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Science and the Spiritual Quest ConferenceSSQ Logo--Return to the main SSQ page

Wheeler Auditorium, University of California, Berkeley CA
June 7-10, 1998
Presented by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences

Conference Overview

Science and religion are clearly two of the most important cultural forces in the world today. The growth of knowledge in the natural sciences is revolutionizing our understanding of the universe, planet Earth, and ourselves. At the same time, the great monotheistic religious traditions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - remain powerful spiritual forces that shape and influence billions of people around the world. They have shown strength and resilience in the face of cultural change, which has occurred at an unprecedented pace and magnitude.

At the Science and the Spiritual Quest Conference, we looked at some of the critical points of contact between science and religion through the eyes of distinguished scientists who have been influenced by the monotheistic traditions.

What challenges, and what opportunities, does science present to these traditions? How, in turn, have the fundamental principles of religious faith affected the development of theory in the sciences? Must we accept the popular stereotype that religion and science can only have an antagonistic relationship in our age?

Through scientific presentations, autobiographical reflections and panel discussions, cosmologists, physicists, biologists, and computer scientists reflected on such monotheistic assumptions as: a transcendent deity who is also present within the created universe, the sense of purpose and destiny for the universe and the moral and spiritual distinctiveness of the human being.

This conference provided attendees with:

  • A clearer understanding of the relationship between science and religion as seen through the eyes of practicing scientists
  • A historical and cultural background in which to place the science and religion dialogue
  • Helpful perspectives for teaching interdisciplinary courses
  • An informed sense of places of consonance and dissonance between science and spirituality
  • A broader picture of the possibilities for constructive science and religion dialogue

Topics discussed:

Does Science Offer Evidence of a Transcendent Reality and Purpose?

John Barrow, BSc, DPhil; Astronomy Center, University of Sussex
Cyril Domb, MA. PhD, FRS; Bar Ilan University
Mehdi Golshani, PhD; Sharif University of Technology
Mitch Marcus, PhD; University of Pennsylvania

Science and Morality - Is there a Bridge?

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, BSc, PhD; The Open University
George F.R. Ellis, PhD, University of Capetown
Kenneth S. Kendler, MD; Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University
Rustum Roy, BSc, MSc, PhD; Pennsylvania State University
Henry Thompson, BA, MSc, MA, PhD; Human Communication Research Centre, University of Edinburgh

Science and the Spiritual Quest: Creative interaction in the Making

Carl Feit, PhD; Yeshiva University
Bruno Guiderdoni, PhD; Paris Institute of Astrophysics
Andrei Linde, PhD; Stanford University
John Polkinghorne, MA, PhD, ScD; Queens College, United Kingdom

Is There Common Ground in Practice and Experience of Science and Religion?

Joel Primack, AB, PhD; University of California at Santa Cruz
Pauline Rudd, BSc, PhD; Glycobiology Institute, University of Oxford
William Stoeger, AB, M, STM, PhD; University of Arizona
E. George Sudarshan, PhD, MA, Bsc, Dsc; University of Texas

Reductionism Versus Holism: Multiple Models of the Spiritual Quest

Brian Cantwell Smith, PhD, MS, BS; Indiana University
Martinez J. Hewlett, PhD; University of Arizona
Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine
Mark Pesce, blitcom, llc
Allan Sandage, PhD,The Carnegie Observatory, Physics

The Distinctiveness of Being Human: How Science Informs the Spiritual Quest

Lindon Eaves, DSc, MA, PhD, GOE, BS; Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University
Anne Foerst, Dr. Theol., MA, BA; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Ayub Ommaya, MA, MD; George Washington University Medical Center
Charles Townes, BA, BS, MA, PhD, LLD; University of California at Berkeley
Mark Weiser, MS, PhD; Xerox Palo Alto Research Center

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