Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer on Nature and Nurture Video

Meet Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, who talks about balancing ancient Jewish wisdom with 20th century science. In this episode, she talks about nature and nurture and how they affect relationships and gende...
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Laura Wells: Dr. Fuchs-Kramer, follower of Reconstructionist Judaism, shares with us her own religious reflections and her efforts t bound ancient Jewish wisdom with the insights of 20th century science. Dr. Fuchs-Kramer: For me, because I was never was part of a prescientific version of Judaism, it's never been a conflict for me. It's always been more like an interest and a quest. Male Host: Nancy Fuchs-Kramer tries to embrace of what modern life has to offer. She makes an effort to stay abreast of the latest ideas, especially those from the social sciences. Science, religion and their interaction are all important to her quest. The journey she finds immensely fulfilling. Dr. Fuchs-Kramer: For example, psychology has always been a strong interest of mine, the science of human mind and human behavior. Andy Newburg, for example, studies the brains, he’s a neuroscientist who has PET scans that actually study the brain of people who are praying. And he shows how biologically something is going on in that brain. I'm fascinated by that and it does affect my spirituality, it does effect my understanding of what it means to be a religious person. I'm interested in reading about Yin Yang’s understanding of religious symbols and archetypes. I decided to teach a course here on science and religion and in that course, I myself confronted a number of ideas that were coming out of the world of science today, that were challenging to me, that challenge my faith. Male Host: Dr. Fuchs-Kramer reveals that her engagement with contemporary though while always enriching, can get a little thorny at times. She confesses walking the path laid out by Rabbi Kaplan is not without its challenges. Dr. Fuchs-Kramer: When I first started learning about the cutting edge in science today, I learned a great deal about the biologization of social science and of psychology in particular, where in the past, psychologist might have looked for reasons for people’s behavior that had a lot to do with sort of what they've did or chose to do because of influences of their past. Now, increasingly psychologist are looking for biological explanations such as genetic disposition. Depression, for example, is now being seen very largely as a chemical or biological disorder, whereas as once it might have been seen as a spiritual crisis or a challenge. This notion of biology challenges me as a religious person because very fundamental to our belief is the belief in freewill and the possibility to T’shuva or change and we preach constantly the Judaism teachers us that we are all capable of changing, the choice to change is ours. But if I take more seriously, the notion that some people are born with a whole different set of jeans and others, that there are kinds of things going on, that they actually have no control over in their biology, well, they have some control, but not as much as we once thought, that are going on for them biologically does a challenge, at least a little, my absolute belief and freewill. Male Host: Her encounter with science has been test in both ends. Certain discoveries might challenge her understanding of tradition, while others might call into question some of her modern assumptions. Dr. Fuchs-Kramer: One of the things that we discussed in our course was gender differentiation, and it's really been an article of faith among liberal people that the differences between men and women are socially constructed and imposed by culture and that in fact, people are born pretty much the same, whether they're men or women. Male Host: One controversial topic is the issue of gender differences. Researchers have found that given woman, maybe no more likely to be a certain way than a given man. Men and women on the average do display different patterns of behavior. In many circles, in had become conventional wisdom that these differences with the result of culture alone. However, growing evidence has suggested that biology may also be at play. Dr. Fuchs-Kramer: M

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