Thursday, August 27, 2009

An American in Rimini

"[...] But if there was a less political, more cultural response–one that saw itself as intellectual but not esoteric, religious but not parochial, maybe an American version of the Meeting would be possible. It’s hard to imagine today, but there is no question that America would be a richer, more vibrant and more decent place as a result."

Peter Beinart in Traces Magazine, October 2000

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Here is a small taste taken from the meeting:

Marco Bersonelli, moderator of the panel discussion, "Science: The Human Experience of Discovery," just one of many, many interesting presentations, discussions, talks, musical performances and art displays on offer this year at the (free) Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, held annually for thirty years and offered by the Movement of Communion and Liberation. Here is an excerpt for the press release for "Science: The Human Experience of Discovery":

The encounter of the 26th at 5pm in the Auditorium B7 is an exceptional occasion. The speakers that discuss about the topic of knowledge in the field of science, are two Nobel prizes for physics, the 2006 John Mather, senior astrophysicist at the observational Cosmology Laboratory of Nasa's goddard Space Flight center, and the 1964 Nobel Charles Townes, professor at the Sapce Science laboratory of the University of California Berkeley, and also the great paleoanthropologist Yves Coppens, professor emeritus at the Collège de France.

“We are not here to speak abstractly – the moderator Marco Bersanelli, professor of astrophysics enters immediately into the topic – instead we want to see from inside which kind of size of reason a scientific discovery requires and we want to discover it through the testimony of who lives it personally”. “What is the contents of your discoveries – Bersanelli asks to the three scientists – what happened and which factors have let you to make them?”.

Coppens, the discoverer of Lucy, the famous skeleton of hominid found in Ethiopia in the 1974, tells his experience: “The discovery of Lucy has came through a long series of events, or better, an event in series”. That is his narration of the founding of the first bones, day after day, until the unexpected discovery. “After that we have found 52 bones we have thought that, for the first time, they could belong to the same skeleton, an hominid lived 3,2 millions of years ago. Then – Coppens continues – the founding of the emibasin, that has made us to hypothesize that it was a girl, the study of the weigh, of articulations and of her plausible behaviors. From an event to another everyday we have discovered something new” [...] Read the rest here: Science the Human Experience of Discovery

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."