A group of scientists, philosophers, and theologians will gather at The Field Museum in Chicago to prove just that by participating in an open discussion focusing on the latest research in the evolutionary sciences. The Epic of Evolution Conference will be held Nov. 12-14, and is sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and The Field Museum. "A major objective of this conference is to overcome the public misconception that science and religion are inherently in conflict over evolution," says Audrey Chapman, director of the AAAS Program of Dialogue Between Science and Religion. "This is a pioneering effort to discover how to combine good science with meaningful theological and philosophical analysis."
The goal of the conference is to demonstrate that recent discoveries in the evolutionary sciences -- relating to the development of the cosmos, life on Earth, and human culture -- can be constructively interpreted with respect to religious values concerning human nature and destiny.
"We're bringing people together to talk about the common ground, as well as the differences," says Alaka Wali, anthropologist and director of The Field Museum's Center for Cultural Understanding and Change. "Dialogue like this helps to show the public that science is a process of inquiry; it is part of the human endeavor to understand the world and give meaning to it."
Another focus of the conference is to simply educate the public about the broad application of evolutionary studies today. The term "evolution" most commonly refers to the historical development of life on Earth, but it can also be used to describe the development of human culture and the development of the universe as a whole, from the "Big Bang" to its present state. Evolutionary research cuts across nearly every field of science today, including genetics, chemistry, sociology, and psychology.
The speaker list for the conference reads like a "Who's Who" in science and theology. Speakers include biologist Francisco Ayala of the University of California-Irvine, cosmologist Joel Primack of the University of California-Santa Cruz, anthropologist Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History, Loyal Rue of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University; and John Haught of the Department of Theology at Georgetown University. There will be 18 presentations during the three-day conference, each followed by a discussion between participants and with the audience. Eight general topics will be covered, including cosmic origins; the evolution of life on Earth; Darwin and Neo-Darwinism; the evolution of morality and ethics; and the evolution of culture, society, and religion. Each session includes scientific presentations and philosophical and religious reflections.
The entire conference will be videotaped to provide a record of this historic event, and each presenter will also be interviewed. From this material, educational resources will be developed in collaboration with WYCC, the Chicago educational television station. A special will be broadcast on WYCC and an eight-part video series covering the entire conference will be developed for classroom use. Scheduled for completion by June 1998, the video materials will provide an unprecedented educational resource in the area of evolution and religion.
Also planned are an academic book, a secondary school text, and a college course syllabus on Evolution and Religion that will be field tested in 1998. The conference was initiated by the AAAS Program of Dialogue Between Science and Religion (DBSR), established in 1995. DBSR focuses specifically on three program areas: evolution, theory, human nature, and bioethics. The Epic of Evolution Conference is endorsed by the Chicago Academy of Sciences and the Chicago Center for Religion and Science.
The Center for Cultural Understanding and Change was established at The Field Museum in 1993. It promotes cultural understanding through special exhibits, educational programs, and collaborative research projects among scientists in a variety of disciplines. One of the Center's most important projects is "Living Together," a new permanent exhibit opening Nov. 8 with educational programs scheduled throughout the year.
The on-site registration for the three-day conference is $80 per individual; $40 for students and K-12 teachers. For more information, contact Bob Bobala at AAAS: (202) 326-6733.
Attachment: Program agenda
Reporters, please note: To register for a press pass, contact Mary Futrell at The Field Museum: (312) 922-9410, ext. 673, or send an e-mail note to:firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the AAAS Program of Dialogue Between Science and Religion and a list of relevant books and articles, visit the web site http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/dbsr/dbsr.htm.
Epic of Evolution Conference Schedule at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
Wednesday, November 12
8:30 am Registration/Coffee, Tea
9:00 Welcome to Conference
Session I - Introduction: The Importance of
Understanding Evolution Audrey Chapman, AAAS
9:30 Session II - Cosmic Origins: Evolution on the Grand
Contemporary Cosmogonies - Joel Primack, University of California - Santa Cruz
The Cultural Significance of the Story of the Universe - Brian Swimme, California Institute for Integral Studies
11:55 Lunch Break
1:15 pm Session III - Matter to Mammals: The Evolution of Life
The Evolution of Life - Niles Eldredge, American Museum of Natural History
Historical Perspectives on Evolution and Religion
Ronald Numbers, University of Wisconson-Madison
3:10 Session IV - Darwin and Neo-Darwinism: Natural
Selection as the Mechanism of Evolution
The Mechanism of Evolution - Ursula Goodenough, Washington University
Neo-Darwinism in Theological Perspective - John Haught, Georgetown University
5:30 End of Day
Thursday, November 13
8:30 am Coffee, Tea
9:00 Session V - From Lucy to Linus: The Appearance of Homo
Innovation in Human Evolution" - Ian Tattersall,
American Museum of Natural History The Evolutionary Hierarchy of Mind - Terrence Deacon, Boston University
10:55 Evolution, Neuroscience and Human Nature - Nancey Murphy, Fuller Theolo-gical Seminary
12:20 pm Lunch Break
1:50 Session VI - The Journey toward Meaning: The Evolution
of Culture, Society and Religion
The Evolution of Culture - Solomon Katz University of Pennsylvania
The Evolution of Religion: Views of Cosmology and History - Mary Evelyn Tucker, Bucknell University
3:30 Break (15 min.)
3:45 "Homo sapiens: The Cultural Religious Animal?" - Philip Hefner, Chicago Center for the Study of Religion and Science
5:10 End of Day
Friday, November 14
8:30 am Coffee, Tea
9:00 Session VII - Selfish Genes and Self-giving Lives: The
Evolution of Ethics and Morality
The Human Enigma: Biological and Cultural Evolution" - Francisco Ayala, University of California-Irvine
Sociobiology and Moral Discourse - Loyal Rue, Harvard University
10:55 The Evolutionary Roots of Morality - An Assessment from Theological Ethics: Stephen J. Pope, Boston College
12:20 pm Lunch Break
1:50 Session VIII - Where Do We Go From Here? Evolution and
the Human Future
Human Impact on the Evolution of the Environment: Mary
Barber, Ecological Society of America
Science, Tradition and the Future: N. Scott Momaday, University of Arizona (invited)
3:45 The Story and the Dream: The Next Stage of the
Evolutionary Epic - Thomas Berry, Greensboro NC
5:20 End of Day