Science and Torah: Conflict or Complement?


by Raizel Metzger - MIAMI, FLORIDA

December 5, 2005

Some of today’s most hotly debated issues, including the instruction of evolution vs. the theory of intelligent design, the role of DNA testing in determining identity, halachic views on the Terry Schiavo case, and the unity of the universe, will be among many placed under the multiple microscopes of Halachah, Science, Kabbalah, and Chasidism at the Sixth International Miami Conference on Torah and Science in mid-December. Addressing the two-and-a-half day conference is a lineup of some of the Jewish world’s best known expositors on Science and Torah that includes medical professionals, physicists, rabbis, thinkers and mathematicians. Joining them to present his view on the theory of intelligent design vs. evolution will be Dr. William A. Dembksi, a Southern Baptist Seminary Professor of Theology and leading authority on the subject.

The conference, which convenes bi-annually in Miami, is a unique cooperative effort of The B’Or HaTorah Journal and its founder, noted Professor Herman Branover; The Shul of Bal Harbour, Florida, under the leadership of Rabbi Shalom D. Lipskar; and Professor Nathan Katz, head of the Department of Religious Studies at Florida International University.

“Unity, Duality, Multiplicity in Torah, Kabbalah, Hassidism, Talmud, Physics, Biology, Medicine, Psychology and Modern Life,” is the umbrella theme of the conference, with presentations, panel discussions and workshops on topics as diverse as “The Shadow and the Self,” presented by South African holistic healer Rabbi Arthur Seltzer, PhD, to “The Kabbalistic Stages of Feminine Development,” and “Biotechnology and Halakhic Problems in Future Food Production.” The conference, which is free and open to the public, presents the layman with the opportunity to engage in discussions and analysis normally reserved for the academic setting.

Day two of the conference will be devoted to the discussion of teaching the origins of the universe, an issue still under fierce debate, particularly among those whose scientific background is significantly at odds with their biblical beliefs. Conference organizers expect a large turnout of teachers, educators, and students from both Jewish and non-Jewish schools for this day’s sessions in particular. Addressing the theme will be Rabbi Professor Moshe D. Tendler, one of today’s most respected voices in Jewish medical ethics, Professor Eliezer Zeiger, Biology Professor at University of California in L.A., Rabbi Lipskar, Professor Branover, and others. Professor Dembski, considered by many to be the most articulate advocate of Intelligent Design, will address the place of intelligent design in the natural sciences, followed by an interactive question and answer period with the audience.

Some 1,000 participants attended the fifth annual conference in 2003, and organizers expect this year’s turnout to top that. Organizer Miriam Gitman of The Shul in Bal Harbour, says that judging from the high volume of calls, the level of interest generated by the themes covered in this year’s conference is unique. “Science and Torah often seem at odds, but likely nowhere more than in the discussion of the origin of the universe,” she says. The conference offers a rare opportunity to explore the interface between the two, and she expects a large crowd to be on hand to take advantage of the opportunity. Teachers and educators who participate will be offered Continuing Education Credits for the sessions attended.

Proceedings from the conference will be published in a future issue of The B’or HaTorah Journal, says Ilana Attia, managing editor of the journal and a coordinator of the conference. For more information, visit www.borhatorah.org.

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