Baylor's Polanyi Center To Host Inaugural Naturalism Conference

April 6, 2000

by LoAna Lopez

Baylor University's Michael Polanyi Center -- part of the Institute for Faith and Learning -- will host its inaugural naturalism conference April 12-15 on the Baylor campus. The conference is titled "The Nature of Nature: An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Role of Naturalism in Science."

Horace Freeland Judson, director of the Center for History of Recent Science and research professor of history at George Washington University, is the featured speaker for Friday night's banquet lecture. Judson, whose topic is "Speculations about Conceptual Blocks," is best known for his book The Eighth Day of Creation, a history of molecular biology and its makers from its origins to the early 1970s.

Other scheduled speakers include: Steven Weinberg, the Josey Regental Chair of Science at the University of Texas at Austin, and winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics and the 1991 National Medal of Science; and Christian de Duve, founder and director of the Christian de Duve Institute of Cellular Pathology, whose discovery of lysosomes and peroxisomes earned him the 1974 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. He also is a professor emeritus at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and Rockefeller University in New York.

Among the topics to be discussed are: "Neurogenesis and Being a Person," Howard M. Ducharme, department chair of philosophy at the University of Akron; "Thomistic Natural Law as Darwinian Natural Right," Larry Arnhart, professor of political science at Northern Illinois University; and "The Incompatibility of Naturalism and Scientific Realism," Robert C. Koons, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Nature of Nature conference registration fee is $105 for the general public and $65 for non-Baylor students. For those who wish to attend the conference on either Thursday, Friday or Saturday, the cost is $35 for the general public and $20 for non-Baylor students. Wednesday evening's session is $20 for the general public and $10 for non-Baylor students. With the exception of the banquet lecture Friday evening, Baylor students, faculty and staff may attend the conference without charge.

The Michael Polanyi Center was established in 1999 as an interdisciplinary research and educational initiative focused on advancing the understanding of science. Its purpose is to support and pursue research in the history and conceptual foundations of the natural and social sciences; study the impact of contemporary science on the humanities and the arts; be an active participant in the growing dialogue between science and religion; and pursue the mathematical development and empirical application of design-theoretic concepts in the natural sciences.

Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) was a world-class physical chemist who turned to philosophy at the height of his scientific career because he was dismayed at the abuses and restrictions that materialist philosophy was inflicting on scientific research. He illustrated how philosophical, religious, psychological, sociological and scientific concerns interact to affect each other's development. Polanyi also realized the need for significant dialogue between science and religion.

For more information about the conference, contact the Institute for Faith and Learning at 710-4805, or visit the Michael Polanyi Center website at http://www.baylor.edu/~polanyi/ .

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