NY Event: When Good Science Goes Bad

Sinai and Synapses, an organization that bridges the worlds of religion and science and is incubated at Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, is hosting a free public event on May 1st at the 92nd St. Y, entitled “When Good Science Goes Bad.” It is presented in partnership among Sinai and Synapses, Clal and The Disruptor Foundation.

“Science is the way we gain a better and more accurate understanding of the world,” said Sinai and Synapses’ Founding Director Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman. “Yet it’s done by human beings, who have their own blind spots, power dynamics, political views, and religious doctrines. Science as a whole is enormously valuable for humankind, but what happens when we imperfect human beings misuse it? As May 1st will also be the day we observe Yom HaShoah, these are key questions we need to be thinking about.”

The evening will feature a presentation by Dr. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, a philosopher, MacArthur Fellow and author of Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, followed by a response by Dr. Adam Pryor, a Sinai and Synapses Fellow and Assistant Professor of Religion at Bethany College. Twelve former Sinai and Synapses Fellows – including astrophysicists, educators, pastors, and engineers – will present posters on their work to encourage informal conversation surrounding key ethical questions connected to religion and science.

One challenge for science, as Dr. Goldstein asks, is the different ways in which we think about science. “Can there be a tension between two oughts – that we ought always to pursue scientific truth no matter what it turns out to be and that we ought always to act only in ways that conduce to human flourishing? And if there can be a tension between these two oughts, then which ought to prevail over the other?”

Dr. Pryor is concerned with the ways in which we decide which “ought” prevails. “By considering how scientific research pushes us to ask personal, existential questions of deep religious significance regardless of whether or not asking such questions is the intent of scientific research,” he says, “theology and science dialogue has a role to play in sparking our imagination about the conscientious use of technologies.”

“When Good Science Goes Bad” will be from 6:15 to 8:30 pm on May 1st at the 92nd St. Y. It is free and open to the public, and funding for this program is supported by a grant secured with the assistance from The Issachar Fund. RSVPs requested. Visit sinaiandsynapses.org/when-good-science-goes-bad/ for more information, or contact Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman at gmitelman@sinaiandsynapses.org.