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Our Place in the Cosmos?: Humanity, Spirituality, and the Awesome Universe


  • St. Thomas More College 1437 College Drive Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5B5 Canada (map)

The Saskatchewan Center for Science and Religion is hosting its second annual conference, “Our Place in the Cosmos?: Humanity, Spirituality, and the Awesome Universe.”


This conference seeks to wade into issues concerning the roles and place of humanity within the dynamic, fascinating, and sometimes awe-inspiring cosmos that comes into view via modern and after-modern science.

Conference Schedule

Conference Full Program


Keynote Speakers:

Br. Guy Consolmagno

Guy Consolmagno

Title: “This Awesome Universe”

Abstract: What does astronomy tell us about our place in the cosmos? How has our vision changed with time, and what does it mean to the human spirit to realize, tangibly, that those dots in the sky are real locations that we can touch and live on and experience and love?

Biography: Dr. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., is Director of the Vatican Observatory, a leading astronomer and meteoriticist, and a Jesuit brother. He earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona. Before entering the Jesuits in 1989, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard and MIT, served in the US Peace Corps, and taught university physics at Lafayette College. He has worked as a Vatican Observatory astronomer since 1993. Br. Consolmagno’s research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies. The author of a monthly science column for The Tablet, he has written more than 200 scientific publications and a number of popular books, including Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis), and Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (with Paul Mueller). He has also hosted science programs for BBC Radio 4, appeared in numerous documentary films, and served as chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences. In 2000, the small bodies nomenclature committee of the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid, 4597 Consolmagno, in recognition of his work. In 2014, he was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal for public outreach by the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences.

 
Jeff Baker

Jeff Baker

Title: “Achakosuk (The Stars).” (STM Auditorium)

Abstract: This presentation will refer to the night sky as seen from an Ininew (Cree) perspective Every culture had/has the capacity of contemplative intellectual thought. Observation, debate, discussion, inference, reflection, prediction, invention & varying methodologies were used to arrive at the shores of knowledge. My people saw the vast cosmos as something unimaginably awesome & our place in it a microcosm of Pamatisiwin…Life.

Biography:

Dr. Jeff Baker is a Métis educator and scholar whose work explores the tensions and creative possibilities that exist at the intersection of Indigenous and Western scientific knowledge systems. Jeff is an Assistant Professor and Chair in Indigenous Education at the University of Saskatchewan, and a proud father of his nine-year-old daughter, Ena. Jeff’s current work focuses on the roles that land, language, story and ceremony may play in fostering reconciliation between diverse peoples and knowledges, with the hope of catalyzing the emergence of more equitable and sustainable ways of living.

 
Wilfred Buck

Wilfred Buck

Title: “Achakosuk (The Stars).” (STM Auditorium)

Abstract: This presentation will refer to the night sky as seen from an Ininew (Cree) perspective Every culture had/has the capacity of contemplative intellectual thought. Observation, debate, discussion, inference, reflection, prediction, invention & varying methodologies were used to arrive at the shores of knowledge. My people saw the vast cosmos as something unimaginably awesome & our place in it a microcosm of Pamatisiwin…Life.

Biography: Wilfred Buck is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, currently employed with the MFNERC as a Science Facilitator. He obtained his B.Ed. & Post Bacc. from the University of Manitoba.

 As an educator Wilfred has had the opportunity and good fortune to travel to South and Central America as well as Europe and met, shared and listened to Indigenous people from all over the world.

He is a husband, father of four, son, uncle, brother, nephew, story-teller, mad scientist, teacher, singer, pipe-carrier, sweat lodge keeper, old person and sun dance leader.

As a Science Facilitator with MFNERC was given the mandate to “put a First Nation perspective in the sciences”. The easiest way to go about doing this, he was told, was to look up. Researching Ininew star stories Wilfred found a host of information which had to be interpreted and analyzed to identify if the stories were referring to the stars. The journey began…

“The greatest teaching that was ever given to me, other than my wife and children, is the ability to see the humor in the world”…Wilfred Buck

 
Loriliai Biernacki

Loriliai Biernacki

Title: “Feeling the Self: the Ghost in the Machine.” (STM Auditorium)

Abstract: From our current vantage in the 21st century the future appears poised to shift humanity into uncharted technological fusions. From DeepBlue to driverless cars, from dreams of immortality through downloading human consciousness into machines to prophecies of a singularity rewriting human existence in silicon, ideas of what it means to be human in a world of machines is promising radical unforeseen possibilities. This paper addresses the underlying conceptions of selfhood and soul which are the target and promise of these technological shifts, relating contemporary cognitive science perspectives of the self-framed in models of information theory to earlier Indian religious mystical conceptions of consciousness as all pervasive.

Biography: Loriliai Biernacki teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests include Hinduism, gender and the interface between religion and science. Her first book, Renowned Goddess of Desire: Women, Sex and Speech in Tantra (Oxford, 2007) won the Kayden Award in 2008. She is co-editor of God’s Body: Panentheism across the World’s Religious Traditions (Oxford 2013). She is currently working on a study on the 11th century Indian philosopher Abhinavagupta within the framework of wonder, the New Materialisms and conceptions of the body-mind interface.