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October 17, 2013

Nobel doesn't dictate to speakers on God issue

We are not in the habit of responding to letters to the editor. However, in this case we feel the need to defend the name of one of Gustavus Adolphus College’s Nobel Conference 2013 speakers.

As the outgoing director of the conference and this year’s conference chair, respectively, and with significant help from many others at Gustavus, we were responsible for developing the theme and inviting the speakers to discuss “The Universe at Its Limits.” We do not feel that it is appropriate to tell our speakers what they can or should say in their presentations or in the question-and-answer periods that follow each talk.

We are proud that Gustavus Adolphus College hosts this annual event to help students and adults learn about cutting-edge science issues.

In his letter to the editor, published Saturday, “Nobel Conference dismissed creation, God,” Jim Tessien wrote that Nobel Laureate George Smoot “said he has a lot of close, very devout, religious friends who pray that scientists will not find any answers to certain questions so they can continue to believe in God.”

It was not George Smoot who said this, but, in fact, a Jesuit astronomer, Father George Coyne, who is the McDevitt chair of religious philosophy at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and emeritus director of the Vatican Observatory. He was responding to Lawrence Krauss in the lively Q&A session following Krauss’ talk, “A Universe from Nothing.”

Readers who would like to see the whole story for themselves, hear what was actually said and discussed, and then make their own judgments, are invited to view the talks and the subsequent Q&A sessions on the Nobel Conference Video Archives found at

Chuck Niederriter

Steve Mellema

St. Peter

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