Spain Symposium

Science and the Three Monotheisms: A New Partnership?

August 23-25, 2002
Hotel Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain

Conference Overview

Recent world events signal the urgent need for dialogue among the three monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. If we are to respond to these events, we must understand the complex mutual influences between the spiritual traditions and their wider cultural contexts. At this symposium—held at an historic meeting ground of Jews, Christians, and Muslims— we focused on these three traditions as they engaged with one of the most pervasive of cultural contexts: contemporary science.

The symposium addressed broad conceptual questions:

  • How do these religions, with their shared sense of the world as a divine creation, encounter the increasingly influential scientific picture of a self-organizing universe with emergent properties?
  • How might these traditions, with their common commitment to the human person in relationship with the divine, enter into dialogue with the latest discoveries in the neurosciences?

Speakers and participants also addressed practical questions:

  • Can the monotheisms, with their varied ethical insights on life, inform our policies and practices in biotechnology?
  • What roles do the natural sciences, and the worldviews and technologies they generate, play in the religious and political unrest of our day?

Led by prominent scientists representing each of the three spiritual traditions, there was much opportunity for dialogue and interaction with distinguished theologians, philosophers, scientists, and cultural leaders. The Spain Symposium followed the inaugural meeting of the prestigious new International Society for Science and Religion. The Spain Symposium took place in the lovely Hotel Alhambra Palace which sits on the same beautiful hill as the Alhambra complex and the Generalife. Attendees enjoyed the magnificent views of the city of Granada below and the Sierra Nevada in the distance. It was a 10-minute walk from downtown Granada and a 20-minute walk from the Albaicin, the historic Moorish quarter.

Program Themes

  • Monotheisms and Modern Science: Three Traditions, One Cosmos?
  • Natural Law and Divine Creation: Monotheistic Perspectives on Complexity and Emergence
  • Neuroscience and the Person in the Religious Traditions
  • Biotechnology, Ethics, and the Spiritual Traditions
  • The Cloning and Stem Cell Controversies: Scientific, Theological, and Ethical Issues
  • Modern Science, Contemporary Politics, and Living Religions: Is There Hope for Peace?

Speakers Included:

Munawar Anees, Interdisciplinary University of Paris Ian Barbour, Carleton College Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, Bath University Gaymon Bennett, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences Noah Efron, Bar Ilan University George F. R. Ellis, University of Capetown Carl Feit, Yeshiva University Medhi Golshani, Sharif University of Technology Bruno Guiderdoni, Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris William Hurlbut, Stanford University Stephen Kosslyn, Harvard University Tsevi Mazeh, Tel Aviv University Andrew Newberg, University of Pennsylvania Ayub Khan Ommaya, George Washington University Ted Peters, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences John Polkinghorne, Cambridge University Norbert Samuelson, Arizona State University Faraneh Vargha-Khadem, University College London


We are grateful to our many partners for making this symposium possible.