SSQ Boston Conference

The Quest for Truth, Knowledge, and Values in Science & Religion
October 21-23, 2001 at Harvard Memorial Church Cambridge, Massachusetts

presented by
Science and the Spiritual Quest
in partnership with

The Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion
(Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science)

The Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School

Conference Overview

The growth of knowledge in the natural sciences is revolutionizing our understanding of the universe, our planet, and ourselves. At the same time the world’s spiritual traditions remain powerful forces that shape and influence billions of people around the world. Indeed, these traditions will have a major role to play as humanity faces the staggering challenges of the 21st century.

Within and across the world’s cultures, humanity faces an array of complex questions--about our human identity, our destiny, and the destiny of the world we share. Even as science and technology transform societies, the world’s religious and spiritual traditions remain crucial resources for addressing the questions of who we are and where we are going. SSQ has gathered leading scientists who have reflected and conversed together on the profound spiritual implications of their work. Science offers them a common language to bridge their religious differences, while spirituality offers a shared context of value and meaning within which to address the challenges of science. The SSQ Boston Conference was a time to broaden the circle of discourse, sharing the mutual illumination of science and spirit with a wider public audience.

Featured Speakers

Ian Barbour, Carleton College
Hendrik Barendregt, Catholic University of Nijmegen
Praveen Chaudhari, IBM
Ramanath Cowsik, Indian Institute of Astrophysics
Paul Davies, Imperial College London and the University of Queensland
Terrence Deacon, Boston University
Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall Institute
Ursula Goodenough, Washington University
Bruno Guiderdoni, Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris
Michael Krasny, San Francisco State University
William Newsome, Stanford University
Arthur Peacocke, Oxford University
William Phillips, National Institute of Standards & Technology
Robert Pollack, Columbia University
Rustum Roy, Pennsylvania State University
Brian Cantwell Smith, Duke University
Trinh Thuan, University of Virginia
Manuela Veloso, Carnegie Mellon University

The SSQ Boston Conference featured scientists presenting and discussing their views on a variety of critical questions including:

  • Are there points of consonance between the theoretical insights of modern science and the teachings of the world’s religious traditions?
  • Are there parallels between the varied practices and disciplines of science and the diverse practices and disciplines of spirituality?
  • Can science inform the human spiritual quest, and can the religious traditions inform scientific questions?
  • As we look to science and technology for solutions to pressing problems, can we expect any guidance or resources from the world’s spiritual traditions?

Leading Scientists Engaged Fundamental Questions of Human Existence:

  • Who are we?
  • What is consciousness?
  • How can spiritual perspectives enhance the scientific quest?
  • What challenges and opportunities do the revolutions in information technology; nanotechnology, neuroscience, and genomics offer to humanity?

Who Attended:

  • Scientists
  • Technologists
  • Artists and Writers
  • Theologians
  • Philosophers
  • Religious Scholars
  • Clergy and Lay Leaders
  • Health Care and Mental Health Professionals
  • Educators in both the Sciences and the Humanities
  • People with an interest in contemporary science and religion dialogue

Monday October 22, 2001 3:00-9:00 PM EST live national broadcast

A six-hour portion of the SSQ Boston Conference: The Quest for Knowledge, Truth, and Values in Science & Religion was telecast nationally and webcast internationally by The Episcopal Cathedral Teleconferencing Network, a television / internet initiative of Trinity Church, New York City. The telecast, “What Does It Mean to Be Human?” featured distinguished scientists examining how contemporary science is changing our understanding of the human condition.

Telecast moderated by Michael Krasny, Host of Forum, KQED 88.5 FM

Speakers Included:

Paul Davies, Physicist and author, Imperial College London and The University of Queensland, 1995 Winner Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion
Terrence Deacon, Assoc. Prof., Biological Anthropology, Boston University
Jane Goodall, Naturalist and Primatologist, The Jane Goodall Institute
William Newsome, Prof. of Neurobiology, Stanford University
Bruno Guiderdoni, Director of Research at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics and referent expert on Islam
Manuela Veloso, Assoc. Prof. of Computer Science and Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University

Additional comments were made by:

Praveen Chaudhari, Researcher, T.J. Watson Research Center, IBM
Ursula Goodenough, Prof. of Biology, Washington University
Trinh Thuan, Prof. of Astronomy, University of Virginia
Arthur Peacocke, Prof. of Physical Biochemistry and of Theology, Oxford University, 2001 Winner Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion
Robert Pollack, Prof. of Biological Sciences, Columbia University
Brian Cantwell Smith, Prof. of Computer Science and Philosophy, Duke University


3:00-4:45 pm “Near-Relatives and Neurons: Biological and Behavioral Bases for Humanity" featuring Jane Goodall, Ursula Goodenough, Robert Pollack, and William Newsome

5:15-6:45 pm “Cosmos and Bios: Evolutionary Contexts of Humanity" featuring Paul Davies, Terrence Deacon, Trinh Thuan, and Arthur Peacocke

7:15-7:45 pm “Making Robots, Making Reality: Technology and the Human Person" featuring Manuela Veloso and Brian Cantwell Smith

8:00-9:00 pm “The Human Person in Community and Society." Thomas Odhiambo discussed The Human Person in Science and African Traditions. Praveen Chaudhari discussed The Human Person in Science and Eastern Traditions.