Conversations on Religion, Ethics, and Science (CORES)

About

"It is precisely the space between the world that is and the world that ought to be that is, or should be, the arena of conversation between science and religion, and each should be open to the perceptions of the other." — Jonathan Sacks, The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning

"Daniel … was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to… solve difficult problems."  — Daniel 5:12, NIV


We live in a bitterly polarized moment in history. Religious, ethical, and scientific precepts foundational to our society are being challenged inside and outside of the academy in increasingly harsh, polemical, and distorted ways. Controversy over climate change is but one of many examples of this polarization that has global consequences for present and future generations. Respectful, informed, and productive dialogue on issues critical to the flourishing of humanity and the natural world is needed now more than ever.

Hosted at Arizona State University, Conversations on Religion, Ethics, and Science (CORES) will seek to model a dialogical approach of intellectual humility and relational integrity to help correct the current dysfunction. By bringing together scholars, students, and life-long learners from a variety of academic disciplines and religious and secular communities, much can be achieved through dialogue that is not only informed and respectful, but also productive and solutions oriented.

Over the course of the project, CORES will multiply these conversations through a series of public events and conferences, creating an “arena of conversation” among people of “keen mind and knowledge and understanding” in order to “solve difficult problems at the intersection of science and technology and the theory and practice of religion and ethics, to engender new understandings of the “world as it is” and “what it ought to be.”

Support this initiative

Your generosity promotes respectful, informed and productive dialogue on issues of religion, science, technology and ethics that are critical to the flourishing of humanity and the natural world.

Donate to CORES

People

Principal investigators

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Ben Sanders

Although not an employee of ASU, Sanders has served as a full-time campus minister at the university for over 20 years, co-directing the Campus Christian Center along with Sarah Sanders. He is the past president of ASU’s Council of Religious Advisors (2018-2020), a group comprised of campus ministries and faith-based organizations representing Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim traditions who work together peacefully to provide religious services, spiritual counseling, education, support, and opportunities for involvement to thousands of ASU students. As executive director of the Arizona Center for Christian Studies, he works with a consortium of Christian study centers and interested academics to integrate faith and learning through lectures, classes, conferences, discussion groups, research projects, publications, websites, and other academic initiatives, including the Conference on Faith and Science (COFAS), a series of annual events that began in 2019.

Leadership team:

Administrative team

Misty Falkner
President, ASU Council of Religious Advisors
Assistant Director, Arizona Center for Christian Studies

Carolyn Forbes
Assistant Director, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict

Milu Cabrera
Business Operations Specialist, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict

Communication and technology support team

Dawn Beeson
Manager of Marketing and Communication, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict 

Alex Brooks
Event Coordinator, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict

Jessica Strycker
Executive Assistant, Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science 

Lisa Kaplan
Assistant Director, ASU Jewish Studies

Partners

BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science

BEYOND is a pioneering center devoted to confronting the really big questions of science and philosophy. Our research projects address such issues, and range from cosmology, through astrobiology to the ultimate fate of humanity. We tackle subjects as diverse as time travel, the colonization of Mars, multiple universes, the nature of complexity, and the relationship between mathematics and nature.

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Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

Dedicated to evaluating the contribution of economic liberty to human betterment, the Center seeks to become an international leader in research that effects liberty-enhancing public policy and increases public and academic awareness of the history and philosophy of economic liberty.

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Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology

Participation from women belonging to diverse race-ethnic-social class groups in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields is lacking. Despite efforts to narrow divides, there are no coordinated interdisciplinary research and evidence-based strategies that consider students and women of color, their identities, and potential impact in these fields. The Center aims to create an interdisciplinary, racially-ethnically diverse community of scholars, students, policymakers, and practitioners who explore, identify, and ultimately create innovative scholarship about and best practices for under-represented students (p-20) in STEM.

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Center for Jewish Studies

Representing a modern approach to interdisciplinary Jewish studies, the Center serves as an intellectual resource for all aspects of the Jewish experience, from philosophical and political viewpoints to the study of Judaism. Through research, teaching, and public engagement, the Center fosters critical inquiry and scholarly entrepreneurship, disseminates information about Jewish culture, and enhances the quality of Jewish life locally and around the world.

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Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict

Religion wields extraordinary influence in public life. A rich reservoir of values, principles, and ideals, religion can also be a powerful source of conflict and violence as diverse traditions—religious and secular—collide. With a mission to promote interdisciplinary research and education on the dynamics of religion and conflict with the aim of advancing knowledge, seeking solutions and informing policy, the Center fosters exchange and collaboration across the university as well as with its broader publics—local, national, and global.

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Council for Arabic and Islamic Studies

Reflecting on the rich diversity of both Arabic Studies and Islamic Studies, the interdisciplinary program of the Council integrates the study of and research in Arabic and Islamic studies in diverse regions such as the Middle East, including the Arab World, Turkey and Iran, as well as Islamic Studies in regions beyond the Middle East and Africa in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other Muslim majority countries. The program promotes the teaching of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish as well as other languages taught in ASU's School of International Letters and Cultures including Indonesian and Hindi-Urdu, in collaboration with the study of sociology, history, politics, anthropology, and religion.

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Council of Religious Advisors

The Council of Religious Advisors is comprised of campus ministries and faith-based organizations that represent a diverse variety of faiths, traditions, and beliefs. Despite the differences in faiths that exist between them, the group works peacefully and diligently on behalf of the university community to provide religious services, spiritual counseling, education, support, and opportunities for involvement.

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School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is a new type of school, one that challenges its students to study classic works and prepares them to become a leader ready to take on 21st-century issues. Established in 2017, the school combines a classical liberal arts curriculum with intensive learning experiences that include study abroad programs, professional internships, and leadership opportunities. Students graduate ready for careers in government, law, business and civil society.

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Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics

Catalyzing prior successes by taking a more focused approach to its mission, one that is both consonant with David Lincoln’s founding vision to make ethics integral to education and also rooted in, and responsive to, ASU’s distinctive strengths. The center shapes an agenda focusing on humane technology and ethical innovation, convening diverse stakeholders, from members of our faculty to tech leaders, entrepreneurs, activists, and investors, to respond collaboratively to the profound effects that digital technologies are exercising on human lives.

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The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing

A home for writers, readers, and the larger community. Established in 2003 with a gift from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University is a non-academic university center dedicated to offering talks, readings, classes, workshops, and other literary events and programs for the larger community. 

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CORES 2023

“Let There Be Light”: Religion and the Birth of Modern Science

Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023


Noon MST | 2 p.m. EST | 7 p.m. GMT
Online via Zoom

register for webinar

Did key ideas in religious thought ultimately prove critical to the birth of science? Could recognizing the religious roots of modern science promote better engagement of religion and science today?

With perspectives from Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, our panel of distinguished experts—from the fields of physics, theology, history, and religious studies—will identify and discuss features and themes that helped lead to the development of science. This global conversation will be held virtually via Zoom, and audience viewers will have an opportunity to submit questions to the panelists. 


Presenters

Jameel Sadik "Jim" Al-Khalili (PhD, University of Surrey) is a quantum physicist, New York Times bestselling author, and BBC host. He currently holds a Distinguished Chair in physics and a University Chair in the public engagement in science at the University of Surrey. One of the world’s leading authorities on nuclear reaction theory of light exotic nuclei, Al-Khalili was elected Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 2000. He has published over a hundred papers in nuclear physics, quantum mechanics and quantum biology. In addition to his academic publications, Al-Khalili is also a prominent author and broadcaster. He has written 14 books on popular science and the history of science that have been translated into twenty-six languages. His most recent book, “The World According to Physics” (2020), was shortlisted for the Royal Society Book Prize. He is a regular presenter of TV science documentaries, such as the Bafta nominated "Chemistry: A Volatile History," and he hosts the long-running weekly BBC Radio 4 program, "The Life Scientific."

Keith Ward (DD, Cambridge and Oxford), a self-described Idealist Philosopher, is a member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, a fellow of the British Academy, and a priest of the Church of England. He is the author of over 50 books that range widely over the philosophy and nature of religion, religion and science, religion and ethics, and Christianity and the modern world. His major books on science and religion include “Pascal's Fire: Scientific Faith and Religious Understanding” (2006) and “The Big Questions in Science and Religion” (2008). His most recent work includes “Confessions of a Recovering Fundamentalist” (2020), “Parables About Time and Eternity” (2021), and “The Priority of Mind” (2021). His work has been the subject of several critical studies, including “By Faith and Reason: The Essential Keith Ward” (2012, edited by Curtis Holtzen and Roberto Sirvent). Ward has held positions at the University of London, Cambridge University, and the University of Oxford and visiting positions at Claremont Graduate School and Hartford Seminary.

Respondents

Paul C. W. Davies (PhD, University College London) is Regents Professor of Physics at Arizona State University where he also directs BEYOND: The Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. A theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist, best-selling science author, and media personality, he has published 30 books and hundreds of research papers and review articles across a range of scientific fields. His research interests have focused mainly on quantum gravity, early universe cosmology, the theory of quantum black ho les and the nature of time. He has also made important contributions to the field of astrobiology and to cancer research, including developing a new theory of cancer based on tracing its deep evolutionary origins. Among his many awards are the 1995 Templeton Prize, the Faraday Prize from The Royal Society, the Kelvin Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics, the Robinson Cosmology Prize and the Bicentenary Medal of Chile. His more recent books include "What's Eating the Universe?" (2021) and "The Demon in the Machine" (2019).

Hava Tirosh-Samuelson (PhD, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is Regents Professor of History, Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor of Modern Judaism, and director of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University. An authority on Jewish intellectual history, Tirosh-Samuelson is a Jewish intellectual historian who focuses on the interplay of philosophy and mysticism, Judaism and science, religion and environmentalism, and religion, science and technology. She is the author 4 books and over 50 essays, the editor-in-chief of the “Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers,” a series of 21 books featuring leading Jewish thinkers, and editor of 9 books, including “Perfecting Human Futures: Transhuman Visions and Technological Imaginations” (2018). She has been an innovator in the interdisciplinary study of science, religion and technology, including leading a faculty seminar for over a decade and directing or co-directing multiple projects, including a current initiative, Beyond Secularization: Religion, Science and Technology in Public Life. Her next book, “Environmental Jewish Spirituality in the Post-Secular Age,” is forthcoming from Routledge in 2023.

Moderator

Pauline Davies is Professor of Practice in the Hugh Downs School of Huma Communication and The Beyond Center. She is an award-winning radio science and health broadcaster with an extensive international career. She spent many years with the BBC’s World Service where her programs reached audiences of tens of millions worldwide. Her topics ranged from fundamental physics to new food technologies and human origins and she has reported from conflict zones on maternal health and combatant injuries. Davies continues to make news and documentary items from across the sciences for public broadcasters worldwide. She now specializes in cancer research outreach, leading major programs. She led the outreach and education program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) funded Physical Sciences and Oncology Center at ASU and now leads the outreach for the NCI funded Arizona Cancer Evolution Center, part of the NCI's Cancer Systems Biology Consortium. Davies is also collaborating with the Mayo Clinic to help prevent burnout amongst physicians.

Conference partners

Conversations on Religion, Ethics and Science (CORES) is made possible through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to the Arizona Center for Christian Studies and subcontracted with the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University. The opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation, Arizona Center for Christian Studies, Arizona State University, or other co-sponsors.

Past events

CORES 2020 - Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (z"l), an international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author and respected moral voice was joined by directors of four academic centers at Arizona State University for a dynamic livestream conversation centered around the release of his latest book "Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times". While lamenting the cultural and political forces that have divided Britain, America and the wider world, Rabbi Sacks presents a remarkable vision of hope for the future. Watch as top scholars at ASU engage in meaningful discussion with one of the world’s leading public intellectuals to discuss topics around morality, religion and politics, featuring John Carlson (Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict), Paul Carrese (School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership), Paul Davies (Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science), Hava Tirosh-Samuelson (Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor of Modern Judaism and director of Jewish Studies), and moderated by Pauline Davies (Hugh Downs School of Human Communication).

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CORES 2021: Conversations on Religion, Ethics and Science

Thursday, Feb. 11 - Friday, Feb.12, 2021

We live in a bitterly polarized moment in history. Religious, ethical, and scientific precepts foundational to our society are being challenged inside and outside of the academy in increasingly harsh, polemical, and distorted ways. Controversy over climate change is but one of many examples of this polarization that has global consequences for present and future generations. Respectful, informed, and productive dialogue on issues critical to the flourishing of humanity and the natural world is needed now more than ever.

Hosted at Arizona State University, Conversations on Religion, Ethics, and Science (CORES) will seek to model a dialogical approach of intellectual humility and relational integrity to help correct the current dysfunction. By bringing together scholars, students, and life-long learners from a variety of academic disciplines and religious and secular communities, much can be achieved through dialogue that is not only informed and respectful, but also productive and solutions oriented.

Over the course of the project, CORES will multiply these conversations through a series of public events and conferences, creating ​what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks called an “arena of conversation” in order to solve difficult problems at the intersection of science and technology and the theory and practice of religion and ethics, to engender new understandings of the “world as it is” and “what it ought to be.”

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Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021

Welcome and Overview: Conversations on Religion, Ethics, and Science

Speakers: Pauline Davies and Barry Ritchie

The 2021 Conference on Religion, Ethics, and Science will host a wide range of conversations by leading scholars on religious and ethical questions related to science and technology. This welcome session will provide an overview and orientation for the CORES program, introducing both the topics and the people who will facilitate each of the conversation sessions.

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Conversation One: On Science, Wisdom, and the Common Good

Speakers: Elliot Dorff and Kevin FitzGerald with Paul CarreseBen Hurlbut, and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, moderated by Pauline Davies

Since the Enlightenment, science has been seen as the engine of progress, the main source of solutions to social problems, and the arbiter of truth. While science provides knowledge about the world, wisdom is broader in scope, addressing the meaning of human life and pondering how humans relate to the natural world, to other humans, and to the ultimate source of meaning (i.e., "God" by whatever name).  How should we understand relations between science and other forms of knowledge and traditions of wisdom? How can those understandings inform the relationships between religious, scientific, and democratic communities? The panelists will address these questions in light of advances in contemporary biotechnology.

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Friday, Feb. 12, 2021

Conversation Two: Toward a Humane Economy

Speakers: Mary HirschfeldRuss Roberts, and Vernon Smith with Ross Emmett, moderated by Barry Ritchie

Our usual assumption about market exchange is that individuals are interested only in their own wants, and not the needs and wants of others. Prosperity is not necessarily bad, but we should restrain our pursuit of it if we seek the common good. If this is right, can economists be moral? How do we reconcile the assumptions of economics as the most successful of the social sciences with the ethical demands that emerge from our religious beliefs?

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Conversation Three: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science and Technology

Speakers: Elaine Howard Ecklund with Tara Nkrumah, and Patricia Rankin, moderated by Vanessa Ruiz

Prof. Ecklund will present findings from Secularity and Science (Oxford, 2019), based on the most comprehensive international study of scientists'

attitudes about religion, gender, and ethics ever undertaken. She will discuss how scientists can understand and engage with the impact of religion on society to increase racial and gender representation in science. Prof. Rankin will review the ASU Charter stating that the university will be “measured not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed." A key example of this institutional commitment to inclusion is ASU’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology, where Dr. Nkrumah is a Scholar.

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Lunch and  Learn Presentations:  Becoming More Human and More Humane - Art, Science, Technology

by Diana Ayton-Shenker and Pamela Winfrey

Conversation Four: What Does God Actually Do?

Speakers: Sarah CoakleyGeorge Ellis, and Keith Ward with Paul Davies, moderated by Pauline Davies

The word ‘God’ means very different things to different people, ranging from an abstract ground of existence, to a miracle-working super-being manifested in the unfolding natural order. Age-old theological debates such as whether God is inside or outside of time, and whether divine intervention implies a flawed universe, take on a new perspective in light of modern science. In the age of big bang cosmology, laboratory experiments to create life and searches for extraterrestrial intelligence, the question of God’s action in the world is thrown into sharp relief. If science can explain the universe, is there anything left for God to do?

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Conversation Five: Theology, Technology, and a Post-secular World

Speakers: Michael Burdett with Gaymon BennettBen Hurlbut, and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, moderated by John Carlson

Science and technology are seen as exemplars of the secular even as the boundaries between science and religion, the secular and the sacred are quite porous. And yet the idea that science and technology are not only secular but also secularizing continues to shape public life and to govern ideals of “progress.” In this conversation, we will ask what these transformations mean for the study of religion and the future of secularism.

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Conference conclusion: Closing Comments

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Conference partners

CORES is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation in association with the Arizona Center for Christian Studies

This event is presented in cooperation with the following units at ASU:

CORES 2022: Brave New World? Revisiting Utopia

Thursday, Feb. 11 - Friday, Feb.12, 2022

This year we mark the 90th anniversary of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a novel that sounded the warning about society’s impulse to perfect itself by making human life an object of rationalization and control.

Published in 1932, at a time when societies around the world were broken along lines of class, caste, color, and creed, the novel depicted a World State scientifically and technologically engineered to advance a vision of a perfect environment.

Ninety years later in February 2022, ASU’s Conversations on Religion, Ethics, and Science (CORES 2022) will host a series of provocative and timely conversations to examine the ever-present push towards utopian visions. The conversations will explore utopianism through a series of questions, including: 

  • How is utopia imagined?
  • How inclusive can utopia be?
  • What promise and perils may emerge from new technologies aimed at bringing about utopian improvements of humans and the human condition?
  • What spiritual ideas inform our utopian visions, particularly in our digital age?
  • What role is there for ethical, political, and religious guidance in realizing utopian visions, if any? 

The opening plenary session at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 10 features science fiction writers Neal Shusterman and Nnedi Okorafor in a conversation that asks, "Utopia for Whom?".

This will be followed by a day-long event that picks up where this conversation leaves off, and includes discussions with visiting scholars Andrew Briggs (Oxford), S.D. Chrostowska (York), Kanta Dihal (Cambridge), Allison Duettmann (Foresight), N. Katherine Hayles (Duke), Ian Markham (VTS), Alfred Nordmann (Darmstadt), and Fred Turner (Stanford).

ASU discussants include Gaymon Bennett and John Carlson (SHPRS/CSRC), Lois Brown (Center for the Study of Race and Democracy), Paul Carresse (SCETL), Ben Hurlbut (SOLS), Faheem Hussain (SFIS), Tara Nkrumah (CGEST), Erica O'Neil (Lincoln Center), Hava Tirosh-Samuelson (Jewish Studies), and Mako Ward (SST).

Hosted at Arizona State University, Conversations on Religion, Ethics, and Science (CORES) models a dialogical approach of intellectual humility and relational integrity. By bringing together scholars, students, and life-long learners from a variety of academic disciplines and religious and secular communities, much can be achieved through dialogue that is not only informed and respectful, but also productive and solutions oriented.

ASU COVID-19 guidelines: Please keep in mind the CDC recommendations as well as ASU Community of Care health protocols on how to keep yourself and others healthy. Consistent with ASU's current guidelines, face coverings are required during this event and negative COVID tests prior to attending are highly recommended. Face coverings will be available upon entry for those who may have forgotten them.

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Support

Support our work.

Your generosity promotes respectful, informed and productive dialogue on issues of religion, science, technology and ethics that are critical to the flourishing of humanity and the natural world.

When you make a gift to the Conversations on Religion, Ethics and Science (CORES) Fund, you help fund initiatives, conferences and public events that bring together scholars, students and life-long learners to address challenges that arise at the intersection of religion, ethics, science and technology.

Your support helps foster new understandings of the “world as it is” and “what it ought to be.”

Donate now

This project is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation,  which serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the deepest and most perplexing questions facing humankind.