Robert Pollack, Director & Founder
Earth Institute Profile
Robert E. Pollack, is professor of biological sciences, member of the faculty of the Earth Institute, lecturer in psychiatry at the Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, adjunct professor of science and religion at Union Theological Seminary, Director of University Seminars (2011), and Director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia University. Dr. Pollack graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in physics, and received a Ph.D. in biology from Brandeis University. He has been a professor of biological sciences at Columbia since 1978, and was dean of Columbia College from 1982–89. He received the Alexander Hamilton Medal from Columbia University, and has held a Guggenheim Fellowship.
He currently is on the advisory boards of Columbia/Barnard Hillel, has been a Senior Consultant for the Director, Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum in Davos. He is the author of Signs of Life: The Languages and Meanings of DNA (Houghton Mifflin/Viking Penguin, 1994), The Missing Moment: How the Unconscious Shapes Modern Science (Houghton Mifflin, 1999); and The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith: Meaning, Order and Free Will in Modern Medical Science (Columbia University Press, 2000). Signs of Life received the Lionel Trilling Award and has been translated into six languages.
Cynthia Peabody, Director
Cynthia Peabody co-directs The Center for the Study of Science and Religon with Bob Pollack. She holds a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and a Masters of Library Service from Columbia University. Before coming to CSSR, she was a reference librarian at Montclair State University, Upsala College, Brooklyn Public Library, and Columbia University. She has spent years researching, writing, and advocating on issues of homelessness and hunger. Her work at CSSR combines her skills as a librarian with her social justice/ministerial leanings – religious environmentalism, the ethics of sustainability, and community activism.
Miranda Hawkins, Administrative Manager
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Miranda is from Mount Vernon, New York and she has earned a J.D. degree in Law from the University of Maryland. She is an active member of her church choir and publicity ministry. She finds the CSSR an excellent resource to merge the sciences and religion to affect positive change in the world.
Katja Lazar, Webmaster
Born with gills, Katja is a Junior in Columbia College, with few dreams and aspirations. Having decided to major in Sustainable Development, she feels twinges of guilt when throwing paper into the plastic recycling bin, but so far no efforts have been made to change this behavior. Currently, Katja has thrashed previous Master of the Web, Nathan Ashe, in an epic final battle which culminated in his graduation from Columbia University.
Emma Cheng, Event Coordinator
As a second-year student at Columbia College and a native New Yorker, Emma Cheng is eager to contribute to the university’s intellectual discourse and community as an intern for CSSR. Since her time in middle and high school, she has fostered a strong dual interest in the sciences and humanities, taking courses ranging from chemistry to international relations. Emma also likes being involved in various extracurricular activities, such as the Columbia Spectator, model United Nations and research and is passionate about community service as well. Despite her broad interests in various academic fields, she is currently interested in pursuing a sociology major.
Ashley Shaw, TCC Coordinator
Erin Lothes, Ph.D, Earth Institute Fellow
For a theologian concerned about global warming, joining the CSSR as an Earth Institute Fellow is an extraordinary opportunity to explore the religious dimensions of the environmental crisis among scientists at the cutting-edge of knowledge about the earth. My research at the CSSR is directed toward writing a multidisciplinary and theologically grounded critique of contemporary behavior vis-à-vis the environment. I am particularly interested in the existential dynamics of how people come to understand the ecological crisis, recognize the impact of their actions, and decide to make sustainable changes – or not.
As an English major at Princeton University, I explored literature as one way to study the human condition. I later chose to study theology at Boston College, and continued with doctoral studies in contemporary systematic theology at Fordham University. One of my aims was to clarify and articulate responsibility to the environment in religious terms, as I had began to understand climate change as a serious threat to human well-being, global peace, and a tragic desecration of the earth’s beauty. While the mystery of human self-destructiveness is an ancient theological question, it takes a sharp new form in the totality and irrationality of ecological devastation. The persistence of perhaps willful confusion and apathy invites a look beyond the essential scientific information, using religious interpretive frameworks and complementary insights from evolutionary biology, psychology and economics. These perspectives are all part of the diverse intellectual conversations hosted by the CSSR, in which I am very fortunate to share.
My research as an Earth Institute Fellow at Columbia is directed towards a book on religious attitudes toward the environment, which will further develop in an ecological context the ideas of ethical choices and sacrifice first explored in my book, The Paradox of Christian Sacrifice: The Loss of Self, the Gift of Self (Crossroad, 2007).
Pilar Jennings, Graduate Teaching Assistant
Pilar Jennings is a writer and educational
consultant from New York City. She received her Bachelors from Barnard
College where she studied ethnographic writing. She went on to earn
a Masters in anthropology from Columbia University where she focused
on illness narratives, an interest that lead her to explore the conscious
spiritual beliefs of psychoanalytically trained clinicians. This pursuit
brought her to Union Theological Seminary where she completed a Master
of Arts with a focus on psychiatry and religion. She is currently
a Ph.D. candidate in Psychiatry and Religion at Union where she hopes
to explore the intersection of Eastern spiritual practice and psychoanalytic
theory. Pilar is a psychoanalyst in training and is currently working
with children through the Harlem Family Institute. Through her affiliation
with CSSR and her studies at Union, Pilar looks forward to finding
ways to ground spiritual questions and the extramundane in traditional
clinical training and practice.