A discussion between Dr. Steven Pinker and Rabbi Geoff Mitelman on Dr. Pinker’s new book, “Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters.”
Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman is the Founding Director of Sinai and Synapses, an organization that bridges the scientific and religious worlds, and is being incubated at Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
His work has been supported by the John Templeton Foundation, Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies, and the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, and his writings about the intersection of religion and science have appeared on the homepages of several sites, including The Huffington Post, Nautilus, Science and Religion Today, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and My Jewish Learning. He has been an adjunct professor at both the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion and the Academy for Jewish Religion, and is a sought-out teacher, presenter, and scholar-in-residence throughout the country.
He was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where he received the Cora Kahn Prize from the Cincinnati faculty for the most outstanding sermon delivery and oratory. An alumnus of Princeton University, he received multiple prizes for outstanding scholarship in Biblical and Judaic studies.
He was selected to be a member of the first cohort of Clal’s prestigious Rabbis Without Borders fellowship, a national program that seeks to position rabbis as American religious leaders and spiritual innovators who contribute Jewish wisdom to the American spiritual landscape. Additionally, he was chosen to be in the first group of the Balfour Brickner Rabbinic Fellowship, a a joint program with Clal and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism that aims to integrate Jewish textual tradition with modern social and political issues. He is on the advisory board of several organizations, including the 92nd St. Y’s “7 Days of Genius” Festival, as well as the URJ’s 6-Points Sci-Tech Academy.
For seven years, he served as Assistant and then Associate Rabbi of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, and appeared on Jeopardy! in March 2016. He lives in Westchester County with his wife Heather Stoltz, a fiber artist, with their daughter and son.
Our challenge is to avoid inventing differences that lead to the world’s disarray, while still embracing the inherent differences we all have.
We all struggle, we all deal with both good and bad luck, and even our moral judgments are not fully the results of our own decisions.
We can look back at where a society was, and how much we’ve grown.
What’s so powerful about stories is that we can help edit or recontextualize them, especially if the events themselves were challenging at the time.
When do we see the blessings in front of us, and when do we miss them? Or, conversely, when do we see the problems in front of us, and when do we miss those?
Rabbi Mitelman and Professor Steven Pinker discuss rationality, religion and the evolution of morality around them.
As modern, scientific people, we tend to accept only natural explanations for events. Miracles can’t be the “answer” to questions we don’t yet understand.
We do understand that saying words doesn’t automatically make them true. But we also understand that at certain times — such as at inaugurations — words do have power.
A conversation with Jeremy England, PhD, author of “Every Life is On Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origins of Living Things.”