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December 17, 2005, 12:00 PM

Origin, Evolution and the Future of Life on Earth

Participants: Christian de Duve, James P. Ferris, Colin McGinn, Edward Nersessian (moderator), Mark Norell, Robert Pollack

How did life begin? What were its earliest forms? Where did it originate? Was it chance or inevitable? Is a biochemical understanding sufficient to explain creation? How did early molecules evolve into today's humans? What can be said about the development of the mind? What of the phenomenon of consciousness? Can culture, civilization, and technology influence evolution in the future, or will Darwinian rules alone prevail? What dangers lie ahead? Can data from other planets help answer questions about the beginnings of life?

These and other questions are examined in this roundtable, whose participants come from a wide variety of disciplines -- biochemistry, paleontology, philosophy, science and religion.

Christian de Duve is the 1974 Nobel Prize winner in medicine and the author of Singularities.

James P. Ferris is Director of the New York Center for Studies of the Origin of Life at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is former Editor of Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere and former Chair of the NASA Exobiology Advisory Committee. He is the recipient of the Oparin Medal for the Study of the Origin of Life.

Colin McGinn is a philosopher (consciousness, intentionality, imagination) and author of The Character of Mind and Problems in Philosophy: The Limits of Inquiry.

Mark Norell is Chairman and Curator of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. He is co-author of Discovering Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Lessons of Prehistory.

Robert Pollack is Professor of Biological Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Religion, and Lecturer in Psychiatry at Columbia University. He is Director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia University and author most recently of The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith: Order, Meaning and Free Will in Modern Science. He also edits books and reviews on aspects of molecular biology.


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