Science, Society and Ethics


From the Beginning


How do we know what we know in science? Is that different than how we know things in our everyday life? What about in Jewish Studies? In this course we will engage in hands-on scientific research and exploration using state-of-the-art equipment in the Brandeis University biology labs. Starting at the very beginning of the Torah and at the very center of modern biology we will also compare and contrast our ways of knowing and understanding in different disciplines.  This course includes examining the geological record for evidence of the kinds of organisms that lived in the Boston area over the course of millennia, isolating mutant organisms following mutagenesis, and experimentally characterizing evolutionary relationships between organisms.



The following topics and activities have been part of this course in past summers. Your experience may include some of these or others like them, depending on the instructor’s plans.

Key Questions


  • How do we build our understanding of the phenomena we see in living systems?

  • Why and how does our understanding change over time?

  • How does evidence from multiple lines of inquiry come together to inform our understanding?


You Will

  • Explore examples of Jewish and scientific discourse, comparing and contrasting the different ways of knowing and understanding characteristic of the two disciplines.

  • Examine classic texts to learn how accumulating evidence over time caused people to look for a model that explained apparent unity and diversity of life.

  • Visit a high throughout sequencing facility to learn how genome sequencing works and why we care about comparing genomes of different species.


Meet the Instructor