Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The 50 Smartest People of Faith

Lately I've been getting a lot of comments to the effect of "rabbi, if you would just read an introductory text book on such and such you would see blah blah blah..." as if I had never considered their dazzling points before.  The non-believer generally has an awfully hard time processing that there are still people in this world who doggedly uphold their faith - to them it's all just so backwards and "unenlightened." One way they cope with it is to assure themselves that the persistence of religiosity is simply due to the imbecility of the religious.  No smart (or at least non-delusional) people could possibly continue to believe what science and logic has (in their minds) thoroughly discredited.

It's with this in mind that I share this piece from called The 50 Smartest People of Faith.  I cordially invite the materialist community to tangle with some of these folks.  Maybe we all might not seem quite so dim after-all.

I'll post the intro and a few profiles here and let you explore the rest through the link:

A few years back, “New Atheist” authors Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett helped to publicize a movement to rechristen atheists as “Brights” (see our feature article on influential atheists here).
This was no doubt mainly because the word “atheist” still has a harsh and aggressive ring in the ears of most ordinary people.
But the corollary—that people of faith are “Dims”—was surely an added benefit, in the minds of the New Atheist publicity men.
Is it really true that most intelligent and well-informed people are atheists, while people of faith tend to be unschooled and credulous?
Far from it.
Unfortunately, in the rancorous debates in this country over the role of religion in our public life, all too often it is simply assumed—by both sides—that religious faith is in conflict with reason (and intelligence). The unspoken assumption is that religion relies exclusively on faith, while science alone is supported by reason.
This idea is utterly mistaken, but because it mostly goes unchallenged, it reinforces the stereotype that atheists are somehow smarter than believers.
One way to combat the erroneous assumption that faith conflicts with reason is by giving greater visibility to living, breathing believers who are also highly intelligent. That is what we are endeavoring to do with this list of “The 50 Smartest People of Faith.”
The qualifications for inclusion on our list are twofold:
(1) Intellectual brilliance, evidenced by a very high level of achievement, whether in the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, literature, the fine arts, or public service; and
(2) Religious faith, evidenced either through explicit personal witness or through publicly professed respect for religion.
By “religious faith,” we mean religion in the monotheistic, or Abrahamic, tradition—which we happen to know best. We do not doubt that a similar list of brilliant and devout Hindus, Buddhists, Daoists, Confucianists, Shintoists, and others could easily be drawn up, and we hope it will be, by those qualified to do so.
Most of the individuals on our list have given explicit public witness to their religious faith. However, in a few cases we infer a faith that appears to be implicit in a person’s writings. Needless to say, we do not pretend to see into people’s hearts. Unbeknownst to us, some individuals may have private reservations. But all have declared their deeply held respect for religious faith through their works and/or their public pronouncements.
This list, then, includes living men and women who are both people of faith and people of exceptional intellectual brilliance and professional accomplishment. It is presented in alphabetical order.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about how reason supports religious faith could hardly do better than delve into their scholarship or other creative achievements, by following the links we provide.
Khaled Abou El Fadl (b. 1963)
Abou El Fadl was born in Kuwait. He was trained in traditional Islamic jurisprudence in Kuwait and in Egypt, and also holds a JD from University of Pennsylvania Law School, and a PhD in Islamic law from Princeton University. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA law school, as well as Chair of the Islamic Studies Program at UCLA. Abou El Fadl is the author of many books on Islamic law and politics, several of which have been widely translated, as well as scores of articles in academic journals. His research focuses on the theme of beauty as a core moral value of Islam, as well as on universal themes of humanity, morality, human rights, justice, and mercy. He has publicly opposed the Saudi-based Wahhabi movement, and is a vocal supporter of democracy, pluralism, and women’s rights in Islamic countries. A sometime consultant for the US government, Abou El Fadl  has received recognition from several universities and international governmental bodies, including the University of Oslo’s Human Rights Award. He has been called one of the world’s most influential Arabs.
Books: Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law (Cambridge UP, 2001); And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses (University Press of America, 2001); Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam(University Press of America, 2001; reprinted, Rowman & Littlefield, 2005); The Place of Tolerance in Islam, co-author (Beacon Press, 2002); Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority, and Women (OneWorld, 2001); Islam and the Challenge of Democracy,co-author (Princeton UP, 2004); The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists(HarperOne, 2005)
Marilyn McCord Adams (b. 1943)
Born Marilyn McCord, Adams was educated at the University of Illinois (AB) and Cornell University (PhD, 1967). She also holds a Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary (1986) and a Doctor of Divinity degree from Oxford University (2008). She has taught at UCLA, Yale, and Oxford. Since 2009, she has been Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Adams is an ordained Episcopal priest. She is best known for her work on the Problem of Evil, and more specifically, for her notion of “horrendous” evil—evil so great as to appear inconsistent with any conceivable “soul-building” type of justification (or theodicy) for God’s permitting it to occur. She has also argued in favor of the universal salvation of all souls, no matter how corrupt. Adams gave the prestigious Gifford Lectures in 1998–1999. These were later published as Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology.
Books: The Problem of Evil co-editor (Oxford UP, 1991); Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Cornell UP, 1999); What Sort of Human Nature? Medieval Philosophy and the Systematics of Christology (Marquette University Press, 1999); Wrestling for Blessing (Church Publishing Inc, 2005); Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology (Cambridge UP, 2006); Opening to God (Westminster John Knox Press, 2008); Some Later Medieval Theories of the Eucharist: Thomas Aquinas, Gilles of Rome, Duns Scotus, and William Ockham (Oxford UP, 2010)
Werner Arber (b. 1929)
Arber was born in a small town in the canton of Aargau, in northern Switzerland, into a Protestant family. He studied at the famous Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich and received his PhD in molecular genetics in 1958 from the University of Geneva. Afterwards, he continued his research into the genetics of the bacteriophage virus at a number of universities in the United States, including the University of Southern California, Berkeley, Stanford, and MIT. He has been a member of the innovative, multidisciplinary Biozentrum at the University of Basel since its inception in 1971. Arber’s work on the genetics of phage played a crucial role in the development of recombinant DNA technology, sparking the biotechnology revolution and earning him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978. He has been a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome since 1981, and is a member of the Science, Theology, and the Ontological Quest (STOQ) Project. In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Arber as President of the Pontifical Academy—the first Protestant to hold that position.
BookGenetic Manipulation: Impact on Man and Society, co-editor (Cambridge UP, 1984)
Benjamin S. Carson (b. 1951)
Carson was born in Detroit, where he was raised in poverty by a single mother. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale and an MD from the University of Michigan. He did his residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, where he became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery in 1984, at the age of 33. Carson is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1987, he made medical history by being the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the back of the head. He has pioneered many surgical techniques that have become standard in the field of neurosurgery. In 2012, Carson found himself at the center of a national controversy, when he was first invited, then disinvited, and finally re-invited to deliver the commencement address at Emory University. He is the president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund.
BooksGifted Hands 20th Anniversary Edition: The Ben Carson Story (Zondervan, 2011); America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great (Zondervan, 2012)
Stephen L. Carter (b. 1954)
Carter graduated from high school in Ithaca, New York, in 1972, and earned a BA in history from Stanford University in 1976. He received his JD from Yale University in 1979, after which he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, among others. Since 1982, he has taught at Yale Law School, where he is currently the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law. Carter is a Roman Catholic. At Yale, he teaches courses on contracts, professional responsibility, ethics in literature, intellectual property, and the law and ethics of war. He is also a prolific author, having published eight volume of political and cultural criticism, as well as five novels. His books Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby and The Culture of Disbelief were widely reviewed and discussed. His first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, spent 11 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Carter also writes a regular opinion column for Christianity Todaymagazine.
Books: Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby (Basic Books, 1991); The Culture of Disbelief (Basic Books, 1993); The Emperor of Ocean Park (Random House, 2002)
Simon Conway Morris (b. 1951)
Conway Morris was born in Carshalton, Surrey, and was brought up in London. He studied geology at Bristol University and received his PhD from Cambridge University, where he is currently a professor of evolutionary palaeobiology. Conway Morris was elected a member of the Royal Society at the age of 39, in recognition for his groundbreaking work in paleontology. He has also received numerous other academic awards. In 2005, he gave the Boyle Lectures, and in 2007 he delivered the Gifford Lectures. Conway Morris, who is Anglican, is best known for his field work on the fossil deposits contained in the Burgess Shale formation in British Columbia, which represent some of our best evidence for the nature of the Cambrian Explosion. Conway Morris’s work on the Burgess Shale was popularized by celebrated paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould in his bestselling work, Wonderful Life (Norton, 1989). However, the two evolutionary biologists subsequently clashed over their differing interpretations of the fossils. Conway Morris has published a number of books, including two which present his interpretations of the Burgess Shale fossils, as well as his general theory of convergent evolution, for a popular audience.
Books: The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals (Oxford UP, 1998); Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (Cambridge UP, 2003); The Deep Structure of Biology, editor (Templeton Press, 2008); The Fitness of the Cosmos for Life, co-editor (Cambridge UP, 2008)
Louise S. Cowan (b. 1916)
Born Louise Shillenburg, Cowan received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. She wrote her PhD dissertation on the poets of the Southern Renaissance of the 1920s at Vanderbilt University. This work was later published as The Fugitive Group (Louisiana State UP, 1959), a classic in its field. Cowan, who is Roman Catholic, taught for over 50 years at the University of Dallas, where she was Chair of the English Department, Dean of Graduate Studies, and University Professor. She also founded and directed the university’s Institute for Philosophic Studies. Cowan is the author of numerous scholarly studies of American and other literature. Together with her husband, Donald Cowan, President of the University of Dallas from 1962 until 1977, she founded the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. In conjunction with the Dallas Institute, she also founded a Teachers Academy for public school teachers, which the National Endowment for the Humanities has designated as a “model for the nation.” Cowan has continued to teach and lecture into her tenth decade.
Books: The Fugitive Group (Louisiana State UP, 1959); The Southern Critics (University of Dallas Press, 1971); Classic Texts and the Nature of Authority, co-author (Dallas Institute of Humanities & Culture, 1993); Invitation to the Classics, co-author (Baker Books, 1998)
William Lane Craig (b. 1949)
Craig was born in East Peoria, Illinois. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College, and two master’s degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He studied under John Hicks at the University of Birmingham, UK, where he received a PhD in philosophy in 1977, and with Wolfhart Pannenberg at the University of Munich, where he received a doctorate in theology in 1984. He has taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Westmont College, and the University of Louvain, Belgium. He is currently Research Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, in California. Craig, who is a Baptist, is a prolific author, having written or edited some 30 scholarly and popular books. He has made influential contributions to several areas of contemporary philosophy of religion, the best-known of which is undoubtedly his revival of the Kalām Cosmological Argument. He maintains a busy schedule of lecturing and debating on college campuses and in other public forums around the world. In 2011, Craig made headlines when Richard Dawkins refused to appear at a debate with him at the University of Oxford to which both had been invited.
Books: The Kalām Cosmological Argument (Macmillan, 1979); Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, co-author (Oxford UP, 1993); Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time (Crossway, 2001); Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed. (Crossway, 2008)
Jean Bethke Elshtain (b. 1941)
Elshtain was raised in the village of Timnath, in northern Colorado. She received her bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University, and master’s degrees in history from the University of Colorado and the University of Wisconsin. In 1973, she received her PhD in political science from Brandeis University. She has taught at the University of Massachusetts and Vanderbilt University, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale. She is currently the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School, as well as an Associate Scholar with the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs. Elshtain, who is a Protestant, has published more than 20 scholarly books on political ethics. She has focused on issues regarding gender roles in politics, just war theory, and relations between religion and state. Since 2001, she has been an outspoken supporter of the U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2006, she delivered the Gifford Lectures, which were subsequently published as Sovereignty: God, State, and Self. Since 2008, she has been a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. Elshtain is also a contributing editor for The New Republic.
Books: Public Man, Private Woman (Princeton UP, 1981); Democracy on Trial (Basic Books, 1984); Augustine and the Limits of Politics (University of Notre Dame Press, 1996); Just War Against Terror (Basic Books, 2003); Sovereignty: God, State, and Self(Basic Books, 2008)
David Gelernter (b. 1955)
Gelernter received his bachelor’s degree from Yale in 1976, and his PhD from SUNY Stony Brook in 1982. That same year, he joined the faculty of Yale University, where he is a Professor of Computer Science. In 1983, his Linda program introduced the concept of “tuple spaces,” which were a seminal contribution to the development of parallel distributed processing architectures, and are the basis of many computer-communication and distributed-programming systems worldwide. Gelernter, who is Jewish, described this breakthrough in his book, Mirror Worlds (Oxford UP, 1991), which also predicted many features of the World Wide Web. Altogether, he has published some dozen technical and non-technical books, the latter on subjects ranging from technology, to cultural and political criticism, to art criticism and aesthetics, to Judaism. He has also published a memoir—Drawing Life (Simon & Schuster, 1997)—and a well-received novel—1939: The Lost World of the Fair (HarperCollins, 1997). In 1993, he was critically injured by a mail bomb sent to him by Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber.” Gelernter is a contributing editor for The Weekly Standard, as well as an accomplished painter.
Books: Mirror Worlds (Oxford UP, 1991); The Muse in the Machine (Free Press, 2002);Judaism: A Way of Being (Yale UP, 2009); Ameri-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (Encounter Books, 2012)


  1. I suggest you read the book, The Tenacity of Unreasonable belief that explains that the more intelligent a fundamentalist is the better they are able to rationalize their religion. If that is not convincing enough for you consider the many intelligent Nazis who were able to rationalize their beliefs and actions. Also see my post Thank You.

    1. You've made a point that's extraneous to the thrust of my post - that theists are every bit as intelligent as atheists. Your point, that intelligence can be used to rationalize false beliefs (of any sort), is hardly novel and seemingly unworthy of a whole book. But speaking of unreasonable beliefs I'll make a recommendation of my own - I suggest you read "Nonsense of a High Order: the Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist" by Moshe Averick.

    2. "Nonsense of a High Order: the Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist"
      Skimmed the preview at Amazon. Not sure I have much in common with the militant atheists since I know so much more about the Torah, Gemorah, comparative religion and even philosophy than them. Never read material from any of them except some of Dawkin's the God Delusion and that was at least 20 years after I became an atheist. Some reasons why I reject Orthodox Judaism are found in my April 2014 post, but it is not the whole story. I think you will find my reasons persuasive, non illusory, not confused and not nonsense. My blog may refute Moshe's arguments where they are relevant, since I never read Mosh'e book.