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Anindita N. Balslev
Solomon Katz
F. LeRon Shults
Featured Session – On Compassion


Compassion has become an increasingly popular theme in recent years both among scholars (and practitioners) involved in the broader science and religion dialogue and among those participating in the dialogue among religions.

This session introduces and welcomes feedback on a proposal for intentionally bringing together scientists and religionists around this shared interest by organizing a special session on compassion at the Parliament of World Religions (Melbourne, December 2009), sponsored by the International Society of Science and Religion and Metanexus Institute.

Compassion, Science and the Religions. The session will begin with an introduction by Solomon Katz, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and board member of each of the three main organizations involved in planning the event. Professor Katz will outline the history of the convergence up to this point, and the general contours of the proposal.

The Emergence of Compassion. This will be followed by a presentation by LeRon Shults on a related project planned for May 2009 in Lesbos, Greece, on the conditions (scientific and religious) that facilitate the emergence of empathic care-giving agency across boundaries such as religion, race, class and gender. This is part of a broader project on Transforming Compassion sponsored by Stiftelsen Arkivet, an institute for peace-building in Norway. Dr. Shults is scientific director of the project at Arkivet, and professor of theology and philosophy at the University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway.

Compassion as a Common Value. A third formal presentation will be made by Anindita Balslev, who collaborates with several National Institutes. Professor Balslev has conducted significant research on compassion and directs programs on 'cross-cultural conversation' (CCC), with focuses on dialogue of science and religion, meeting of cultures, and the encounter of world-religions. She will describe some of her work and report on a recent conference on compassion in Hamburg, Germany, where she served as co-host.

Panel Discussion. In addition to the three speakers, the panel will include some other experts on compassion attending the conference and members of the Metanexus Institute. This will be an open conversation, inviting questions on any of the presentations as well as concerns or suggestions about next steps for preparing for Melbourne in 2009.

Dr. Anindita N. Balslev is at present Associate Research Professor at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Copenhagen. She has served on the Advisory board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (DOSER) and has been an invited speaker at several science-religion programs organized by the Smithsonian Institution, the Institute for Religion in the Age of Science, Georgetown University, and AAAS and has contributed to their publications. With educational and professional experience in India, France, USA and Denmark, she works in the areas of both Indian and Western philosophy. She is deeply engaged in consciousness studies and has actively promoted cross-cultural conversation, dialogue of science and religion and encounter of world-religions. She has published many papers in professional journals and is the author of A Study of Time in Indian Philosophy (Germany, 1983/India 1999); Cultural Otherness: Correspondence with Richard Rorty (USA, 1999). She is also the co-editor of Religion and Time (The Netherlands, 1993), and the editor of Cross-Cultural Conversation (USA, 1996).

Dr. Solomon Katz is director of the Krogman Center for Childhood Growth and Development at the University of Pennsylvania.  Katz is also a leading expert on the anthropology of food.  His work in the field of science and religion spans 30 years with leadership in the Institute for Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS), in which he served as president from 1981 to 1984, and as associate editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.  Katz is a past president of the Metanexus Institute Board of Directors and also serves on the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and serves on several committees including 'The Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion.’  He is editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Food published by Scribners.

F. LeRon Shults is Professor of Theology at the Institute for Religion, Philosophy, and History at the University of Agder.  He earned his BA in Religion and Philosophy from Roberts Wesleyan College in 1985, his MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1987, his PhD in Education from Walden University in 1991, and his PhD in Theology and Philosophy from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1998.  He was a faculty research fellow at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in 1998 and at Oxford University from 2003-2005. He has published numerous books and articles, given many scholarly lectures and presentations, and currently has three books in progress.


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