 60 countries. Its faith community includes many students and faculty from Boston-area universities. Boston Mayor Menino announced February 27, 2009 as Park Street Day in honor of its bicentennial and contributions to the city.