Copernicus Center Lecture 2012

2012 Copernicus Center Lecture, "On the nature of cosmology today," will be delivered by George F. R. Ellis. He is a cosmologist, mathematician, philosopher of science as well as researcher of the relationship between science and religion, currently Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Copernicus Center Lecture 2012 will be held on the first day of the Conference in the Aula of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, Sławkowska Str. 17, Kraków.

Previous Lectures

Copernicus Center Lecture 2011
Joseph LeDoux, Our emotional brains
Copernicus Center Lecture 2010
Sir Roger Penrose, Aeons before the Big Bang
Copernicus Center Lecture 2009
Francisco Ayala, Evolution of the Universe - Evolution of Life

Welcome to the website of the 16th Kraków Methodological Conference!

To date, the natural sciences provide extremely detailed description of how Universe functions by providing a set of scientific laws. These laws reflect regularities in nature and allow for the explanation and prediction of the observed phenomena. What seems to escape the power of contemporary science entirely, however, is the answer to the question of why the Universe is. Such an inquiry demands the use of a fundamental philosophical category of causality. Inasmuch as the "how" causality is associated with the determinism of scientific laws, the "why" causality reaches beyond the scientific discourse. In other words, one wishes to know why the Universe is and why it is as it is. The conference offers a unique opportunity to broaden our understanding of how to combine our vast knowledge of the laws governing the Universe in the quest for the ultimate explanation of its existence and specificity.

As George Ellis states in his famous article On the Nature of Causation in Complex Systems, the problem of causality may be found not only in the field of philosophy but also in physics and other empirical sciences:

The nature of causation is a core issue for science, which can be regarded as the move from a demon-centered world to a world based on reliable cause and effect, tested by experimental verification.

(…) Physics is the basic science, characterized by mathematical descriptions that allow predictions of physical behavior to astonishing accuracy and underlies the other sciences. The key question is whether other forms of causation such as those investigated in biology, psychology, and the social sciences are genuinely effective, or are they rather all epiphenomena grounded in purely physical causation?

(…) I will claim here that there are indeed other types of causation at work in the real world, described quite well by Aristotle's four types of causes. There are of course many contexts in which different kinds of causality are experienced: in physics and chemistry, where particles and forces interact in a way described by variational principles and symmetries; in biochemistry and cell biology, where information is important and adaptation takes place; in zoology, where purpose, planning, and anticipation are important; and in psychology and sociology, where analytic reflection, symbolic understanding, values and meaning all are causally effective.

The honorary guest of the 16th Kraków Methodological Conference will be George F.R. Ellis – cosmologist, mathematician, philosopher of science, and also researcher of the relationship between science and religion, currently Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He authored Before the Beginning: Cosmology Explained (1993), Theology, and Ethics (1996), Science in Faith and Hope: An Interaction (2004), and co-authored The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with Stephen Hawking (1973), On The Moral Nature of the Universe: Cosmology with Nancey Murphy (1996) and Flat and Curved Space Times with Ruth Williams (1998) as well. Professor Ellis has over 500 published scientific articles. In 2004 he won the Templeton Prize.
His work in cosmology, philosophy of science, and science & religion will be a point of reference of the discussion. During the conference, Professor Ellis will deliver the 2012 Copernicus Center Lecture.

The 16th Kraków Methodological Conference: The Causal Universe is a part of Copernicus Center's for Interdisciplinary Studies research project The Limits of Scientific Explanation, which is financed through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The Causal Universe Conference will be a primary event of the project at 2012. All lectures and discussions which will take place during the conference will be recorded and published online after the conference.

More information about the Copernicus Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and The Limits of Scientific Explanation project are available on the following websites: