Science and Faith: Non-Overlapping Magisteria?

Nov 6, 2019
Faculty House at Columbia University
64 Morningside Drive
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Stephen M. BarrUniversity of Delaware

Jonathan LunineCornell University


5:30 Reception | 6:00pm Discussion

Co-sponsored by The Columbia University Seminar on Catholicism, Culture and Modernity, the Columbia Catholic Ministry, and the Society of Catholic Scientists. This programming is made possible by a grant from the Templeton Foundation.

A Discussion with Stephen Barr (University of Delaware), Jonathan Lunine (Cornell University), moderated by Carlo Lancellotti (CUNY Staten Island).

In reaction to Pope John Paul II's 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, "Truth Cannot Contradict Truth", Stephen Jay Gould famously published his view on religion and science being non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA). He proposed that religion and science were distinct and separate domains of teaching authority, with no interference between--or influence upon--each other. Gould maintained that science documents the factual character of the natural world and seeks theoretical constructs to explain those facts, while religion operates on the "realm of human purposes, meanings, and values." 

This consensus position proved popular among scientists and people of faith for its diplomacy, but is such a model sufficient for understanding the relationship between faith and science? Can science inform faith? Does religious thinking shape our approach towards science and its application, and does that necessarily contradict NOMA? Come as two Catholic scientists weigh in on the chasms and connections of Science and Religion.


Stephen M. Barr is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware and Director of its Bartol Research Institute. He received his PhD from Princeton University and has held research positions at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, and Brookhaven National Laboratory. Dr. Barr is a theoretical particle physicist whose research centers on “grand unified theories” and the cosmology of the early universe.  He has written over 150 research papers, as well as the article on “Grand Unification” for the Encyclopedia of Physics. He has lectured widely on the relation of science and religion and is the author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, A Student’s Guide to Natural Science, and Science and Religion: The Myth of Conflict. Dr. Barr is the founding and current President of the Society of Catholic Scientists.

Jonathan I. Lunine is David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences at Cornell University and Director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science. He earned his PhD in planetary science from Caltech in 1985. Lunine researches astrophysics, planetary science, and astrobiology. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Jean Dominique Cassini Medal of the European Geosciences Union (2015) and the Basic Sciences Award of the International Academy of Astronautics (2009). He is the author of Earth: Astrobiology, A Multidisciplinary Approach (Pearson Addison-Wesley, 2005) and Earth: Evolution of a Habitable World (2nd ed., Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).