The CSH Science and Religion Forum: Limits of Science – Opportunities for Religion?

Thursday, 2019/11/07 - Friday, 2019/11/08

The CSH Science & Religion Forum aims to bring scientists, philosophers and theologians together, once a year, to have constructive, interdisciplinary discussions on a broad range of topics. It is led by CSH Postdoc Dr. Jessica Lampe, who is jointly appointed with the Faculty of Theology at the University of Bern, Switzerland.

Event organizer: Center for Space and Habitability (CSH)
Speaker: various
Date: 2019/11/07 - 2019/11/08
Time: 08:15 - 18:00
Venue: "Ussicht & Wytsicht"
Gurten / Bern
Gurten – Park im Grünen
3084 Wabern
Characteristics: open to the public
free of charge

The CSH Science & Religion Forum aims to bring scientists, philosophers and theologians together to engage in constructive, interdisciplinary discussions on a broad range of topics once a year. It is led by CSH Postdoc Dr. Jessica Lampe, who is also appointed by the Faculty of Theology at the University of Bern in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Kevin Heng (CSH), Prof. Dr. Dr. Claus Beisbart (Institute of Philosophy) and Prof. Dr. Isabelle Noth (Institute of Practical Theology).

Dr. Jessica Lampe, Prof. Dr. Kevin Heng, Prof. Dr. Dr. Claus Beisbart, Prof. Dr. Isabelle Noth
© University of Bern / Photo: Vera Knöpfel

Science and religion have often been perceived as contradictory. Supporting a more harmonious picture of their relationship, some authors have argued that scientific inquiry has principled limitations and thus leaves territory to religion and theology, for instance regarding the meaning of existence and human values.

But does this division lead to a stable situation in which science and religion fulfill different tasks, thus complementing each other? Or does the proposed partitioning fail? Where exactly are the limits of scientific inquiry? And to what extent is religion or theology in a position to step in and to deal with concerns not addressed by the sciences? And where is there common ground?

The 2019 conference aims to address such questions, focusing on four areas: cosmology; values; the meaning of life and the first-personal standpoint; and applied social science research confronted with religion. Scholars from various natural and social sciences, theology and philosophy are gathering to engage in truly cross-disciplinary exchange. Our aspiration is to identify themes of common interest and re-negotiate the borderlines between science and religion.

Thursday, 7th November 2019

 Time  Title
08:15-09:15 Welcome coffee
09:15-09:20 Welcome address by Rector Christian Leumann
09:20-09:30 Welcome address by Jessica Lampe 

Session 1: Cosmology and Religion

Chair: Isabelle Noth, Institute of Practical Theology

 Time  Speaker  Title
Bernard Carr, Queen Mary London
Metacosmology and the shifting boundary between science and religion
10:10-10:30 Discussion
10:30-11:00 Coffee break
11:00-11:40 Christian Weidemann, WWU Münster
Why physical cosmology does (and will always) leave room for religious explanations
11:40-12:00 Discussion
12:00-12:40 Matthias Egg, University of Bern
Amibitions and limitations of scientific metaphysics
12:40-13:00 Discussion

Invited speakers

Bernard Carr

Bernard Carr is emeritus professor of mathematics and astronomy at Queen Mary University of London. His research interests include black holes, dark matter and gravitational waves. Apart from his work on general relativity and cosmology, he also has an interest in the relationship between science and the religions. He has authored the chapter on cosmology and religion in the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science.

Christian Weidemann

Christian Weidemann is a theologian working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Münster in Germany. His main fields of work are philosophy of religion, natural theology and philosophy of science. He has published about the problem of evil, fine-tuning, and the significance of extraterrestrial life for theology. 

Matthias Egg

Matthias Egg is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Bern. His main fields are the philosophy of science and, more specifically, philosophy of physics, where he has been working on the measurement problem and the interpretation of quantum mechanics. He is also a founding member of the Forum for Christian Studies. 

Lunch break in the Gewölbekeller 

Session 2: Value-free Ideal and Religion

Chair: Claus Beisbart, Institute of Philosophy

 Time  Speaker  Title
14:30-15:10 Kevin Elliott, Michigan State University
Science and values: Independent realms or collaborative partners?
15:10-15:30 Discussion
15:30-16:30 Coffee break
16:30-17:10 Rebekka Hufendik, University of Basel Can theories on the evolution of morality contribute to the vindication of morality?
17:10-17:30 Discussion
17:30-18:10 Christina aus der Au, Pädagogische Hochschule Thurgau and University of Basel Science and religion: Yin and Yang or rather Tom and Jerry
18:10-18:30 Discussion

Invited speakers

Kevin Elliott

Kevin Elliott is professor at the Lyman Briggs College at the State University of Michigan, where he is also affiliated with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Philosophy. He is mainly interested in problems at the intersection between philosophy of science and ethics, e.g. the risk that scientists take when running inductive inferences. He is an expert in the role of values in science and has recently published an introduction to science and values. 

Rebekka Hufendiek

Rebekka Hufendiek is a philosopher who is currently finishing her habilitation thesis at the University of Basel, where she is working as postdoctoral researcher. Her research topics are located in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. She has published on emotions, embodiment and functions. Her current research project is about naturalistic accounts of the origin of morality.

Christina Aus der Au

Christina Aus der Au is professor at the Pädagogische Hochschule Thurgau as well as lecturer at the University of Basel. Given her background in both philosophy and theology, her main research interest is in the relationship between a religious and a secular worldview. She has published on anthropological dimensions of the neurosciences and of theology and on environmental ethics.  

Friday, 8th November 2019

 Time  Title
10:00-10:30 Welcome coffee

Session 3: Meaning of Life and First Personal Standpoint

Chair: Kevin Heng, Center for Space and Habitability

 Time  Speaker  Title
10:30-11:10 Jessica Lampe, University of Bern 
Spiritual struggles and ultimate meaning: what matters
11:10-11:30 Discussion
11:30-12:10 David Pruett, James Madison University
Reason and wonder: weaving science and spirituality into a personal mythology
12:10-12:30 Discussion

Invited speakers

Jessica Lampe

Jessica Lampe is a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Bern's Interfaculty Research Cooperation on religious conflicts and coping strategies. Her habilitation project focuses on inner religious and spiritual struggles and strategies of coping with these. Her PhD is in biomedical sciences and she has published, among others, on emotions in animals and emotional contagion. In 2018 she was listed on the Forbes "30 under 30" list of the German-speaking countries.

David Pruett

David Pruett is an award-winning computational scientist and an emeritus professor of mathematics at James Madison University. He is the author of “Reason and Wonder: A Copernican Revolution in Science and Spirit”, which tries to combine the insights of modern science and the wisdom of spiritual traditions. 

Lunch break in the Gewölbekeller 

Session 4: Applied Science Meets Religion and Spirituality in Practice

Chair: Jessica Lampe, Institute of Pracitcal Theology

 Time  Speaker  Title
Myriam Rudaz, Psychiatric Services Münsterlingen
The effect of caring for bliss on mental health and well-being
14:40-15:00 Discussion
15:00-16:00 Coffee break
16:00-16:40 Raymond Barfield, Duke University
Care for the dying as an act of faith: why the practice of medicine needs story-telling as much as it needs science
16:40-17:00 Discussion
17:00-17:40 Heinzpeter Znoj, University of Bern
Social anthropology's close encounters with religion
17:40-18:00 Discussion
 18:00 onwards
Forum Dinner
For speakers and organisers only

Invited speakers

Myriam Rudaz

Myriam Rudaz holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. She is also a psychotherapist and mind-body trainer and currently works at the Psychiatric Services in Münsterlingen. She conducts research in the field of mindfulness, spirituality, and mental health and is interested in the impact of spirituality on mental health. 

Raymond Barfield  

Raymond Barfield is professor of pediatrics at Duke University as well as of Christian philosophy at Duke Divinity School. He is a pediatric oncologist with an interest in the intersection of medicine, philosophy and theology and the role of religion in health care.  He is the founding director the programs Pediatric Quality of Life and Palliative Care and Theology, Medicine, and Culture at Duke University and has published widely in medicine, philosophy, and literature.

Heinzpeter Znoj

Heinzpeter Znoj is professor of social anthropology and director of the Center for Development and Environment at the University of Bern. One of his research interests is the role of religion in Indonesia. He has also published on corruption, economic exchange and the history of social anthopology.