Session II: How / Why This Universe?
Friday 7 October—Day One
How/Why Does This Universe Come to Exist?
Moderated by Michael Della Rocca
Session II began at 1:30 PM, following the Friday conference luncheon. George F.R. Ellis (U. Capetown Mathematics) and Michael Heller (Pontifical Academy of Theology [Cracow] Philosophy) delivered the keynote presentations for that session, followed by responses from John Hare (Yale Divinity) and Peter van Inwagen (Notre Dame Philosophy), followed by extended plenary (general) discussion. Because of a recent injury, Professor Heller has arranged to deliver his presentation via Internet link between New Haven and his home in Turnów, Poland.
This session was intended to consider the philosophical and theological implications of contemporary findings concerning the origins of our Universe. At the same time, the question may be asked, what might philosophical and theological thinking—for example, a clearer idea of the nature of existence—suggest about questions and directions of future science?
The Conference Dinner followed Session II starting at 6:00 PM, preceded by a performance by Yale’s unique undergraduate folk choir, Tangled Up in Blue. The keynote speaker at the Dinner was Denys Turner, whose work inspired the Conference theme and who led its initial development.
George F.R. Ellis, a leading theoretical cosmologist renowned for his bold and innovative contributions to the dialogue at the boundary of theology and science, and whose social writings were condemned by government ministers in the former apartheid regime of his native South Africa, won the 2004 Templeton Prize. Widely considered one of the world’s leading theorists in cosmology, he is the Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. From 1989 to 1992 he served as President of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation and is a past President of the International Society for Science and Religion. Dr. In 1999 he was awarded the Order of the Star of South Africa by Nelson Mandela, and in 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the British Royal Society. [more]
John Hare is a British classicist, philosopher, ethicist, and currently Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School. Prior to teaching at Yale, he taught at Calvin College and at Lehigh University. He has been visiting fellow in the humanities at the Medical College of Pennsylvania and visiting assistant professor at the University of Michigan. Additionally, he has been a Congressional Fellow of the American Philosophical Association and staff associate for the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives. Professor Hare has held the senior fellowship at the Center for Philosophy of Religion and Erasmus Institute at the University of Notre Dame. [more]
Michael Heller was awarded the Templeton Prize for his extensive philosophical and scientific probing of “big questions” in the interest of reconciling the “known scientific world with the unknowable dimensions of God.” He is a professor of philosophy at The Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow, Poland, and an adjunct member of the Vatican Observatory staff. He also serves as a lecturer in the philosophy of science and logic at the Theological Institute in Tarnów. A Roman Catholic priest belonging to the diocese of Tarnów, he was ordained in 1959 and is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. [more]
Peter van Inwagen is the John Cardinal O’Hara Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Previously he taught at Syracuse University. His publications have focused on metaphysics and philosophical theology. His defense of incompatibilism–the thesis that free will and determinism are incompatible–has contributed significantly to the acceptance of that thesis in analytic philosophy.
His books include: An Essay on Free Will (1983); Material Beings (1990); Metaphysics (1993); God, Knowledge, and Mystery (1995); The Possibility of Resurrection and Other Essays in Christian Apologetics (1997); Ontology, Identity, and Modality (2001); and The Problem of Evil (2006). [more]