Public Session 8 Oct
Session V: Sir Martin Rees
Saturday 8 October—Day Two
From Big Bangs to Biospheres, and Beyond
Moderated by Priyamvada Natarajan
The Public Session—the one Conference session open to the entire academic community—began at 8:00 p.m. at the Whitney Humanities Center (53 Wall Street). There the Conference had the honor of hearing Professor Sir Martin Rees (Trinity College and Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, Astronomer Royal, Royal Society Past President). Responding from their respective perspectives were Kit Fine (NYU Philosophy and Mathematics), Frank Griffel (Yale Islamic Studies), Arvind Sharma (McGill Comparative Religion), and Douglas Stone (Yale Applied Physics and Physics). Following these, extended time was allotted for extended audience participation in the ensuing discussion.
The topic of this Conference is so engaging and noteworthy, taxing many of humanity’s greatest minds, precisely because of its monumental intellectual challenge. How can one know the ultimate origin of a thing in which one is irrevocably enmeshed? Is the attempt to grasp the how and why of cosmic origins beyond human capacity, like containing an ocean in a teacup? How have things progressed from the Big Bang (or the Big Bangs if the Multiverse is real) to the exquisite elegance of biospheres—including ourseves?
He is the author of more than 500 research papers, making important contributions to the origin of cosmic microwave background radiation and to galaxy clustering and formation. His studies of the distribution of quasars led to final disproof of Steady State theory. He was also one of the first to propose that enormous black holes power quasars and that superluminal astronomical observations can be explained as an optical illusion caused by an object moving partly in the direction of the observer. He is a well-respected author of books on astronomy and science intended for the lay public. This year he was awarded the
Templeton Prize. [more]
Kit Fine is Silver Professor of Philosophy and Mathematics at New York University and a logician, metaphysician, and philosopher of mathematics, known especially for his contributions to modal logic and the metaphysics of essence. Author of several books and dozens of articles in international academic journals, he has made notable contributions to the fields of philosophical logic, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language and also has written on ancient philosophy.
In the philosophy of mathematics, Fine has developed a general theory of abstraction which provides a foundation for number theory and analysis. [more]
Frank Griffel is Professor of Religious Studies & Chair of the Council for Middle East Studies at Yale. In his thesis he wrote about the development of the judgment of apostasy in classical Islam. In 2000 he began teaching courses at Yale on the intellectual history of Islam, its theology (both classical and modern), and the way Islamic thinkers react to Western modernity. In his research he deals with very similar issues, such as the contribution that al-Ghazali made to the development of Islamic theology and the history of philosophy. He is currently finishing a two-year research project on the continuation of the Arabic philosophical tradition (falsafa) within Muslim theology. [more]
Arvind Sharma is the Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University in Montreal. In 1962, Sharma joined the Indian Administrative Service, serving in Gujarat until 1968. In 1971 he received an M.A. from Syracuse and in 1974 a Masters in Theology and in 1978 his Ph.D. in Sanscrit, both from Harvard. In 1987 Sharma took the position of Associate Professor of Religious Studies at McGill. Sharma was the first Infinity Foundation Visiting Professor of Indic Studies at Harvard and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. He currently writes blogs entitled “Indological Provocations” and “The Comparative Study of Religion”. [more]
Douglas Stone is the Carl A. Morse Professor of Applied Physics and Physics and Chair of Applied Physics at Yale. He also directs Yale’s Division of Physical Sciences. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the Optical Society, and a member of the Aspen Center for Physics. His research focuses on theoretical condensed matter and optical physics, quantum transport phenomena in disordered media, mesoscopic electron physics, non-linear and chaotic dynamics, quantum and wave chaos, quantum measurement, and quantum computing. Professor Stone was one of the first theorists to emphasize the novel properties of mesoscopic systems which differentiate them from macro and micro systems. His most recent publication in the History of Science is “Einstein’s Unknown Contribution to Quantum Theory”, a chapter in Einstein for the 21st Century, Princeton University, P. Galison, Ed. [more]