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Seminar Explores Impact of Research into Origin of Life
Almost 100 people gathered at AAAS the evening of 13 September for a seminar entitled, "Science, Religion and the Origin of Life."
They listened as earth science professor Robert Hazen traced the history of Western inquiry into the origins of life from the idea that life is a divine miracle, to current experiments being done to produce organic molecules in environments such as those at geothermal vents deep in the oceans.
Hazen, a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Geophysical Laboratory and Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, was the key speaker at the latest in a series of seminars sponsored by the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser) (DoSER). In his talk, the scientist described the scientific community's ongoing investigation of the chemical pathways in nature that form complex organic molecules, and lead eventually to natural selection. Along the evolutionary path, Hazen said, new properties have emerged that were unanticipated, given what had come before.
John Haught (left) and Robert Hazen (right), speakers at the 13 September DoSER seminar.
Photograph by Eric Grammer.
"Many scientists in recent years have pointed out the possibility that there is a missing law of nature — a law of emergent properties (that) has yet to be quantified, but is manifestly present in natural systems," Hazen said. "From collections of atoms arise the emergent properties of materials — color, hardness, etc, which are not properties of atoms. Similarly, from collections of molecules arise the emergent properties of cellular life, and from collections of cells arise the emergent properties of consciousness and intelligence."
In his response to Hazen, Georgetown University theologian, John Haught, noted that these new frontiers of science were "a gift" to theology, according to DoSER program officer Jim Miller. "Dr. Haught suggested that the new science could serve theology as it seeks to understand the meaning of the chemical evolution of life for an understanding of God within a theistic religious context," said Miller.
The DoSER seminars, which are free and open to the public, are held in the AAAS auditorium located at 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. For information requests on seminars or other DoSER programs please send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the DoSER program is available via the AAAS Science and Policy Programs Website.