April 14, 2003

Donald Lehr - The Nolan/Lehr Group
(212) 967-8200
[email protected]


More than 50 research papers and some 20 symposiums on the scientific nature of unselfish love, creative altruism, our shared humanity, and world religion, will be presented at a conference at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, May 31 through June 5. With more than 80 keynote speakers and presenters, the gathering will be one of the first and largest conferences ever to tackle this emerging field.

Works of Love: Scientific & Religious Perspectives on Altruism, hosted by the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science in Philadelphia, marks a milestone in the nascent, rapidly expanding realm of study into the cause and effect of selfless acts of love. This initiative will bring together social scientists, neurologists, physicians, biologists, epidemiologists, theologians, philosophers, physicists, and other practitioners to focus on the perennial moral and spiritual ideal of love for all humanity without exception.

A vast array of topics will be covered during the conference, including examinations of the lives of people who demonstrate unlimited love, whether those who show compassionate love to others achieve positive health benefits, the biology and psychology of compassionate love, and perceptions of the healing power of love. Scheduled speakers include John DiIulio, the first director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the Bush White House and his successor, Jim Towey, as well as Holmes Rolston III, the 2003 Templeton Prize laureate.

For many, the hundreds of people who sought to aid others on and after September 11, 2001, sometimes at the expense of their own lives, represents the most graphic public expression of selfless love, so it is perhaps appropriate that the first presentation at the conference will be "Love at Ground Zero." Fr. Lyndon Harris of St. Paul's Chapel, the church in the shadow of the World Trade Center that has served as a spiritual home at "Ground Zero," will be part of the discussion's three-member panel along with Imam Hamad Ahmad Chebli of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey, and Stephen Post, President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love and a professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University.

(A new book by Post, Unlimited Love: Altruism, Compassion, and Service, will be published by the Templeton Foundation Press in May, along with Research On Altruism and Love: An Annotated Bibliography of Major Studies in Psychology, Sociology, Evolutionary Biology, and Theology, edited by Post, Byron Johnson, Michael E. McCullough and Jeffrey P. Schloss.)

Unselfish love, including selfless service to others, is a hallmark of virtually every one of the world's great spiritual traditions and is practiced by people from all walks of life. This overwhelming commonality, however, exists against a background of scant research and scientific knowledge. According to conference organizers, the general thrust of the Villanova gathering will be to ask how humans, with their complex brains, unique imaginations, communicative abilities, reasoning powers, moral sense, and spiritual and religious promptings, give rise to the remarkable practice of unselfish love not only for family and loved ones, but for total strangers.

"It is especially important to bring research to the theme of love for a common humanity in a time when hatred and intergroup conflict have erupted globally, and when world religious leaders must assert the ideal of universal love against insular pressures," says Dr. Post.

"Works of Love: Scientific & Religious Perspectives on Altruism" is sponsored in collaboration with the Columbia Center for the Study of Science and Religion, the Center for Research on Religion & Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania, the Fetzer Institute, the John Templeton Foundation, the Samueli Institute, and the American Teilhard Association.

More information can be found at

Sponsored by Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science
and the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love

[Metanexus Institute Logo]