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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dispatch From Venice

FROM KARL GIBERSON: Greetings from Venice, Italy, where the second installment of the Venice Summer School on Science and Religion is about to get started. This year’s program features presentations by evolutionary palaeobiologist Simon Conway Morris, philosopher of science Michael Ruse, zoologist Frans de Waal, Archbishop Józef Życiński, and me. The topic is “Evolution and Human Uniqueness.”
About 30 academics from around the world have gathered to spend the rest of this week interacting with each other and the program leaders. The key question on the table will be whether science offers any indication that human beings are more than quantitatively different from other species. We know that our chemical composition is identical, our physical construction almost identical, and our nervous system very similar to other species. Are we then best understood, in the words of Desmond Morris, as “naked apes”? Or is there something unique about us? Does theology, with its mysterious affirmation that we are made “in the image of God,” provide the only arguments that we are truly unique? Or are there hints from science that something truly unique “emerged” in natural history, providing us with our distinctive human natures?
Support for participants at the weeklong seminar is provided by the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, a venerable academic center that has hosted various academic, political, and intellectual gatherings since the time of Napoleon; support for the speakers and creation of the program is provided by the Templeton Foundation.


Eduardo Cruz said...

I noticed that there aren't barely any references to sexual dimorphism in human uniqueness. Perhaps it is the female side that highlights the uniqueness of our species above all else!