Facing the data: A Conversation on authority and truth
Dr. Kimberly Kay Hoang
May 5, 2022
What does it take to change your mind? What kind of relationship exists between our existing worldviews—that is, our guiding values and basic assumptions about the world—and new information that might challenge aspects of those worldviews? Each of us is regularly faced with these questions of how we might balance and relate the new and possibly challenging data with our already established worldviews. In our democratic society, there is a vast range of worldviews and approaches to data that have converged into a crisis of authority and truth. It seems like almost anyone can make “authoritative” declarations in political, religious, economic, and social institutions. Their legitimacy might be established by a credential or institution, but it also might simply be established by how many followers they have on social media or how many monthly listeners their podcast has. This is complicated by bad actors and social media troll farms that appear to be grassroots movements, but which have institutional agendas. As a result of this hyper-democratized moment, both religion and science face their own crisis of authority and truth.
Worlds To Explore: Astrobiology and the Wonder of Not Knowing (Yet)
The Rev. Dr. Lucas Mix
November 9, 2021
Why explore space? Because we don’t know what we’ll find. Astrobiologists have yet to find evidence of alien life, but the search has yielded tremendous benefits for planetary science and terrestrial biology. It has prompted truly global, deep-time thinking about life and our place in the cosmos. Lucas Mix will share his experiences from 25 years working with NASA on interdisciplinary communication in the search for life, an endeavor that requires collaboration across the natural sciences as well as serious input from the humanities. He will talk about the role of humility, curiosity, and wonder when looking for life “but-not-as-we-know it.” We balance confidence in current knowledge with delight in opportunities to update it. A similar balance will be necessary as we develop spaceflight and the unpredictable trajectory of humans in space.
Dr Mix studies broad life-concepts – including plants, fungi, and bacteria as well as humans and other animals – at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and science. His academic work includes an introduction to astrobiology science (Life in Space: Astrobiology for Everyone, Harvard Press, 2009), a history of definitions of life (Life Concepts from Aristotle to Darwin: On Vegetable Souls, Palgrave, 2018) and a primer on teleology for biologists (The End of Final Causes in Biology, Palgrave, in editing). As this year’s Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology at the Library of Congress, he is working on the interaction of science and science fiction as we imagine the future of life in the cosmos.
We enjoyed Lucas' presentation and lively conversation over dinner. You can find Lucas' presentation here.
We invited participants to reflect on the following questions:
1. What’s the coolest thing you know about the universe?
2. What would you most like to know, but suspect you won’t be able to discover in your lifetime?
3. What are you most excited about that you don’t know now, but think you may know within 5 years?
4. What are you curious about that motivates your own work?
During the pandemic, all Roundtable events were offered online. The following events were hosted by our partner Roundtable sites.
What is human nature?
Moral Challenges for Genetic Engineering Research Today
June 17, 2021
Details coming soon...
LIVING AND DYING IN THE TIME OF COVID
February 10, 2021
GOD AND THE HUMAN MIND
How Do Cognitive Science and Neuroscience Interface with Religion?
January 27, 2021
Additional (short) readings and journal articles that might be of interest:
WHAT SCIENTISTS AROUND THE WORLD THINK ABOUT RELIGION AND WHY IT MATTERS
November 12, 2020
Exploring The Mysteries of Existence, From Microbes to The Cosmos
July 22, 2020