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The SSQ Program


Science and the Spiritual Quest was an international program conducted by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in collaboration with several partner organizations. From 1996-2003, SSQ focused on the ethical and spiritual questions raised by the best of contemporary science. Our mission was to invite leading scientists into dialogue, through private workshops, on the connections between their scientific pursuits and their spiritual practices, and to present the results of this dialogue to a worldwide public audience through conferences, publications, and multimedia resources. SSQ did not advocate a particular religious or scientific position or a specific outcome for discussions between science and religion. Rather, we sought to promote open and authentic dialogue on this topic within the scientific community, and to offer the insights and questions resulting from these discussions to the public. 

For seven years the Science and the Spiritual Quest program involved over 120 distinguished senior scientists in dialogue at the intersections of science and spirituality. In conferences and workshops around the world, SSQ demonstrated that scientists of Nobel caliber can also be people of faith, and that those who are not traditionally religious can offer insights of great value to religion. In an era of extreme specialization in the sciences, scientists need every opportunity to broaden their horizons to embrace larger philosophical and cultural contexts which will give their life’s work meaning beyond the confines of technical proficiency and professional success. SSQ offered scientists free and open exploration of ideas, critical interaction with colleagues, and equips them with tools for interdisciplinary work.


Science and the Spiritual Quest served as a hub of expertise and activity at the intersection of science and spirituality. Housed in one of the world’s pre-eminent institutions in the field of science and religion, SSQ benefited from the intellectual capital of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences as well as the academic reputations of the Graduate Theological Union and the University of California at Berkeley.

Science and the Spiritual Quest was one of the most successful programs ever conducted in the field of science and religion. In seven years, SSQ recruited more than 120 leading scientists into intensive dialogue on the connections between science and spirituality. SSQ involved over 11,000 people in 17 public events in nine countries on four continents, featuring nearly 300 speakers at these events. By conservative estimates, SSQ reached over 400 million people through media coverage. SSQ published two groundbreaking volumes, produced three new video products, and has more on the way. SSQ forged partnerships with about 40 other organizations and fostered numerous new efforts in science and religion around the globe.

The SSQ concept was created during a three-year initial grant phase (1996-98). We hypothesized that approaching the science-religion discussion via the notion of a scientist’s spiritual quest would help to bring major scientists into the discussion, would create common ground between working groups of scientists, and would lead to output (conferences, videos, and publications) that would be accessible and attractive to a broader audience. All three hypotheses proved to be correct.

The next phase of the program, SSQII (1999-2003), took the concept worldwide with multiple workshops and conferences in the United States, France, Spain, India, Japan, Romania, the Vatican, Morocco, and Kazakhstan. The scope of the program’s success—in level of scientific participants, number of events, number of attendees, media impressions, number and quality of partnerships, publications, and fundraising successes – exceeded our expectations.

Accomplishments 1996 - 2003

SSQ past activities and results include the following:

Key scientific disciplines represented:
physics and applied physics
cosmology and astrophysics
biophysics and biochemistry
molecular genetics
evolutionary biology
cognitive sciences
computer science
information technology
ethology and primatology

Key religious traditions represented:
Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Shinto, indigenous animisms, neo-paganism, naturalism, agnosticism, atheism

Total Number of private research workshops held: 16

Total Number of scientists involved in research workshops: 122

Total Public Events Held: 17 events held in 9 countries covering 4 continents

Total Number of Speakers involved in public events: 326

Total Estimated Public Event Attendance: 11,535

Total number of telecasts and webcasts: 3

Total number of video and multimedia products: 6

Publications by Outside Publishers: 4

Publications by SSQ and Partners: 9

Estimated Media Impressions: 378 million

Program Partners: 54

Partners and Funders

Partnerships: Science-Religion Organizations

Partnerships: Scientific Organizations Partnerships: Cultural and Religious Organizations Partnerships: Academic Institutions Partnerships: Publishing and Media Production Organizations Partnerships: Grantmaking Organizations


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