Sinai and Synapses: A video about studying religion

Connor Wood

Together with my friend and colleague Tim Maness, I made a couple of videos last week on the relationship between science and religion. They went up yesterday at the website of Rabbi Geoff Mitelman’s Sinai and Synapses project as part of its “More Light, Less Heat” initiative, and again today at the Huffington Post. Check them out! My video focuses on the scientific study of religion – particularly its role in coordinating cooperative agreements within cultures. Tim’s video is more meta-analytic, focusing with a sharp eye on the questions of epistemology within and motivations for both religious and scientific worldviews.

Sinai and Synapses is a New York City-based organization under the umbrella of Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership whose goal is to bring together working scientists and religious thinkers. By putting such folks in a room together, Sinai and Synapses hopes to facilitate a better public discourse about the Big Issues – one that transcends the commonplace dichotomy of religious fundamentalists and outspoken atheists. (My last post here made it clear how fond I am of a conversation dominated by those two extremes.)

I attended the first meeting of the working group in New York back in December, at a conference room in an office four floors above Park Avenue. That first meeting was the type of glorious experience my nerd-self has always relished and dreamed of – there I was in a room surrounded by biochemists, rabbis, pastors, NASA astronomers, and keen-minded tech gurus, all talking about the Stuff that Matters.

The next meeting of the working group is in March, and out there in the wilds of the Internet and popular culture the conversation between the fundamentalist “believers”* and the fundamentalist nonbelievers is still going nowhere fast. So here’s hoping that Sinai and Synapses and other groups with similar goals can catalyze serious discourse across scientific and religious lines, and help break open culture’s stubborn tribal walls. I know that’s what I’m working for.

Check out other videos by Sinai and Synapses working group members here.

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* I put “believers” in scare quotes because experience has led me to think that the more rigid forms of religious belief are often covers or compensators for very serious internal misgivings about the content of that belief. In other words, I suspect that the most shrill defenders of religious dogmatism are often trying to convince, more than anything else, an audience of one.

** NOTE: If you watched the videos, did you notice how both Tim and I have a neat background of books on a bookshelf? Doesn’t that make us look all expert-like and distinguished? I was so excited about that.


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