For the first time, Temple Beth El’s annual Comparative Religion Series will incorporate scientists and researchers, including a prominent astronomer from the Vatican.
This year’s six-week series will respond to the theme “Religion and Science: Can They Coexist?”
Speakers will address how religion responds to scientific advances and whether there is a relationship between faith and scientific reasoning. Matt Kelly, chairman of the series for Temple Beth El, said questions about religion and science have been raised with the recent prominence of “new atheists,” who have written books promoting atheism.
The 18-year-old series typically focuses on clergy members’ viewpoints on the chosen topic.
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The addition of scientists and researchers to the speaker series will provide first-hand expertise to the discussion, Kelly said.
“If we are having a dialog about religion and science, I think it would be a mistake to do that without bringing in actual scientists,” he said. “I think having the perspective of researchers will really enrich the conversation.”
The series, which will be held weekly, will feature Charlotte faith leaders, including:
• Rabbi Judy Schindler or Temple Beth El, who will offer the Reform Jewish perspective and introduce the series on Jan. 20, and Rabbi Chanoch Oppenheim of the Charlotte Torah Center, who will present the Orthodox Jewish perspective.
• Ryusho Jeffus, priest of Myosho-Ji, Wonderful Voice Buddhist Temple, who will talk about the Buddhist perspective on Jan. 27.
• Amad Shakur, founder and director of the Center for the African Diaspora, who will present the Islamic perspective on Feb. 10.
• The Rev. Russ Dean, co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church, will give the Baptist perspective on Feb. 17.
On Feb. 3, Brother Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican Observatory will speak from the Roman Catholic perspective.
He is a member of the Society of Jesuits and has a Ph.D. in planetary science from the University of Arizona.
Consolmagno has taught and studied physics and astronomy all over the world, and he now is curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo. In November, he was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal for achievements in planetary science.
The series will end Feb. 24 with a presentation from Rabbi Jonathan Freirich of Temple Beth El and Dr. Derek Raghavan president of the Levine Cancer Institute who also is an internationally renowned cancer researcher and medical oncologist.
Freirich and Raghavan will talk about whether God is involved in science and whether science impacts views of God.
Other speakers also will address questions such as how their faith’s sacred texts align or conflict with scientific developments, how do scientific advancements affect their congregations daily lives and which texts they employ to deal with challenging scientific discoveries.
Each installment of the series is 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesday, and the series is free and open to the public. Guests can submit written questions for the speakers, which may be asked during a moderated discussion following a refreshment break.