The third annual conference of the Society of Catholic Scientists will be held on June 7-9, 2019 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The conference will be co-sponsored by Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life.
The main theme of the conference will be “What Does it Mean to be Human?”
What is “human nature”? Do we even have a “nature”? To what extent is it malleable or changeable? Do human beings have fixed characteristics – or is such a concept obsolete? We are at the very outset of the Age of Biotechnology. Sequencing the human genome and learning to insert genes into bacteria was merely the beginning. The questions above are not new, but they have acquired new urgency as we enter into the next phases: the ability to acquire, utilize, and alter our genomes.
Here are some of the specific questions that will be discussed at the conference:
How does the Catholic Church define the human being?
How does modern biology define the human being as a species? More generally, in light of the genetic revolution, what is a species? What distinguishes us from the other most intelligent creatures on the planet? Are other animals conscious in the human sense?
Beyond humanity: transhumanism and Artificial Intelligence. Humans and CRISPR: Is transhumanism even possible? Can computers ever have consciousness – how would we know? Is there something special about the human brain that cannot be replicated in machines?
The limits of the human in natural history. When did ancient hominins become “human”? When and among whom did symbolic thought appear? Did Neanderthals and Denisovans have rational souls? And what is the evidence?
The limits of the human in an individual life. Can deformity, disease, or dysfunction destroy the humanity of a human being? When exactly does a human life begin and end?
As in previous SCS conferences, not all presentations will be on the main conference theme. Submitted talks and especially poster presentations will span a wide variety of topics.