Baylor Philosophy Conference Focuses on U.S., Russian Perspectives on Science and Human Nature

November 5, 2008

Baylor University will host scholars from across the United States and Russia for the Society of Christian Philosophers' fifth international conference, which focuses on "Science and Human Nature: Russian and Western Perspectives." The conference will be held Thursday, Nov. 6, through Saturday, Nov. 8, at Armstrong Browning Library. Several Baylor offices including the department of philosophy, the Institute for Faith and Learning, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost are co-sponsoring the event.

The conference provides a forum for cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural discussions. Scholars from the philosophy, religion and natural science fields will have an opportunity to examine the intersection of these areas. Additionally, having both American and Russian scholars together will allow for an additional layer of dialogue.

"This conference, like the four preceding it, improve cultural understanding on a number of levels," said Dr. Michael Beaty, chair of the department of philosophy at Baylor. "The fields of science and religion and the western and American cultures existed for many decades in relative isolation. The end of the Cold War has reopened the possibility for dialogue between scholars with diverse cultural background and academic training."

The conference is significant in that it fosters the introduction of western philosophy into the Russian philosophical climate.
"Most philosophical scholarship in Russia has been dominated by Marxist thought, which sets aside religious concerns. Theological scholarship within the Russian Orthodox Church perceived Western philosophy with some skepticism. This conference helps to improve understanding and dialogue in these areas," Beaty added.
Hosting the international conference includes cultural outings that strengthen the camaraderie between the cultures and academic areas. This is critical to creating an environment that allows for the exchange of ideas in a friendly environment.
"We learned from previous conferences that an outing such as this helps to increase interaction of participants during the conference," Beaty said.
Topics slated for presentation at the conference include recent genetic research on human origins, the function of consciousness on certain brain functions, evolutionary origins of moral and religious inclinations versus divine revelation and the interaction of free will with neuroscience and behavior.
"The Society for Christian Philosophers launched this series of conferences to promote important discussions not just among academic fields but among cultures as well. By hosting this event, Baylor is able to play a critical role in facilitating critical engagement between religious thought and its philosophical, religious and social implications," Beaty said.