Tuesday, March 18, 2008


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Mar. 14, 2008EDITORIAL CONTACT: Gina Logue, 615-898-5081

SCHOLARS DISCUSS NEXUS OF SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY AT MTSU Depth of Human Soul and Breadth of Interplanetary Cosmos Topics of Dialogue

(MURFREESBORO) – “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 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.” R. Neil Scott, associate professor of the library, and Bill Black, administrative services librarian, Shapiro and Wulfsberg established the MTSU Forum on Science and Spirituality with an eye to fostering greater discussion of the issues. He says he is confident that this event will help the forum to raise grant funds for more programs in the future. “Our plan for next year is to focus on neurotheology and what the study of consciousness can tell us about the nature of the human soul,” Shapiro says. “This is exciting stuff, and MTSU has the chance to really make a name for itself in this area. I hope we take advantage of it.”
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The James E. Walker Library serves as ground zero for the symposium, says Scott. He says he hopes the library’s efforts to support the symposium will grow in credibility, attracting grant money and possibly resulting in a permanent center on science and spirituality. “One of the missions or goals of the library is to partner with other departments and schools on campus and do things in a collegial way,” Scott says. The library is sponsoring monthly brown bag lunches to provide what Scott calls “a non-intimidating informal atmosphere for people interested in scientific and spiritual issues to talk.” Last month, Dr. Eric Klumpe talked about “dark matter” and the origin of the universe. This month at 11:20 a.m. on Tuesday, March 18, Shapiro will present “Who Are We: A View from the Center of the Universe” in the library’s fourth floor conference room. In addition to the public lecture on March 27th, Primack and Abrams will speak to astronomy classes taught by Klumpe and Dr. Ronald Henderson and religion classes taught by Shapiro. The authors also are slated to attend the Friday, March 28 “Star Party” at 6:30 p.m. in Room 102 of the Wiser-Patten Science Building. Outdoor telescope observation, weather permitting, will follow Primack’s “Star Party” lecture. The “Star Party” is free and open to the public. 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 Scott or Bill Black at the Walker Library at 615-898-2772.


ATTENTION, MEDIA: For color jpegs of Dr. Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams, or to view excerpts from their DVD, contact Gina Logue in the MTSU Office of News and Public Affairs at 615-898-5081 or gklogue@mtsu.edu.

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