María Lacalle, director of the Expanded Reason Institute, was in charge of inaugurating the Congress in its fifth edition under the title “The human being in contemporary science“. During her speech, she said that there is a great responsibility in today’s world to make science more human and to work for the unity of knowledge without avoiding difficulties. He referred to John Paul II when he exhorted to study serious contemporary problems such as human dignity, the promotion of justice, the protection of nature, the search for peace and a new economic order that better serves the community. Research, in his view, must go to the root of the problems by seeking creative solutions.
ROUND TABLE DISCUSSIONS
Education: a path to meaning
The first round table discussion entitled “Education: a path towards meaning” focused on reflection on integral education. The focus of the discussion, led by John Slattery, Curtis Baxter, James Arthur, Verónica Fernández and moderated by Antonio Sastre, was education as a broad concept, going beyond mere instruction and transmission of knowledge, aimed at accompanying the student on the path to fulfillment, developing all his or her dimensions in order to achieve happiness. An education, therefore, aimed at asking ultimate questions that affect the core of existence, since, although in the classroom it may seem that there is indifference, in the heart of each student there is often a longing for answers.
The wonder of the world through quantum physics and ecology
The second round table discussion of the congress, entitled “The wonder of the world through quantum physics and ecology”, was led by Michael Taylor and Javier Sánchez Cañizares.
Michael Taylor proposes to discover the metaphysics of the gift in order to appreciate the beauty of creation. In philosophical terms, wonder demonstrates the humility that one must have before reason, because it exposes oneself to an overabundant objective reality that becomes intelligible. He explained that the world communicates truth and beauty so that the human being receives the gift of wonder and this, precisely, reminds us that man is limited, but that he can also embrace a portion of reality.
Javier Sánchez Cañizares remarked that the astonishment of the scientist comes from living in a world that is not chaotic, from knowing that in a few seconds it will not explode into a thousand pieces, since there are a series of stable patterns. “It is part of the sense of mystery,” said Professor Sánchez Cañizares, but not as an excess that shows the human limits, but as an astonishment about the ability to understand how the processes of nature work, something that Albert Einstein himself recognized.
Are we physically and psychologically determined? Neuroscience and Psychology in dialogue
The third round table was held under the title “Are we physically and psychologically determined? Neuroscience and psychology in dialogue“. To answer the question of whether the human being is physically and psychologically determined, Paul Vitz presented a Catholic Christian metamodel in which he defends free will from three points of view: the way in which life can be known (experience of conscience), the choice of the therapeutic process to develop the virtues, and the spiritual life it entails (soul capable of choosing God).
Therese Lysaught has discovered with her fellow researchers where the idea of neuroscience being determined comes from. They realized that there was a correlation between economics and virtue, because if there was prosperity it was because of being virtuous, so that a whole cultural anthropology was rooted in the most recent version of homo economicus. And, furthermore, they found that there was an assumption of biological determination, based on medication and the reduction of psychological problems to a genetic issue, which departs from the person-centered model and neglects the social context. For this reason, he encouraged the creation of open spaces that address pertinent questions and establish an interdisciplinary dialogue.
Biology and biotechnology at the service of
the human question
The fourth round table of the Congress was entitled “Biology and Biotechnology at the service of the human question”. One of the first topics was the impact of a new genetic engineering tool (CRISPR) that makes it possible to modify the genome and correct alterations responsible for serious diseases. The thesis of Maureen Condic‘s book is that, even if time is reduced and precision improved, it is alarming to use human embryos because they are destroyed and the composition of a person is changed: “There is no precise information on the influence of this tool on people and the negative effects cannot be anticipated”.
On interspecies chimeras, known as hybrids between animal and human, Professor Condic explained that creating an entity without a clear ontological status is reason enough to reject it: “The fact of incorporating cells, both in reproduction and in the brain, raises serious ethical and philosophical problems, it is impossible to know where the animal begins to stop being human or the other way around”. On the subject of abortion, he declared that the embryo is a scientifically proven human being and there is an increasing scientific consensus on the presence of human life in the first weeks of embryonic gestation.
The Awards Ceremony, which concluded the Expanded Reason Congress, brought together the winners of the IV and V editions who, due to the pandemic, were unable to receive their awards in previous years.
The Chancellor of the University Francisco de Vitoria, Daniel Sada, and the Executive Secretary of the Vatican Foundation Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, Pierluca Azzaro, gave welcoming remarks in which they congratulated the winners and stressed the importance of the mission of the Expanded Reason Awards in the university world as a service to society.
The winners of both editions took the podium to receive their awards and thanked their universities and institutions of origin and their work teams. They all emphasized that the fruit of their work would not have been possible without their teams and related communities.
THE WINNERS AND THEIR WORKS
Teaching Character Virtues – A Neo-Aristotelian Approach
James A. Arthur (University of Birmingham).
Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person: Integration of Psychology and Mental Health Practice
Paul C. Vitz, William J. Nordling and Craig Steven Titus (Divine Mercy University).
Human Embryos. Human Beings . A Scientific and Philosophical Approach
Samuel B. Condic (University of St. Thomas, Houston) and Maureen L. Condic (University of Utah).
What’s the matter? Toward a neo-Aristotelian ontology of nature
William M. R. Simpson (University of Cambridge).
Science for seminaries
John Slattery, Curtis L. Baxter, Katharine Hinman and Jennifer J. Wiseman (American Association for the Advancement of Science).
What it means to be human: the case for the body in public bioethics
Carter Snead (University of Notre Dame)
Biopolitics after neuroscience: morality and the economy of virtue
Jeffrey Bishop (Saint Louis University / Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics), Andrew Michel (Vanderbilt University School of Medicine) and Therese Lysaught (Loyola University Chicago).
The foundations of nature: metaphysics of gift for an integral ecological ethic
Michael Dominic Taylor (Edith Stein Philosophy Institute / International Laudato Si´Institute)
The Gospel of Hapiness
Christopher Kaczor (Loyola Marymount University)