Institute on Religion in an Age of Science 
How Can We Know? Co-Creating Knowledge in Perilous Times

June 25, 2016 to July 2, 2016

What does knowing and living reliably and humanely now require of us – as persons, communities, institutions and whole societies? How do we know that these are perilous times? How do we know what is to be done?

Does knowing evolve from imagining? How do religious, scientific and secular traditions differ? What are the biological foundations of morality? What might “know yourself” really mean? What have we been missing in the science/religion dialogue? These are not abstract questions. Our fate –global, societal and personal– hangs on them. The reason, of course, is that which we commit to do and become is largely a function of what we think we actually know. Given the destructive culture wars of our time –ecological, economic, societal, political and personal– we simply cannot afford to agree to disagree on what is to be taken as reliably known.

Rather, we need dialogues that foster personal and shared learning; we must explore afresh the nature and demands of reliable knowing. Tensions –between differing ways of comprehending that underlie the sciences and those of other historical, cultural and religious perspectives– often inhibit working together for human and planetary well-being. Pointing to the rapid progress and obvious power of the natural sciences, many assume that only the scientific method fosters reliable ways of knowing. Many scientists as well as others, who emphasize the ambiguities of history and the co-creative power of persons and communities, disclaim such a contention They emphasize the need for a thorough-going self-critical awareness.

How Can We Know? Co-creating Knowledge in Perilous Times –the 2016 IRAS Summer Conference has been designed to explore the above focal question in light of the emerging conditions of our early 21st Century. The narrative arc of the week and the daily rhythms of the conference are intended to enable participants to test and expand their own understandings of what it is to know more reliably and live more coherently. We will create an open and respectful atmosphere conducive to dialogue and shared learning among persons with diverse backgrounds.

Each of the main plenary sessions will be centered around a dialogue: first, between two invited speakers and then among all participants. The conference will also include a few selected papers, several workshops and small collaborative groups, and will employ a variety of creative formats. This is an exceptional opportunity to get away from daily routines long enough to engage in deep and transformative learning; to participate in respectful dialogue informed by scientific, religious, spiritual and philosophical insights.

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