By Perry West
The Society of Catholic Scientists (SCS) will hold its 2021 conference in Washington D.C. on the subject of non-human intelligence.
The conference is titled “Extraterrestrials, AI, and Minds Beyond the Human” and will take place at the Hilton Hotel from June 4-6. The event will also be live-streamed.
Conference discussions will provide scientific and theological insights on the subjects of real and hypothetical intelligences, especially extraterrestrial and artificial intelligences.
“There’ll be 13 talks. Half of the talks are going to be about extraterrestrial life, and there’s going to be talks by some big experts on that subject,” Dr. Stephen Barr, president of the Society of Catholic Scientists, told CNA.
Four of the invited speakers will discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life from their respective fields of study – astrophysics, astrochemistry, evolutionary biology, and Catholic theology.
The speakers will include Jonathan Lunine, director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science; Karin Öberg, professor of Astronomy and director of Undergraduate Studies at Harvard University; Simon Conway Morris, chair of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge; and Christopher Baglow, director of the Science and Religion Initiative of the McGrath Institute for Church Life of the University of Notre Dame.
“[Öberg is] a rising star at Harvard, a tenured professor there, she’s also a convert to the Catholic Faith. She is an expert on biochemistry that goes on in other planets,” Barr said. “There’s a lot of excitement because in recent years astronomers have discovered large numbers of planets orbiting other nearby stars. They could learn a lot about these planets – how far they are from the star, how big the planet is, even things about the chemistry of the planet in some cases.”
During the conference, the St. Albert Award Lecture will be issued by Lawrence Principe, professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University.
The conference will also include two Poster Sessions – one for presentations on the conference’s theme and another for presentations on topics such as the correlation between science and faith.