Science and religion came together in an unusual way July 12 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. As part of its exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls, running until Oct. 14, the institute is hosting a seven-part lecture series about topics that compliment the scrolls.

Hillary Olson, director of Integrated Programming, said planners of the exhibit thought “people might come seeking a religious experience and we wanted to address that,” she said. “We wanted to talk about both science and religion in a welcoming manner. This lecture series is our way of having that conversation in Philadelphia.”

Last week’s lecture, the fourth in the series, featured two speakers with their feet in both the scientific and religious fields, Rev. Jay Gardner and Dr. Michelle Francl.

Rev. Gardner is a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania and the youth minister at White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Dr. Francl writes about Catholic spirituality for and several publications and is a professor of chemistry at Bryn Mawr College.


Rev. Gardner began the evening by discussing the history of science and religion and their interplay. He took Aristotle as his starting point and worked quickly to Kepler and Copernicus, and finally to the modern day.

Pointing out that many scientists who began the “scientific revolution” were also devout Christians, Gardner argued that scientific faith and reason are not diametrically opposed.

As he spoke he expounded enthusiastically on how faith and science can compliment each other. However, he warned that “scientific dogma can be just as harmful as religious dogma.”

Speaking second, Dr. Francl gave a more nuts-and-bolts description of how one may live a life of both science and faith. Francl focused on her work as a quantum mechanic. “Living in both worlds isn’t that hard for me because quantum mechanics forces you to keep multiple realities in mind,” she said.

Francl acknowledged a difficulty of involving herself so heavily in the sometimes-opposing worlds was the social stigma. She admitted to fearing that if her colleagues knew she prayed they might think less of her scientific objectivity.

After presenting, the speakers took questions from the sold-out audience.

For more information about the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit and lecture series, visit the Franklin Institute’s site.