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SSQ Logo--Return to the main SSQ pageSSQ/UIP Paris Conference

Science and the Quest for Meaning
April 19-20, 2002
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Paris, France

More information is available from UIP in both English and French

SSQ Paris Conference Overview

The SSQ Paris Conference, “Science and the Quest for Meaning” was a unique event representing a worldwide awakening to the need for integration of the various dimensions of our lives. We are driven to explore the natural world with intellectual precision and rigor; driven to question who we are and what our place in the world might be; and driven to find a moral basis for our actions. The SSQ program was conceived as a forum in which all of these dimensions are brought within the boundaries of one conversation.

Building on SSQ’s history, we offered this conference at the magnificent UNESCO headquarters in Paris—a most appropriate location in view of this institution’s vision for world peace and understanding. Since its inception in 1996, the Science and the Spiritual Quest program has brought together 120 scientists, representing numerous research fields and most of humanity’s great religious and philosophical traditions. The participating speakers came to this event after having engaged in a series of workshop dialogues with their scientific colleagues. These workshops included participants from the three Western monotheistic traditions, from several Eastern religious traditions, from naturalistic spiritualities, and from atheistic sensibilities. The science and religion conversation has broadened over time, and has been enriched as a result of SSQ’s expansion. Over the course of this conference the speakers were, in many cases, letting the audience in on the inside conversations that began in private workshop settings. The results made clear that consideration of science and human quest for meaning offers an important opportunity for dialogue and understanding among cultures. The Paris Conference was a unique event for interdisciplinary and intercultural dialogue. This conference was a forum for honest and vigorous dialogue--not aimed at uniformity of ideas as the sign of success, but dedicated to mutual respect, learning, and growth in the face of our differences. A series of performances by leading musicians and dancers added to the enrichment of the conference and underscored the importance of creative expression in making the intercultural dialogue relevant to today’s world.

The Paris Conference was an SRCP Qualifying Conference.

We are grateful for the partnerships we enjoyed in producing this event with the Interdisciplinary University of Paris (UIP) and with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Speakers Included:

Werner Arber, Biozentrum der Universitat Basel
Ian Barbour, Carleton College
Hendrik Barendregt, Nijmegen University
Khalil Chamcham, University Hassan II
Praveen Chaudhari, IBM Research Division
Ramanath Cowsik, Indian Institute of Physics
Paul Davies, University of Queensland, Imperial College London
Bernard d'Espagnat, Universite de Paris-Sud
Christian de Duve, Institute of Cellular Pathology
Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall Institute
Bruno Guiderdoni, Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris
Stephen Kosslyn, Harvard University
Thierry Magnin, Ecoles des Mines de Saint Etienne
Kenneth Miller, Brown University
Thomas Odhiambo, African Academy of the Sciences
William Phillips, National Institute of Standards & Technology
Joel Primack, University of California at Santa Cruz
Hubert Reeves, Centre National de la Recherche Scientific
Charles Townes, University of California, Berkeley
Trinh Thuan, University of Virginia
Ahmed H. Zewail, California Institute of Technology

Panel Speakers included:

Lothar Scharfer
Pierre Perrier
Jean Kovalevsky
Basarab Nicolescu

Science and the Quest for Meaning Conference Schedule

19-20 April 2002
Paris, UNESCO, Room 1

Friday 19 April
9:00 - 9:30 am Introduction

Session A - Astrophysics & Physics
9:30 - 10:00 am Charles Townes The Convergence of Science and Religion
10:00 - 10:30 am Thierry Magnin When Physicists and Believers Experience Common Attitudes
10:30 - 11:00 am Hubert Reeves The Multiverse Hypothesis
11:00 - 11:15 am Break
11:15 - 11:45 am Joel Primack Star Wars Forever?
11:45 - 12:15 pm Khalil Chamcham The Other Vision
12:15 - 12:50 pm Round table discussion for session A including Lothar Schafer, and questions from the audience
12:50 - 1:05 pm Musical interlude, Elizabeth Sombart
1:05 - 2:30 pm Lunch break

Session B - Biology
2:30 - 3:00 pm Werner Arber Traditional Wisdom and Recently Acquired Scientific Knowledge in Biological Evolution
3:00 - 3:30 pm Christian de Duve Mysteries of Life - Is There 'Something Else'?
3:30 - 3:40 pm Musical interlude, Elizabeth Sombart
3:40 - 4:10 pm Kenneth Miller God's Design or Darwin's? A New View of Evolution
4:10 - 4:40 pm Thomas Odhiambo A Spiritual Footnote as to the Sources of Power of Science
4:40 - 5:00 pm Break

Session C - Neurosciences
5:00 - 5:30 pm Stephen Kosslyn Meaning in the Brain?
5:30 - 6:00 pm Praveen Chaudhari Science and Spirituality: Doing and Being
6:00 - 6:15 pm Break
6:15 - 6:45 pm Hendrik Barendregt Education Towards Meaning
6:45 - 7:30 pm Round table discussion for sessions B and C including Pierre Perrier, and questions from the audience
7:30 - 8:00 pm Piano Recital by Elizabeth Sombart


Saturday 20 April
Session D - Physics
9:00 - 9:30 am Ramanath Cowsik Einstein and Gandhi
9:30 - 10:00 am Trinh Xuan Thuan Science and Buddhism: at the Cross-Roads
10:00 - 10:30 am Danse interlude: Manochhaya
10:30 - 10:45 am Break
10:45 - 11:15 am Bernard d'Espagnat Roots to Meaning Reopened!
11:15 - 11:45 am Paul Davies Glimpsing the Mind of God
11:45 - 12:30 pm Round table discussion for session D including Jean Kovalevsky and questions from the audience
12:30 - 2:00 pm Lunch break

Session E - Dialogue between modernity and tradition
2:00 - 2:30 pm Ahmed Zewail Clashes of Civilizations?
2:30 - 3:00 pm William Phillips Ordinary Faith, Ordinary Science
3:00 - 3:20 pm Jane Goodall What Chimpanzees Can Teach us about Human Nature
3:20 - 3:35 pm Break
3:35 - 4:05 pm Bruno Guiderdoni Modern Cosmology and the Quest for Meaning
4:05 - 4:50 pm Round table discussion for session E including Basarab Nicolescu, and questions from the audience
4:50 - 5:20 pm Concluding remarks: Ian Barbour, Philip Clayton and Jean Staune
5:20 - 5:30 pm Break
5:30 - 6:30 pm Concert: Sœur Marie Keyrouz
6:30 - 7:30 pm Summation

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