Astrobiology & Theology: A Discussion

Dates: June 18, 2014
Location: Washington, DC

Discoveries of new, potentially habitable worlds beyond our solar system raise challenging questions for humanity in relation to faith, human nature, reality and religion. The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress will address the complex intersection of astrobiology and theology in a discussion on June 18.

The program will feature the Kluge Center’s current Astrobiology Chair Steven J. Dick in conversation with prominent theologian Robin Lovin. “Astrobiology & Theology: A Discussion” will start at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 18 in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. SE, Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed.

“Thousands of planets are being discovered beyond our solar system, some of them Earth-sized and in the habitable zone of their parent star,” said Dick, the current Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology. “The question arises of the impact on society if evidence of microbial or complex life is found. Of all the possible consequences, the effect on our theologies is among the most interesting in terms of impact on the broad population.”

A well-known astronomer, author and historian of science, Dick’s research at the Library of Congress investigates the ramifications of the search for and potential discovery of simple or complex organisms beyond Earth. He most recently testified before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology about astrobiology and the search for bio-signatures in our solar system.

Prior to holding the astrobiology chair at the Kluge Center, he was the chair in aerospace history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and served as the chief historian for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 2003 to 2009. Dick’s publications include “Discovery and Classification in Astronomy: Controversy and Consensus” (2013), “Many Worlds” (2000), “The Biological Universe: The Twentieth Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science” (1999), and “The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology” co-authored with James E. Strick (2005).

Lovin is director of research at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, N.J. A prominent theologian who has written extensively on religion, law and comparative religious ethics, Lovin is the most recent holder of the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the Kluge Center.

One of the world’s foremost Christian ethicists, Lovin formerly was the Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics at Southern Methodist University, where he had served as dean of its Perkins School of Theology. Lovin also served as Dean of the Drew University Theological School and held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and Emory University. He is the author of numerous books and papers, including most recently “An Introduction to Christian Ethics: Goals, Duties, and Virtues” (2011), “Christian Realism and the New Realities” (2008) and “Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide” (1999).

The Astrobiology Chair at the Kluge Center, established in the fall of 2011, is the result of collaboration between the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress. It is named for Baruch “Barry” Blumberg, the late Kluge Center Scholars Council member, Nobel Laureate, and founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Funded by NASA, and executed by the Kluge Center in consultation with the NASA Astrobiology Program, the chair holder conducts research at the intersection of the science of astrobiology and its humanistic and societal implications. One senior researcher is appointed annually to be in residence at The John W. Kluge Center, to make use of the Library of Congress collections in exploration of these questions, as well as to convene related programs that ensure the subject of astrobiology’s role in culture and society receives considered treatment each year in Washington, D.C.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources, and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information about the Kluge Center visit www.loc.gov/kluge/.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.