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"Thou shalt forbear to pass by him; thou shalt surely release it with him"

Animals, slaves and robots: a discourse of rights and obligations in law, philosophy, and halakhah. February 21

Nitzotzot conferences

Nitzotzot ConferencesThe Forum is made up of the President's Doctoral Students of Excellence who study in the Beit Midrash of the Machon and members of the University faculty, who conduct research in a wide range of disciplines. The deliberations of previous sessions have been edited and are being prepared for publication. The first conference was held in the summer of 2009 and was devoted to research in synthetic biology and how it relates to the prohibition of kilayim (categories of forbidden mixtures in halakha). The participants included Prof. Joseph M. Jacobson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rabbi Dr. Moshe D.Tendler of Yeshiva University. A second meeting was held at the end of the summer in the Jerusalem offices of Yad Sarah. It was devoted to establishing priorities in resource allocation in non-profit social service agencies, and with the right of those agencies to play "big brother" with the lives of the poor and disadvantaged.

Throughout the course of 2010, the first full year of Nitzotzot, a wide range of topics were dealt with: international law, rationality and decision theory, thermodynamics and the foundations of life, and the interface between man and machine. The sessions brought together knowledge from the frontiers of scientific research with most creativ Torah thinking from the Beit Midrash, and presented encounters which allowed for cross-fertilization, sharpening the thinking patterns and methods of analysis for the researchers in both fields. Ten more meetings took place in 2011 on the following topics:

psychiatry, ecology, game theory, electricity and quantum theory, genetics and topics in law and political science. In the first semester of 2012, the following topics were explored:

♦ Cognitive Science - Identifying the edges of creativity and insanity in science (fMRI scans of metaphor association), halakha and Jewish thought.

♦ Psychology - Responsibility for action in mental illness, and the definition of ‘shoteh’.

♦ Logic - The developments in formal logic following Godel's “incompleteness theorem” open up the world of logic to "thinking outside the box"- looking for proofs and descriptions in a logical language within a bigger (not more fundamental but more complex) system. Using this theory, the ramifications for every-day language and halakha - strictly as an inspiration - were explored.

♦ Computer Science - Identification of authors through computer analysis, as well as the halakhic identification of situation, objects and people through both a holistic and a reductionist-detail oriented approach.

♦ Particle physics - Recent experimental results from CERN challenge scientific theory regarding the motion of elementary particles (neutrinos). The topic of experiment vs. theory is paralleled with the need in Judaism for both an abstract framework of knowledge and a practical grasp on the ‘reality of things’. Prof. Jacques Goldberg, Professor Emeritus at the Technion University and CERN researcher, addressed a packed auditorium.

Applying DNA Technology, A Halakhic Overview - Rabbi Shabtai Rappaport:

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