Skip to main content

Renowned Theoretical Physicist Will Deliver Villanova’s 2013 Mendel Medal Lecture

Mendel Medal Award Winner Dr. Sylvester “Jim” Gates Will Speak November 15 “On the Uncertainty of Disbelief”

Sylvester “Jim” Gates

VILLANOVA, Pa. –  Villanova University’s annual Mendel Medal Lecture, featuring renowned theoretical physicist Sylvester “Jim” Gates will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, November 15 in the Villanova Room of the Connelly Center on the University’s Main Campus. Dr. Gates, the recipient of the University’s 2013 Mendel Medal, will deliver a lecture titled, “On the Uncertainty of Disbelief.” The event is free and open to the public.

Dr. Gates was selected as this year’s Mendel Medal winner in recognition of his influential work in supersymmetry, supergravity and string theory, as well as his advocacy for science and science education in the United States and abroad. The Mendel Medal, established in 1928 by the Board of Trustees of Villanova University, honors pioneering scientists who have demonstrated, by their lives and their standing before the world as scientists, that there is no intrinsic conflict between science and religion.

Dr. Gates’ lecture will center on the Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) Proposition which supports St. Augustine’s view that Biblical texts should be regarded as metaphorical if a reading otherwise should contradict logic and scientific observation. 

Dr. Gates received The National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest award in science, earlier this year. He is the current John S. Toll Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for String & Particle Theory at The University of Maryland. Additionally, Dr. Gates is a University System of Maryland Regents Professor, University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also serves on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and on the Maryland State Board of Education. In 2013, Dr. Gates was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the first African-American physicist so recognized in its 150-year history.

Villanova University’s Mendel Medal honors 19th century Augustinian friar and scientist Gregor Johann Mendel, Abbot of the Augustinian Monastery, Brünn, Austria, (now Brno, the Czech Republic), best known as “the father of modern genetics” for his discovery of the celebrated laws of heredity that bear his name. Villanova is one of only two Augustinian Catholic institutions of higher education in the country. Past recipients of the Mendel Medal have included Nobel Laureates, outstanding medical researchers, pioneers in physics, astrophysics and chemistry, and noted scientist-theologians.

The Rev. Kail Ellis, OSA, PhD, Villanova University’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, commenting earlier on Dr. Gates selection as the 2013 Mendel Medal winner  said, “Villanova University is delighted to honor Professor Gates for his work as an internationally known advocate for science and science education. In addition to his outstanding scientific achievements, Professor Gates believes that faith enables science – as it allows us to contemplate our relationship with each other and with the Creator – while acknowledging that science is essential for the survival of our species in a world beset with climate change.”

He added, “Professor Gates has said that science is ultimately also ‘an act of faith—faith that we will be capable of understanding the way the universe is put together.’ This is the foundation on which the Mendel Medal was established.”

Dr. Gates agreed that the intersection of science and religion is vital.

“Albert Einstein perhaps summed up my feelings about this when he said to our human family, `science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind,’” Dr. Gates remarked.

He added, “It is my extreme honor to follow past recipients of this award. It is humbling to be considered among their company.”

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.