Modern Biology and Visions of Humanity - Conference with Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and other Scientists and Personalities from the Arts, Humanities and Politics on the Role of Life Sciences in Today's

March 22, 2004

Brussels, 19 Mar 2004

Philippe BUSQUIN (EU), European Research Commissioner

Luigi Luca CAVALLI-SFORZA (IT/USA), Professor of Genetics, Stanford University

Ernst-Ludwig WINNAKER (DE), Biochemist, President of the German Research Association (DFG), Member of European Group on Life Sciences (EGLS)

22 March 2004, 12:30 (conference starts at 10:00)

Palazzo Ducale, Piazza Matteotti 9, I-16123 Genoa, Italy

This unique event will bring together scientists and leading personalities from the arts, humanities and politics. The challenge of the Genoa meeting, which is organized by the European Commission, is to reflect on the role of life sciences in today's society. How are life sciences influencing our perceptions of humankind and to what extent are they affecting our cultures and societies? How can we use our knowledge, not only to improve quality of life but also to reach a more complete understanding of what it means to be a human being?

The event is open to invited experts from many domains, plus a selected audience representing a wide spectrum of interests. The panel includes scientists, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, politicians, writers, poets and artists. Four discussion sessions, chaired by members of the European Group on Life Sciences (EGLS), will cover life sciences and the belief in progress, the challenge and limitations of reductionism* in life sciences research, life sciences and democracy and science fiction as a cultural spin-off from biological exploration.

* reductionism is the attempt to explain all biological processes by the same explanations (e.g. physical laws) that chemists and physicists use to interpret inanimate matter

The conference programme is available below, conference languages are IT, EN, FR, DE.

For a detailed programme with background information (in four languages) please see: rences/2004/biology/index_en.html.

Book launch

Coinciding with the event, a book entitled "Modern Biology and Visions of Humanity" will be published simultaneously by three different European publishers in English, French and Italian. The book will be presented at the press conference. The authors of original contributions to the theme of the conference are Evandro Agazzi (IT), Sophie Bessis (FR), Christopher Bigsby (UK), Massimiano Bucchi (IT), Carl Djerassi (AT, USA), Gilbert Hottois (BE), Axel Kahn (FR), Karin Knorr Cetina (DE), Ladislav Kovác (SK), Helga Nowotny (CH), Steven P. R. Rose (UK), Marilyn Strathern (UK), Fraser Watts (UK) and Lewis Wolpert (UK).

EN: Modern Biology and Visions of Humanity, Multiscience Publishing Co. Ltd. (UK), ISBN 0-9065-2230-7 (

IT: Biologia moderna e visioni dell'umanità, (I), Centro Stampa Ateneo (Casa Editrice "La Sapienza"), ISBN 8-8872-4238-0 (

FR: Biologie moderne et visions de l'humanité, De Boeck Université (B), ISBN 2-8041-4535-2 (

Additional information for journalists:

  • A press event (conference and media lunch) will take place during lunch time between 12:30 and 14:00 in the SALA DEL MINOR CONSIGLIO in the PALAZZO DUCALE.
  • The European Group on Life Sciences (EGLS) was established in April 2000 for high-level advice on the state and development of life sciences and biotechnologies, to engage scientists in a debate about life sciences with all groups of society and to encourage the dissemination of the new knowledge. For further information, please see ife-sciences/egls/index_en.html.

Practical information: rences/2004/biology/pract_information_en .html.

Media Contacts

If you would like to receive more specific information about the conference or the book, please contact:
Michael H. Wappelhorst, Press and information officer
Information and communication Unit, Research DG, European Commission
Tel: +32.2.298 75 75, Fax: +32.2.295 82 20, E-Mail: Michael.Wappelhorst @


Monday, 22 March 2004

10h00 Opening

Philippe Busquin (BE, European Commissioner for Research)

Victor de Lorenzo (ES, European Group on Life Sciences)

Session 1: Life sciences and the belief in progress

Co-Chairs: Leonardo Santi (IT) – Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker (DE)

10:20 Challenge 1: Axel Khan (FR, biologist and ethician)

10:50 Challenge 2: Evandro Agazzi (IT, philosopher)

11:20 Panel discussion: • Fotis Kafatos (GR, biologist) • Gilbert Hottois (BE, philosopher) • Dan Sperber (FR, cognitive scientist) • Karin Knorr Cetina (DE, sociologist) • Federico Mayor Zaragoza (ES, biochemist) • Anne Fagot-Largeault (FR, philosopher and physician) • Helga Nowotny (CH, sociologist of science)

12:30 Press Conference + Press Lunch

12:30 - 14:30 Lunch break

Session 2: The challenge and limitations of reductionism in life sciences research

Co-Chairs: Victor de Lorenzo (ES), Patrick Cunningham (IE)

14:30 Challenge 1: Marilyn Strathern (UK, anthropologist)

15:00 Challenge 2: Luigi Luca Cavalli Sforza (IT, USA, biologist)

15:30 Panel discussion:• Denis Duboule (CH, biologist) • Steven Rose (UK, neurobiologist) • Cyril Hoeschl (CZ, psychiatrist) • Fraser Watts (UK, theologist) • Jeffrey Gray (UK, neuropsychologist) • Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (DE, philosopher)

23 March 2004 (Tuesday)

Session 3: Life Sciences and Democracy

Co-Chairs: Hans Wigzell (SE), Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (DE)

10:00 Challenge 1: Lewis Wolpert (UK, scientist)

10:30 Challenge 2: Gianni Vattimo (IT, philosopher, Member of the European Parliament)

11:00 Panel discussion:• Ladislav Kovac (SK, biologist and former Minister) • Sophie Bessis (FR, journalist) • Massimiano Bucchi (IT, sociologist)

12:15 - 13:45 Lunch break

Session 4: Science Fiction: the cultural spin-offs from the life sciences

Co-Chairs: Nadia A. Rosenthal (IT), Philippe Kourilsky (FR)

13:45 Challenge 1: Inez de Beaufort (NL, philosopher)

14:15 Challenge 2: Carl Djerassi (AT, USA, writer and scientist)

14:45 Challenge 3: Ronald Plasterk (NL, biologist)

15:15 Panel discussion: Christopher Bigsby (UK, Professor of American studies, writer and broadcaster) • James J. Bono (USA, science historian) • Edoardo Sanguineti (IT, poet)

16:30 Conclusions: Halldór Stefánsson (IS, social anthropologist)

16:35 Final address by one EGLS member

16:50 End of the meeting

DG Research ndex_en.html
Item source: /2004/pr1903en.cfm

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