SSQ/UIP Paris Conference

SSQ Paris: Science and the Quest for Meaning

April 19-20, 2002

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris, France
Conference Overview

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris, France, 

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.

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 Schafer
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
9:00-9:30am Introduction

Session A - Astrophysics & Physics

9:30-10:00am Charles Townes, The Convergence of Science and Religion
10:00-10:30am Thierry Magnin, When Physicists and Believers Experience Common Attitudes

10:30-11:00am Hubert Reeves, The Multiverse Hypothesis
11:00-11:15am Break
11:15-11:45am Joel Primack, Star Wars Forever?
11:45-12:15pm Khalil Chamcham, The Other Vision
12:15-12:50pm Round table discussion for session A including Lothar Schafer, and questions from the audience

12:50-1:05pm Musical interlude, Elizabeth Sombart
1:05-2:30pm Lunch break

Session B - Biology

2:30-3:00pm Werner Arber, Traditional Wisdom and Recently Acquired
Scientific Knowledge in Biological Evolution

3:00-3:30pm Christian de Duve, Mysteries of Life—Is There 'Something Else'?
3:30-3:40pm Musical interlude, Elizabeth Sombart
3:40-4:10pm Kenneth Miller, God's Design or Darwin's? A New View of

4:10-4:40pm Thomas Odhiambo, A Spiritual Footnote as to the Sources of
Power of Science

4:40-5:00pm Break

Session C - Neurosciences

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

Saturday 20 April

Session D - Physics

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

12:30- 2:00pm Lunch break
Session E - Dialogue between modernity and tradition

2:00-2:30pm Ahmed Zewail, Clashes of Civilizations?
2:30-3:00pm William Phillips, Ordinary Faith, Ordinary Science
3:00-3:20pm Jane Goodall, What Chimpanzees Can Teach us about Human

3:20-3:35pm Break
3:35-4:05pm Bruno Guiderdoni, Modern Cosmology and the Quest for Meaning

4:05-4:50pm Round table discussion for session E including Basarab Nicolescu, and questions from the audience

4:50-5:20pm Concluding remarks: Ian Barbour, Philip Clayton and Jean Staune

5:20-5:30pm Break
5:30-6:30pm Concert: Sœur Marie Keyrouz
6:30-7:30pm Summation