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Three Breakthroughs in STARS Research:
A Two-day Event Exploring the Frontiers of Science and Religion

April 23-24, 2010



"Humanity stands at the crossroads of destiny.
STARS is the most exciting initiative yet on confronting
the challenge of who we are and how we fit into
the great cosmic scheme."

--Paul Davies

 

STARS, Science and Transcendence Advanced Research Series is a program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.

 

 

 

Friday Evening, April 23, 2010
STARS Keynote Lecture with
Paul Davies




Are We Alone in the Universe?
How the Search for ET Can, and Should Be Ramped Up


Where: First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, 2407 Dana Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
When: Friday April 23, 2010, 7-9PM

Registration Information
(All proceeds will support the Ian G. Barbour Chair in Theology and Science).

Fifty years ago, a young astronomer named Frank Drake pointed a radio telescope at nearby stars in the hope of picking up a signal from an alien civilization. Thus began one of the boldest scientific projects in history, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). But after a half century of scanning the skies, astronomers have little to report but an eerie silence--eerie because many scientists are convinced that the universe is teeming with life. The problem, argues the leading physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies, is that we've been looking in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and in the wrong way. Davies should know. For more than three decades, he has been closely involved with SETI and now chairs the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, charged with deciding what to do if we're confronted with evidence of alien intelligence. In this lecture Davies will tell us how SETI has lost its edge and offer a new and exciting road map for the future.

Paul Davies is an internationally acclaimed physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist at Arizona State University, where he runs the pioneering Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the best seller The Mind of God, About Time, How to Build a Time Machine, and The Goldilocks Enigma. The asteroid 19920G was officially renamed Pauldavies in his honor. Davies' new book, The Eerie Silence, will be available for sale in a signing event after the lecture.

This lecture will be captioned for the hearing impaired.

 

Saturday Morning, April 24, 2010
STARS Research Conference
with Christopher Southgate, Andrew Robinson and Terrence Deacon

Update: Due to travel cancellations caused by the Iceland Volcanic Eruption,Southgate and Robinson will not be at the conference in person. Terrence Deacon will represent the team, showing a video by Southgate and Robinson, who will be present via Skype for the Q&A.

Christopher SouthgateAndrew Robinson

Information, Evolution and Transcendence: Science, Philosophy and Theology in Creative Interaction

Where: Bade Museum, Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709
When: Saturday April 24, 2010, 9:30AM-11:30AM

Registration Information
(All proceeds will support the Ian G. Barbour Chair in Theology and Science).

What is life? How did life on earth begin? What makes the evolution of complex, sentient life possible? Our research offers a new insight into these crucial questions. We claim that a fundamental characteristic of all living things is their ability to interpret their environment. We propose that even surprisingly simple entities can interpret their surroundings, and that this ability is a key to the evolution of life and, in humankind, to our openness to the transcendent, the ultimate 'environment.'

In order to test this claim scientifically we first developed a clearer understanding of 'interpretation' by drawing on the philosophical writings of the American pragmatist C.S. Peirce. His theory of signs, or "semiotics," has provided us with a novel approach to the scientific question of the origin of life. Using Peirce's work we are generating models that demonstrate the increase in fitness gained by even very simple entities when they are able to 'read' their environment. The theological part of our proposal is that these discoveries also provide new ways of talking about the Christian understanding of God and God's interaction with the world.

A particular strength of the interdisciplinary methodology of STARS has been the way in which these theological questions stimulate further scientific proposals. For example, what is biologically unique about humans given that we can recognise the character of God in the life of Jesus, and how did this uniqueness arise?

Clearly a project such as this, which maps philosophy onto biochemistry and theology and then theology back onto the science of paleoanthropology, offers wonderful new opportunities for interdisciplinary research on the nature and meaning of ultimate reality--the goal of the STARS program.

Christopher Southgate is Research Fellow, University of Exeter, UK.
Andrew Robinson is Honorary University Fellow, University of Exeter, UK.

 

Saturday Afternoon, April 24, 2010
STARS Research Conference
with Warren Brown and Michael Spezio

Michael Spezio

Virtue Ethics, Neuroscience, and the Transcendent: New Insights from the Interaction between Neuroscience, Psychology, Philosophy and Theology

Where: Bade Museum, Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709
When: Saturday April 24, 2010, 1PM-3PM

Registration Information
(All proceeds will support the Ian G. Barbour Chair in Theology and Science).

How can neuroscience and experimental psychology help us gain a deeper understanding of the nature of virtue, particularly in light of the transcendent? How is virtue related to reason and emotion, as revealed by cognitive neuroscience, especially when concepts of ultimate value are at play?

A unique aspect of our research is its focus on persons of exemplary virtue. Here we can ask the following questions: What implicit conceptual "schemas" are in play when these remarkable persons are in the process of making virtuous decisions? And how does corresponding information processing by neural circuits in the brain help to reveal new knowledge about how exemplars think and act? Finally, can we resolve persistent exemplar paradoxes that seem to perplex prevailing approaches in the neuroscience of moral action?

To carry out our research program we have brought together philosophers, theologians, psychologists and neuroscientists to form a unique interdisciplinary team. The result is the creation of an exciting new approach to research on moral action and virtue, one based on the interaction between decision neuroscience and moral psychology through the study of virtuous exemplars both in real life contexts and in the laboratory context. We have successfully discovered the presence of concepts of the transcendent in the schemas of these virtuous exemplars. Finally, our team is making progress toward an understanding of virtue that both incorporates this new scientific research and argues for the critical importance of concepts of transcendence in exemplary moral action.

Warren Brown is Professor of Psychology, the Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA.
Michael Spezio is Assistant Professor, Scripps College; Visiting Scientist, California Institute of Technology, CA.

 

Three Breakthroughs in STARS Research
Conference Schedule
(subject to change)

Registration required for all events.

All proceeds will support the Campaign for the Ian G. Barbour
Chair in Theology and Science.

IGB logo

Friday, April 23, 2010

7-9PM
STARS Public Lecture with Paul Davies
Are We Alone in The Universe?
First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, 2407 Dana Street, Berkeley, CA

Saturday, April 24, 2010
(Paul Davies, Ted Peters and Robert Russell will serve as moderators and respondents for the conference)

9:00AM
Registration

9:30AM-11:30AM
STARS Research Conference with Christopher Southgate and Andrew Robinson
Information, Evolution and Transcendence
Bade Museum, Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, CA

11:45AM-12:45PM
Boxed Lunch with STARS Conference Speakers (separate registration required)
Richard S. Dinner Boardroom, Graduate Theological Union Library, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA

1PM-3PM
STARS Research Conference with Warren Brown and Michael Spezio
Virtue Ethics, Neuroscience, and the Transcendent
Bade Museum, Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, CA

Directions and Lodging:


The STARS program was funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

 

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