There are few familiar words that can describe the universe as a whole. Those who study the universe use physics and mathematics, but what are their equations about? And what is our place in the universe?
What It Means to be Human: Science, Consciousness and Our Place in the Universe is the topic of the MTSU Science and Spirituality Symposium at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27, in the State Farm Lecture Hall of MTSU’s Business and Aerospace Building. The event is free and open to the university and the public.
The lecturers will be Dr. Joel R. Primack, a professor of physics and one of the world’s leading cosmologists, and Nancy Ellen Abrams, attorney and former Fulbright Scholar. Primack is a renowned lecturer, author and researcher. Abrams is an author and frequent speaker with a long-term interest in the history, philosophy and politics of science.
Primack and Abrams jointly teach the prize-winning course “Cosmology and Culture” at the University of California-Santa Cruz. They coauthored the groundbreaking book The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos.
Dr. Gary Wulfsberg, a professor of chemistry at MTSU, says he appreciates the open-minded approach Primack and Abrams take to their subject.
“They realize that we don’t know what 95 percent of the universe consists of,” Wulfsberg says. “It sort of takes one away from the earlier scientific view that we’ve got things under control, (that) we’re the path to all truth in the universe, and the religions and humanities are just sweeping up the dust.”
“At the heart of humanity’s problems on this planet is a terrible alienation from nature, both planetary and cosmic,” says Rami Shapiro, an adjunct religious studies professor at MTSU and an ordained rabbi. “We see ourselves as essentially unnatural; we imagine this world as an antechamber to the more important world to come. The true hope that dialogue between science and spirituality holds out is this: to reawaken our capacity for wonder; to help us realize that we are the way the universe looks at itself and says ‘Wow!’ This is what our guest speakers are going to help us do: look and wonder.”
Primack and Abrams’ visit to MTSU is co-sponsored by the James E. Walker Library, the Colleges of Basic & Applied Sciences, Liberal Arts and Honors, the Department of Physics & Astronomy and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.
For more information, contact the Walker Library at 615-898-2772.