Advisory Board

Advisory Board

Sinai and Synapses is blessed to have an outstanding Advisory Board, who have great expertise in advancing a more productive interaction between science and religion, and the role of both religion and science in the public sphere.


Greg Cootsona is Lecturer in Religious Studies and Humanities at Chico State University. He also directed Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries, a three-year, $2 million grant project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation and housed at Fuller Theological Seminary’s STAR Office, which offered resources for leaders of emerging adult ministries on integrating Christian faith with mainstream science. His most recent book is Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults with InterVarsity Press (2018). He is finishing a manuscript to be published by Routledge Press in 2020 tentatively titled, Science and Religion in the US: Past, Present, and Future: Why their Relationship is Not What You Think and Probably Never Was

From 2002-2014, Greg was associate pastor for adult discipleship at Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico, and from 1996-2002, at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Greg holds degrees from U.C. Berkeley, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Graduate Theological Union.

He also serves on advisory council or committees for BioLogos; the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion; the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union; and Elaine Howard Ecklund’s REAL CHANGE project. He has written for several periodicals such as The Wall Street Journal, Christianity Today online, Theology and Science Journal, and Zygon. He has been interviewed by CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and The New York Times, and has appeared on the Today Show three times. He and his wife, Laura, live in Chico and have two emerging adult daughters (21 and 24). Besides hanging out with his family, he loves to bike, read, write, and drink good beer and coffee.

Elaine Howard Ecklund is the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences, Professor of Sociology, and founding director of The Religion and Public Life Program at Rice University, where she is also a scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Ecklund’s research uses social scientific methods to explore the public relationship between science and religion. Specifically, she has most recently studied how scientists in eight different nations understand religion and spirituality. To that end, Ecklund launched the Network for the Social Scientific Study of Science and Religion (N4SR) in 2011. In addition, through a cooperative project with the American Association for the Advancement of Science Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion program, she has studied how four different U.S. religious groups understand science.

Ecklund is the author of four books and over sixty research articles, as well as numerous op-eds. Her latest book is Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think (with Christopher P. Scheitle, Oxford University Press, 2017). She has received grants and awards from organizations including the National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, John Templeton Foundation, Templeton World Charity Foundation, and Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Her work has been cited over 3,000 times by national and international media outlets.



Karl GibersonDr. Karl Giberson is is an internationally known scholar, speaker, and writer. He holds a PhD in Physics from Rice University. Dr. Giberson has lectured on science-and-religion at the Vatican, Oxford University, London’s Thomas Moore Institute, and at many prestigious American venues including MIT, Brigham Young University and Xavier University.

Dr. Giberson has published more than 200 reviews and essays, both technical and popular, in outlets that include NY Times,, the Guardian, USA Today, LA Times,, Discover, Weekly Standard, Quarterly Review of Biology, Perspectives on Science & Faith, The, and Books & Culture. He has written or co-authored 9 books, and contributed to many edited volumes.

In addition to his published works, Karl is a regular contributor to the public dialogue on Science and Faith. He has appeared as a guest on NPR’s Morning Edition and Talk of the Nation as well as other radio programs. He also blogs at The Huffington Post where his articles have generated thousands of comments and are frequently featured.

Karl was the founding editor of Science & Theology News, editor-in-chief of Science & Spirit magazine from 2003-2006 and vice-president of the BioLogos Foundation – – from 2008-2010.

From 1984 to 2011, Dr. Giberson was a professor at Eastern Nazarene College (ENC) where he received numerous recognitions and awards. While at ENC he created distinctive interdisciplinary courses and programs, including the college’s first honors program. From 2007 to 2010 he headed the Forum on Faith at Science at Gordon College. For 3 years, ending in 2009 he was the program director for the Venice Summer School on Science & Religion. Contributing scholars included Paul Davies, Owen Gingerich, Michael Ruse, Frans de Waal, and George Ellis.

Currently, Dr. Giberson teaches writing, and science-and-religion in the Cornerstone Program at Stonehill College. He lectures at universities, churches and other venues across the country. He is also working on his 10th book, due for publication in 2014.


William GrassieWilliam Grassie, Ph.D.  is the Founder and Executive Director of Metanexus, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting scientifically rigorous and philosophically open-ended explorations of foundational questions.

Dr. Grassie has a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from Middlebury College and a doctorate in religion from Temple University. He has taught in a variety of positions at Temple University, Swarthmore College, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Prior to graduate school, he worked for 10 years in international relations and conflict resolution in Washington, D.C., Jerusalem, Berlin, and Philadelphia. He is the recipient of a number of academic awards and grants from the American Friends Service Committee, the Roothbert Fellowship, and the John Templeton Foundation. In 2007–2008, he served as a Senior Fulbright Fellow in the department of Buddhist studies at the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

He is the author of The New Sciences of Religion: Exploring Spirituality from the Outside In and Bottom Up (Palgrave Macmillian, 2010) and a collection of essays, Politics by Other Means: Science and Religion in the 21st Century (Metanexus, 2010). He has also edited two volumes: Advanced Methodologies in the Scientific Study of Religion and Spirituality (Metanexus, 2010) and H+/-Transhumanism and Its Critics (Metanexus, 2010) with Gregory Hansell.


Brad Hirschfield

Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield is the co-President of Clal–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center committed to religious pluralism and the healthier use of religion in American public life.

Listed for many years in Newsweek as one of America’s “50 Most Influential Rabbis,” and recognized as one of our nation’s leading “Preachers & Teachers,” by, Fox News regular contributor, Washington Post blogger, Brad Hirschfield is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism (Harmony, 2008). He also conceived and hosted two groundbreaking series for Bridges TV—American Muslim TV Network, Building Bridges: Abrahamic Perspectives on the World Today (three seasons), and American Pilgrimage.

An expert on religion and public life, Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide. A regular on Lou Dobbs Tonight on the Fox Business Network, and The Washington Post’s Conversations: Live Q & A, he’s been a contributor on ethical issues for Tru-TV, co-hosted the weekly radio show Hirschfield and Kula and is frequently quoted in the press. A popular guest on such shows as The Dennis Miller Show, Lars Larson, and Fox Live, he has appeared on CNN, PBS, MTV and NPR, among others, and was featured on PBS’s “Frontline: Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero,” and the acclaimed documentary, Freaks Like Me. A regular commentator for The Huffington Post and one of’s Experts, he contributes frequently to Fox News Opinion, writes a column, For God’s Sake, for the’s “On Faith.” His blog, Windows & Doors, appears on (the net’s largest site for spirituality and inspiration), and was featured on the homepage of

An interfaith activist, he has inspired audiences from the Aspen Institute and the Washington National Cathedral, to the Islamic Society of North America and many leading universities and religious institutions. A featured speaker at Parliament of the World’s Religions in both Barcelona and Melbourne, he was recently invited by the Governments of the United States and the Republic of Indonesia to speak at the Jakarta Interfaith Dialogue.

Hirschfield is the editor of Remember for Life: Holocaust Survivors’ Stories of Faith and Hope (The Jewish Publication Society, 2007). He is a co-author of Embracing Life & Facing Death: A Jewish Guide to Palliative Care (CLAL, 2003). An Orthodox rabbi, he received his M.A. and M. Phil from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and his B.A. from the University of Chicago.


Irwin KulaRabbi Irwin Kula is the co-President of Clal–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center committed to religious pluralism and the healthier use of religion in American public life.

An internationally sought–after speaker, Rabbi Irwin Kula has inspired people worldwide by using Jewish wisdom to speak to all aspects of modern life and relationships. An engaged and thoughtful trader in the global marketplace of ideas, he led a Passover Seder in Bhutan; consulted with government officials in Rwanda; helped build cultural and interfaith bridges in Qatar; and met with leaders as diverse as the Dalai Lama and Queen Noor to discuss compassionate leadership in the 21st century. Across the U.S., he works constantly with religious, business and community leaders, corporate and family foundations, and religious and philanthropic institutions to promote leadership development and institutional change.

For all this and more, Rabbi Kula received the 2008 Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award for his work “toward equality, liberty and a truly inter–religious community.” Fast Company magazine and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly (PBS) both named him one of the leaders shaping the American spiritual landscape, and he has been listed in Newsweek for many years as one of America’s “Most Influential Rabbis.”

Rabbi Kula is in constant demand for his distinctive perspective on both spiritual and secular matters by the media. A regular on‘s God Talk, he’s appeared frequently on NBC’s Today Show, was a repeat guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and has appeared on The O’Reilly Factor (Fox), Frontline (PBS), and, among others. A blogger for The Huffington Post and the Washington Post’s ’s “On Faith,” he co-hosted the weekly radio show, Hirschfield and Kula.

Rabbi Kula has written several influential texts on religion and spirituality. His most recent book, Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (2006), won a “Books for a Better Life” award and was named one of the “Best Spiritual Books of 2006” by Spirituality & Health. He also wrote and was featured in Time for a New God (2004), an acclaimed documentary in which he muses on religion as a “giant tool box” for personal and social transformation.

In 2003, Rabbi Kula hosted a 13-part public television special, “Simple Wisdom with Irwin Kula,” that used Jewish wisdom to explore such life issues as relationships, money, work, and sex. He explored similar themes in another public television special, “The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings.”. A popular speaker, he has appeared in such places as the Aspen Institute, the Chautauqua Institution, the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, Colo. (as a judge), and was an invitee to Anna Deavere Smith’s “Bodies on the Line” Artist Residency in NYC (2010).

He received his B.A. in Philosophy from Columbia University, his B.H.L. from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA) in NY, and his M.A. in Rabbinics and Rabbinic Ordination from JTSA. An eighth–generation rabbi, he has headed congregations in St. Louis, MO; Queens, NY; and Jerusalem, Israel and co–founded the Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living in Chicago.


Professor Robert J. Russell is the Founder and Director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), and the Ian G. Barbour Professor of Theology and Science at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), Berkeley.

He is the author of Time in Eternity: Pannenberg, Physics, and Eschatology in Creative Mutual Interaction (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012) and Cosmology from Alpha to Omega: Towards the Mutual Creative Interaction of Theology and Science (Fortress Press, 2008).  He has co-edited a multi-volume series of books focused on scientific perspectives on divine action through an international research conference program co-sponsored by CTNS and the Vatican Observatory, including such topics as quantum mechanics, chaos theory, evolutionary and molecular biology, the neurosciences, and quantum cosmology.  His current research topics include: resurrection, eschatology and scientific cosmology; quantum mechanics, biological evolution and divine action; evolution, theodicy and christology; philosophical assumptions in contemporary scientific cosmology and their theological roots; time and eternity from a Trinitarian perspective in relation to time in physics.

He has been the P.I. of several CTNS international programs, including “Science and the Spiritual Quest” (SSQ) and “Science and Religion Course Program,” (SRCP), and was the P. I. of “Science and Transcendence: Advanced Research Series” (STARS).  He has served on the John Templeton Foundation Board of Advisors since its inception and has been a judge for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Russell serves as Co-editor of Theology and Science journal. Dr. Russell co-edited Resurrection: Theological and Scientific Assessments, ( Eerdmans, 2002) and edited Fifty Years in Science and Religion: Ian G. Barbour and His Legacy (Ashgate, 2004). He is the winner of a PCRS/Templeton Grant for Research and Writing on the Constructive Engagement of Religions and Science for his proposed book, Time in Eternity: Theology and Science in Mutual Interaction.

He holds a Ph.D. in experimental physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.Div. and an M. A. in theology and science from the Pacific School of Religion (one of nine seminaries in the GTU consortium), an M. S. in physics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and he triple- majored in physics, religion and music at Stanford University. He is ordained in the United Church of Christ. He is a member of the Society of Ordained Scientists. His wife, Charlotte, is a UCC minister and they have two grown daughters, Christie Lavigne and Lisa Galicia.


Hava SamuelsonDr. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson is Director of Jewish Studies and Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor of Modern Judaism and Professor of History at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. She writes on Jewish intellectual history with a focus on philosophy and mysticism in premodern Judaism, the interaction between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the Middle Ages, feminist philosophy, Judaism and ecology, bioethics, and religion and science. Through her interdisciplinary research, she seeks to create bridges between intellectual disciplines, religious traditions, religious and secular outlooks, and gendered perspectives. She is especially committed to understanding the complimentary relationship between science and religion from an historical perspective, and she is the Director of the Judaism, Science and Medicine Group.

Prior to joining the Arizona State University faculty, Dr. Tirosh-Samuelson taught at Columbia University, Emory University and Indiana University.  At Arizona State University since 1999, she has been teaching undergraduate courses in Jewish history: “Jewish history from the Bible to 1492;” “Jewish History from 1492-1948;” “History of Jewish Mysticism;” “Jews in the Middle Ages;” “History of Antisemitism” and “Judaism and Ecology.”  In the graduate program, Dr. Tirosh-Samuelson has been teaching the historiography course “History: Theory, Methods, and Practice,” and the required core courses in European history: “Premodern Europe” and “European Diversity.”

Dr. Tirosh-Samuelson referees manuscripts for Renaissance Quarterly; American Historical Review; Journal of the History of Ideas; Medieval Encounters; AJS Review; Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy; Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism; Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science; Frontiers: Journal of Women Studies; Indiana University Press and Hebrew Union College Press.  She reviews grant applications for Memorial Foundation of Jewish Culture, National Foundation of Jewish Culture, Israel Science Foundation and National Endowment of the Humanities and she serves on the editorial board of Journal of the American Academy of Religion.


Rebecca SirbuRabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu is the Director of Rabbis Without Borders for Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

The Founding Director of both the NJ MetroWest Jewish Health and Healing Center and the Center for Jewish Life at the JCC MetroWest, Sirbu has experience taking an idea from seed and nurturing it to grow. In addition to her roles as chief administrator and program developer, she coordinated and facilitated support groups, adult education classes, a women’s group, a program of congregational nursing for Jewish seniors, and provided pastoral and bereavement counseling for individuals.

Rabbi Sirbu has presented on Jewish Healing at several national conferences, and spoken frequently to synagogues and women’s groups on many topics including: Jewish Healing, Spirituality and Jewish Women’s History. A trained hospital chaplain, she has worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Beth Israel Hospital in New York City.

Rabbi Sirbu is a partner at the Kalsman Institute for Judaism and Health, a national project of Hebrew Union College. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Vassar College, she was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America with a concentration in Jewish Women’s Studies.


Jennifer Wiseman 2Dr. Jennifer Wiseman is the Director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) program. She is also an astrophysicist at NASA, where she is the Senior Project Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Wiseman studied physics for her bachelor’s degree at MIT, discovering comet Wiseman-Skiff in 1987. After earning her Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University in 1995, she continued her research as a Jansky Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and as a Hubble Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Wiseman also has an interest in national science policy and has served as an American Physical Society Congressional Science Fellow on Capitol Hill. She then served several years as the Program Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope at NASA Headquarters and as the chief of the Laboratory for Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She is also a public speaker and author, and enjoys giving talks on the excitement of science and astronomy to schools, youth and church groups, and civic organizations. She is a Councilor of the American Astronomical Society and a former President of the American Scientific Affiliation.


Michael ZimmermanMichael Zimmerman, Ph.D. is the founder and director of The Clergy Letter Project, an international organization of religious leaders and scientists created to demonstrate that religion and science need not be in conflict. The Clergy Letter Project sponsors Evolution Weekend annually, an opportunity for congregations of all faiths to discuss the compatibility of religion and science.

Zimmerman has been involved with the evolution/creation controversy for almost three decades. He has conducted research on the public’s understanding of evolution and the nature of science. His work has appeared extensively on the op-ed pages of newspapers. He is the author of Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense: Approaching Environmental Literacy (Johns Hopkins University Press).

With a Ph.D. in ecology, Zimmerman has published widely on the relationship between plants and pollinators. As a fierce advocate for the importance of the liberal arts, he has served as an academic dean for 20 years in addition to a professor of biology. His peers have elected him a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Center for Science Education has honored him with their Friend of Darwin award.

Additionally, he is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

andrew-zolliAndrew Zolli works at the intersection of global innovation, foresight, social change and resilience. A central thrust of his work has been how to harness the power of networks for collaborative discovery, innovation and change. He also spends much of his time advancing a global dialogue on resilience – how to help people and systems persist, recover and thrive amid disruption.

For several years, he and his colleague Ann Marie Healy traveled to explore the dynamics of resilience in many contexts. The results are encapsulated in Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, published by Simon and Schuster in the U.S., and in many other languages and territories around the world.

From 2003-2014, he was the primary creative and curatorial force behind PopTech, a renowned innovation and social change network.  The organization brings together a community of innovators from many different fields — artists, scientists, technologists, social change agents, entrepreneurs, and unconventional ‘weirdos’ — to share ideas and to work on new approaches to some of the world’s toughest problems. PopTech identifies and trains some of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet, doing things you cannot believe humanity is up to. PopTech helps them share breakthrough ideas and to work together on truly world-changing projects, doing stuff nobody had ever tried before, in areas like financial innovation and inclusiondata science and community resiliencemobile healthclimate adaptation, urban resilience and violence cessation.

He speaks regularly to a wide array of leading companies, governmental organization, NGOs, startups and cultural and civil society groups. He has advised senior leadership teams at companies including GE, PwC, Nike and Facebook. He also serves on the Board of the Garrison Institute (a forefront non-sectarian organization exploring the intersection of contemplative practice and engaged action in the world), and serves as an advisor to PlanetLabs (a revolutionary Earth-imaging company) and DataKind, which is bringing data science to the social sector.


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