Shaare Emeth to hold talks on ‘God and Science’


Was the world created in a “big bang?” How good is the evidence for evolution? Are science and religion incompatible? Some people would say so, but scientists of faith would disagree. Congregation Shaare Emeth is offering everyone a chance to learn more at a two-day event.

Visitors can explore these subjects at Congregation Shaare Emeth’s “Where Do God and Science Meet?” event, a pair of lectures on April 11 and April 12. Two prominent scientists, Dr. Clifford Will and Dr. Alan Templeton, who are also members of the congregation, will discuss the science behind the “Big Bang” theory and evolution, and explore the relationship between science and faith.

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Congregation Shaare Emeth is offering the public a chance to hear the science side and explore the whole topic in both a religious and scientific context.

On Friday, April 11, Dr. Clifford Will discusses “The Seven Stages of Creation!” Will is the James S. McDonnell Professor of Physics at Washington University and his discussion will cover the astrophysics behind the creation of the universe and the “Big Bang” theory science. The discussion at 8 p.m. will follow Shabbat services at 6 p.m. and a Shabbat dinner at 7 p.m. The dinner is $15 for adults, $7 for children ages 2 to 12, free for under age 2 but reservations are required. The lecture itself is free.

“My talk is on ‘Big Bang’ cosmology, and the idea of our origins,” said Dr. Will, in a recent phone interview. “I am going to give an overview of what the current understanding is of the universe, how it evolved, and how it came to be, and what we think the present universe looks like.”

On Saturday, April12, Dr. Alan Templeton will speak on “God of the Gaps vs. Life is a Miracle: Two Perspectives on Evolution and Religion.” Templeton is the Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology at Washington University. There will be a free light breakfast at 9 a.m. before the discussion at 9:30 p.m.

Both discussions will be aimed at the non-scientist to encourage popular understanding of the issues and the science in the debate on these topics. While the lectures will be aimed at a general audience, Dr. Will said “but I do want to give people a sense of why we really believe, on a physical basis, a scientific basis, that the universe began this way and evolved this way, and brought us where we are today.”

“Part of the motivation (in giving the lectures) is to give non-scientific people a kind of background when they confront this whole issue of the difference between religion and science, when there are people who believe in Intelligent Design or Creation Science try to say that our theories about the ‘Big Bang’ are just theories, and there is no real reason to believe them, and the biblical story is really the scientifically correct story,” said Will. “Well, most people really don’t hear much about what the scientific story is, so I am going to try to give them at least some idea of why we believe the scientific story is scientific.”

“But then I want to make the point, of course, that this is science and religion is something different,” Will added. “The two are very different things. They act differently, science functions in a different way than religion, and so on.”

He noted that there was no reason to see science and religion as incompatible. “They both have different realms of applicability and use,” he said. “Religion is something people apply to their daily lives, their families, and personal life. It helps people understand why things are the way they are, whereas science does not ask why. It may ask how things come about but the purpose is a completely different question,” he said. “They are very different ways of thinking about the world.”

The program was organized by Felice Joyce at Shaare Emeth. Both Dr. Will and Dr. Templeton are active members of the congregation and had spoken about science at the congregation. Naturally, the congregation thought of them for the program on science and religion.

Rabbi Andrea Goldstein of Shaare Emeth will also take part in the event. Vera Emmons, the congregation’s membership and marketing director, said that there was concern that in public discussion of science and religion, the public hears much less about the science side of the issue and expressed hope that the talks could help correct that.

The public is welcome to attend either or both discussions.

Those wishing more information, or to make a reservation for the dinner on Friday, can contact Congregation Shaare Emeth at 314-569-0010. The temple is located at 11645 Ladue Road in Creve Coeur, Mo., near the intersection of Ladue and Ballas roads.