Terry Lectures Explore Cosmic Origins and Solutions to Today’s Global Problems

What if the world could agree on a shared creation story based on modern cosmology and biology? Could this help resolve the undeniable global problems we face today within the context of a new cosmic perspective?

What if the world could agree on a shared creation story based on modern cosmology and biology? Could this help resolve the undeniable global problems we face today within the context of a new cosmic perspective?

Yale University invites you to explore these questions during this year’s Dwight H. Terry Lectureship, titled “Cosmic Society: The New Universe and the Human Future.” This year’s Terry Lecturers Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack will present the emerging scientific understanding of the universe and our place in it. These multimedia lectures will include stunning astronomical videos based on actual telescopic images as well as cutting-edge computer simulations of the invisible aspects of the universe.

The 2009 Terry Lectures, which are free and open to the public, will take place October 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 4:30 p.m. in the Robert J. McNeil, Jr. Lecture Hall of the Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel St. A reception follows each lecture.

In the first of the four lectures, titled “The New Universe,” Abrams and Primack will explain the profound cultural role of a shared understanding of the universe and how we might begin to comprehend the first picture of the universe in human history that may actually be true.

The second talk, “Stardust Plus Time Equals Us,” will focus on the nature of human beings – both in the physical and metaphorical sense – and explain how we are unique creatures whose origin begins with the stars but who need a deeper understanding of time to appreciate what this means.

During the third lecture, “This Cosmically Pivotal Moment,” Abrams and Primack will demonstrate that we exist at an extraordinarily special time and that scientific models of the evolution of the universe may offer insights into how we can find solutions to global problems, including our current unsustainable growth.

The fourth and final talk, “Cosmic Society,” will present a creation story for our time, which incorporates evolution and scientific findings about the structure of the universe to explain not only the distant universe, but ourselves. This lecture will explore the possibility of integrating a shared scientific understanding of our own origin and our place in the universe into social and political arenas to re-envision the biggest challenges of our day and achieve a long-term future.

Abrams and Primack are co-authors of The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos, and have co-taught a popular course called “Cosmology and Culture” at the University of California Santa Cruz for more than a decade.

A professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz, Joel R. Primack is one of the creators of the modern picture of the universe. He specializes in the formation and evolution of galaxies and the nature of the dark matter that makes up most of the mass in the universe. He contributed to what is now called the “Standard Model” of particle physics and is one of the principal originators and developers of the theory of Cold Dark Matter, which has become the basis for the standard modern picture of structure formation in the universe. He is currently using supercomputers to simulate and visualize the evolution of the universe under various assumptions.

Nancy Ellen Abrams is an attorney and philosopher of science who has long been interested in the role of science in shaping politics and has worked in this area for the Ford Foundation and U.S. Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment. She and Primack have co-authored articles on quantum cosmology and Kabbalah, as well as numerous articles on science policy, space policy and the cultural implications of modern cosmology. Interested in science’s border with religion, Abrams has worked as a scholar to place the discoveries of modern cosmology into a cultural context and, as a writer, songwriter, and composer, to communicate their possible meanings at a deeper level. Several of her musical compositions will accompany videos shown in the Terry Lectures.

The Dwight H. Terry Lectureship, established in 1905, invites distinguished scholars to address issues concerning the ways in which scientific knowledge and philosophical insight inform religion and religion’s application to human welfare. Past Terry lecturers have included Carl Jung, Margaret Mead, Rebecca West, Marilynne Robinson and Terry Eagleton. This year is the first time the Terry lectures will be delivered by two speakers.

More information about the 2009 Terry Lectures can be found at www.yale.edu/terrylecture/thisyear.html

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Suzanne Taylor Muzzin: suzanne.taylormuzzin@yale.edu, 203-432-8555