Topic of the Metanexus Conference
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Metanexus Conference
July 18 – 21, 2009
Phoenix, Arizona

DEADLINE for abstracts: January 15, 2009

No one knows for sure, but it is estimated that there are something like 1024 stars in the universe. When talking about numbers so unimaginably large, our world seems cosmically insignificant. But as far as we know, we're the only ones who count—in two senses of the word: We alone can count the stars, and it seems to count for something that we do. As Aristotle begins his Metaphysics, "All men by nature desire to know." There is something within us—manifested as it is in the entire spectrum of human endeavor, from the sciences, to philosophy, to religion, to the arts, to ethics—that demands we pursue the whole story of the whole cosmos if we are to be whole persons, in order to know who we are, where we are from, where we are going, and how we should live.

According to a recent piece in Scientific American, it seems that in about 100 billion years, scientists (if there are any) will no longer be able to detect the Big Bang. As the article poetically put it, "the runaway expansion of the cosmos by then will have blown away all evidence of the big bang like dandelion fluff into the wind." The universe will look to our counterparts in the future as if it were static. There will be no ability to detect expansion, and no way to find the cosmic microwave background radiation. Astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss notes that we only discovered dark energy because we live in a 'special' time during which its mysterious influence is neither too weak nor too strong to observe. "This is about the only time in the history of the universe when you could detect it, and that's really weird," Krauss says—a weirdness that results in our time really being an "extraordinary moment." When the big bang finally and permanently recedes, "with it will go cosmology, the study of the origin and evolution of the universe." And without understanding our origins, the "whole story" will be gone forever.

So maybe we need to gather our "cosmic" rosebuds—as well as our biological, ecological, philosophical, theological, mathematical, and whatever other rosebuds—while we may. As Carl Sagan wrote, "the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us— there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries." If we are truly to understand the cosmos and our place in it, as well as our relation to each other and to the divine, we must adopt rich transdisciplinary approaches that deeply respect yet cut across the various fields of knowledge, institutional boundaries, cultural borders, and religious traditions that frame our intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

If we wish to pursue something like the whole story of the whole cosmos for the whole person, we need to explore such questions as:

What is the state of our knowledge about our origins? What has the latest cutting edge research in cosmology, quantum physics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience to teach us about where we are in our story and where we are going? And what do we know about the end of ourselves and of everything? What do we know about the birth of the stars and the moment of our death?

Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of interest in metaphysics, in particular the metaphysics of science. Can metaphysics give us a "whole story"? Can it at least contribute to the "story" of who we are and what we know? What role does metaphysics play in helping us get our story right? Is it essential? Could it be instead, as its critics maintain, an obstacle to knowing? What is the nature of "ultimate reality"? Are there fundamentally different levels of reality? Does science give us the final truth of reality? What is "scientific realism"? What is the metaphysical status of "universals," "substance," "causes," "ontological categories," "numbers," "properties," "time," and the other terms in which science speaks to us?

To paraphrase novelist Walker Percy, "Why it is that of all the billions and billions of strange objects in the Cosmos—novas, quasars, pulsars, black holes—we are beyond doubt the strangest?" There is something inescapably "first person" about consciousness. What accounts for this? Can third-person, objective science give a complete analysis of first-person, subjective experience? And can it tell us how to live our lives, how to seek virtue, or how to live together? The human brain manifests a massive complexity, comprising about 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion (1014) synapses. But are we our brains? What can the latest developments in neuroscience, which has taken on fields from psychology to religion to economics in recent years, tell us about our deepest questions and our future prospects?

D. H. Lawrence wrote, in his Apocalypse, "We and the cosmos are one. The cosmos is a vast living body, of which we are still parts. The sun is a great heart whose tremors run through our smallest veins. The moon is a great gleaming nerve-centre from which we quiver forever. Who knows the power Saturn has over us, or Venus? But it is a vital power, rippling exquisitely through us all the time." To what degree are we relational beings? Is there an essential relation between "I" and "Other"? And do animals count as "other." Does "nature" as a whole count as "other"? Are human beings "natural," or are we, as some suggest, a "threat" to nature? And what about God? Is God the "whole" which we seek , or does God somehow belong to the "whole"? Is God, instead, beyond the whole, making the whole possible?

How might we go about a search for meaning, for what is "real and important" to ourselves? Is this a spiritual quest? A philosophical practice? An empirical exercise? A potential scientific discovery? How do we best approach this search, or are these questions somehow flawed? Is there such a thing as "natural law," and can it help us to know who we are and how to live? Is there a relation between, in Kant’s words, "the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me"?

Join us for the 10th international Metanexus Conference when philosophers, biologists, physicists, cosmologists, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, theologians, scholars in religious studies, and other researchers and educators will discuss these and other profound questions of cosmos, nature, and culture in a rapidly evolving and complex world.

Among the attendees will be representatives of the Metanexus Global Network of multidisciplinary Local Societies from more than 40 countries.

Additional Themes

Papers are invited that address the broad themes listed above, but the conference is open to critically rigorous, scientifically-, theologically-, and philosophically-informed papers on any topics that touch on profound questions of a transdisciplinary nature concerning the person and the cosmos.

Presentations by interdisciplinary or inter-institutional teams are especially welcome. Proposals for special sessions and panel discussions will be considered.

meta-THEMES: Transdisciplinary Theories, Methodologies, and Approaches
(theories of transdisciplinarity, systems theory, integral theory, constructing transdisciplinary research programs, pluralist methodologies, epistemology and transdisciplinarity, integrating scientific and non-scientific knowledge, the logic(s) of transdisciplinarity, developing standards of rigor for transdisciplinary studies, deontology of transdisciplinarity, poetics of transdisciplinarity)
nexus-THEMES: Profound Questions, Pressing Issues:
Exploring levels of reality
Metaphysics of science from a transdisciplinary perspective
System, identity, and transcendence (scientific, philosophical, and religious perspectives)
The role of natural science in the pursuit of wisdom
Healing the person, healing the earth: integral or holistic approaches to spirituality and health
Cosmic evolution and the future of humanity
Transdisciplinarity and institutions (educational and otherwise)
Transdisciplinary approaches to understanding human/nature interactions
Metascience, or the possibility of post-postmodern metaphysics
Reductionism, naturalism, nominalism—are there viable alternatives?
Scientific and religious perspectives on cosmology
Issues in emergence and complexity
Infinity—logic, mathematics, cosmology, theology
Issues in continental and/or analytic philosophy of science
Transdisciplinary solutions to energy policy
Fruits of the earth: food and water
The physics and biology of consciousness
Scientific and metaphysical realism
Space, time, and subjectivity
Minds, brains, and programs
Can there be a transhumanist future?
Continental philosophy on possibility and reality
The biology of religion
Creation and creativity
Prospects for the unity of knowledge
Theology and naturalism
Does science need a new poetics—the ART of science?
Pan(en)theism and natural science
Is there really an "anthropic principle"?
Biology, physics, and freedom

DEADLINE for abstracts: January 15, 2009

Some of the speakers at previous Metanexus conferences include:

Nancy Ellen Abrams
Mahmoud Ayoub
Ian G Barbour

Stephen Barr
Mario Beauregard
Arthur Caplan

John D. Caputo
Bruce Chilton
Philip Clayton

Roy Clouser
John DiIulio
George F. R. Ellis

Ursula Goodenough
John F. Haught
Philip Hefner

Gail Ironson
Antje Jackel&覡n
Byron Johnson

Robert Kane
Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Timur Kuran

Nancey Murphy
Meera Nanda
Jacob Neusner

Andrew Newberg
Basarab Nicolescu
Ronald L. Numbers

Robert Pollack
Stephen Post
Joel Primack

Robert D. Putnam
Tariq Ramadan
Holmes Rolston III

Pauline Rudd
Norbert M. Samuelson
Jeffrey P. Schloss

Martin Seligman
B&覴lent Senay
Magda Stavinschi

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
Esther Sternberg
Marijan Sunjic

Hava Tirosh-Samuelson
Charles Hard Townes
George E. Vaillant

J. Wentzel van Huyssteen
David Sloan Wilson
Amos Yong


A NOTE ABOUT PRESENTATION OF THESE PAPERS: All abstracts submitted for Metanexus Conference 2009 will be evaluated in a blind review process under the direction of the Metanexus Institute Academic Board (see

All accepted papers and presentations are to be submitted in advance in final form and will be posted and publicly accessible on the Metanexus Conference Web site. Abstracts will also be printed in the conference reader. All authors of accepted papers and presentations will be required to sign a release allowing Metanexus to record their contributions (audio, video, powerpoint, etc.) to the conference for later use by Metanexus.

The goal in this conference is not simply to present papers, but to meet and network with creative persons from around the world. The hope is to learn from each other, to try out new ideas on a welcoming yet critically astute audience, to provide inspiration towards further research and exploration, and to generate a synergy that will have effects long after the conference is over. As this is a transdisciplinary conference, attendees will represent various academic fields and specialties. Papers should be crafted with this multidisciplinary scholarly audience in mind.

To be considered for a paper presentation at the conference, please submit ALL of the following in ENGLISH in THREE SEPARATE FILES:

FILE # 1: A COVER SHEET that lists the author(s) full name(s), name of institution(s), complete postal address, telephone number(s), and email address, along with the PAPER TITLE.
FILE # 2: A 200 word BIOGRAPHY for each author of the paper, written in third-person form (“She is professor…” rather than “I am professor…”). Please include your current job title or academic position.
FILE # 3: An ABSTRACT of between 1000 and 1200 words. Please adhere to the following guidelines:
The abstract MUST NOT CONTAIN ANY SELF-REFERENCES, in order to facilitate blind review.
All submission elements MUST BE SENT VIA EMAIL AS ATTACHMENTS. All files must be in .DOC or .RTF format only. No other file extensions (.pdf, .odf, .tex, .pages, etc.) will be accepted.
NOTE: We cannot accept any cover sheets, bios, or abstracts in the body of email messages.


DEADLINE for submitting abstract and biography is January 15, 2009.

Authors submitting abstracts will be notified of acceptance decision by March 15, 2009.

DEADLINE for completed versions of SELECTED papers is June 15, 2009.

Further instructions will be sent to presenters upon selection.

LENGTH LIMIT OF FULL PAPERS: 10,000 words (approximately 20 single-spaced 8.5” X 11” typed pages in 12 pt. Arial or Times New Roman font).

READING TIME: approximately 25 minutes, followed by up to 5 minutes of question and answer.

Please submit files containing cover sheets, abstracts, bios, and (if selected) completed papers as attachments via email to . Please use subject line: “CONFERENCE 2009 PAPERS”.