MISSION & HISTORY
IS THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT COMING TO AN END?
Sustainability, Resilience, and the Torah
Science and technology race forward, cyber-tech takes over more and more of our life, and environmental concerns increase exponentially. Where is Torah in this rapidly evolving world, and what should its role be?
The following panel ideas reflect major facets of the overall conference theme:
1. Current threats to sustainability, and Torah responses to them
Human intervention in the environment, overpopulation, food supply.
2. Astrophysics, Physics and Torah
Torah and cosmology: Do modern theories of astrophysics and quantum physics bring us closer to a Torah perspective, or the reverse.
3. Neuroscience and Torah
a. Can the brain renew itself? Neuropsychology, trauma, and resilience.
b. How do recent developments in bio-genetics affect the historical discussion on intelligent design.
4. Moral issues of Cyber-tech: New problems, new solutions.
a. Internet and lashon hara. Are the writings of the Chofetz Chaim still relevant?
b. Moral issues regarding Privacy, data mining and artificial intelligence.
5. Genetics: Are there moral limits to genetic research and genetic engineering?
6. Torah leadership and scientific leadership:
a. Human rights or human obligations?
b. Torah and Science: decision-making.
c. The role of the Jewish nation in this era.
HISTORY OF THE MIAMI INTERNATIONAL TORAH & SCIENCE CONFERENCES
ABSOLUTE STANDARDS IN A WORLD OF RELATIVITY
When the Lubavitcher Rebbe blessed Rabbi Sholom Dovber Lipskar and Professor Herman Branover for organizing the First Miami International Torah & Science Conference, he circled the word “relativity” in the conference subtitle. The Rebbe noted that Einstein’s research probed the nature of light. Just as the speed of physical light provides a measure of absoluteness to the physical world, the light of the Torah commandments, invoked by kindling the Hanukkah candles, signifies another level of absoluteness. Thus, the First Miami Torah & Science Conference was held during Hanukkah of 1987 at the Sheraton Hotel of Bal Harbour. Its proceedings, entitled Fusion, were published in 1990 by Feldheim Publishers. The Second Miami Torah & Science Conference was held at the same venue on December 24-26, 1989.
Professor Nathan Katz of the Florida International University (FIU) and Ilana Attia of B’Or Ha’Torah Journal of Science, Life and Art in the Light of the Torah (BHT) joined the organizing committee for the third conference, held December 14-16, 1999, at FIU. Its discussions on the ethical problems of human cloning and genetic engineering were published in BHT 12 and 13. The theme of the fourth conference (December 18-20, 2001) was “Time, Space, and Being;” its papers were published in B’Or Ha’Torah 14 and 15. “Looking for Links between the Divine, Human, Natural, Artificial, and Virtual” was the theme of the fifth conference that took place on December 16-18, 2003. Its proceedings were published in BHT 16, 17, and 18. The theme of the sixth conference, held on December 13-15, 2005, “Unity, Duality, and Multiplicity” generated provocative discussion on how Jewish schools should respond to the Intelligent Design versus Evolution debate. These papers were published in BHT 17, 18, and 19.
On December 12-15, 2007, for the seventh conference the venue moved to The Shul of Bal Harbour, where the theme was “Through the Two-Way Looking Glass: Looking at Nature through the Torah & at Torah through Nature.” Most of these papers were published in BHT 19 and 20. In 2009, the eighth conference, under the banner of “Judaism at the Cutting Edge of Medicine, Genetics, Physics & Culture” was held at The Shul, and its papers were published in BHT 20 and 21, which heralded its new publisher, the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev) and editor-in-chief Professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer. The ninth conference, focused on “Memory, Soul, and Brain,” was held at The Shul on December 22-25, 2011. Its papers were published in BHT 22. The theme of the tenth conference, held at The Shul on December 13-16, 2013, was “Beginnings, Endings, and Renewals.” Its discussions ranged from Creation to assisted reproduction, fatherhood, and the end of life and beyond. Part of the written papers were published in BHT 23, and the remainder in BHT 24.
The tenth conference was made possible by the generous support of Mrs. Sylvia Fox, who dedicated the meeting to her late husband, Dr. Morry S. Fox. The eleventh conference reached out to heart and soul with the theme “Heart, Mind, Behavior and Purpose.” Held at The Shul on December 11-14, 2015, it was dedicated by Aryeh Leib ben Sarah Henia and Dr. Allen Packer in memory of his father, Menashe ben Mordechai Dovid, and its written papers were published in BHT 25. Under the banner of “Nature vs. Nurture: Intellect, Emotion, Behavior and Ethics,” the twelfth conference, held at The Shul on December 21-24, 2017, stimulated the audience with discussions on free will, the Internet, the brain, and robotics. The written papers of the 2017 conference are being prepared for BHT 26. Planning for the December 12-15, 2019 conference has commenced, with ground-breaking ideas.
We regret that Professor Herman Branover’s health does not enable him to continue his work with BHT and the Miami conferences, but we have been compensated by the active participation of Professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer, President Emeritus of and Professor of electro-optics at the Jerusalem College of Technology-Lev Academic Center.