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15 June 2004

"The Concept of Life" at the Heidelberg Life Sciences and Society Forum

All interested are welcome to attend and participate in the discussion — "Heidelberg Life Sciences and Society Forum" and Interdisciplinary Forum announce a talk by Prof. Dr. Volker Gerhardt on "The Concept of Life — A Subject for the Sciences and the Humanities"

On the 23 June 2004, the "Heidelberg Life Sciences and Society Forum" and the Interdisciplinary Forum, with financial support from the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation, invite all those interested to attend a lecture at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the Print Media Academy (Kurfürstenanlage 52-60, 69115 Heidelberg). The speaker is Prof. Dr. Volker Gerhardt of the Humboldt University of Berlin and the subject of his talk is "The Concept of Life — A Subject for the Sciences and the Humanities".

The specific occasion for this event is the 200th anniversary of the death of Immanuel Kant. His critical theory of life serves Professor Gerhardt as a starting point for reflections on the appropriate philosophical approach to the concept of life. One of the major concerns of the speaker, who teaches at the Institute of Philosophy of the Humboldt University of Berlin, is to underline the fact that philosophical contemplation of the idea of life must not be seen in opposition to a mechanical understanding of natural processes. On the contrary, here too it is necessary to proceed from the causal connections operative in nature in order to appreciate the specific correspondence rooted in life itself between the living observer and the living object of his reflections. It is this that constitutes the specific condition for an appropriate understanding of organic processes. Accordingly, his talk is addressed equally to members of society whose interests in the question are either scientific or geared to a humanities-oriented approach.

This in its turn squares precisely with the motto governing the activities of the "Heidelberg Life Sciences and Society Forum". The life sciences and their influence on our daily lives and our environment are topics of central concern in the present-day world. Equally significant are the changes they will bring about in future. Thus it is hardly surprising that the discussion sparked off by these factors occasions a great deal of controversy at very different levels. Unfortunately, however, these debates are frequently limited to individual, specialised forums. For citizens interested in these crucial matters it has been difficult to participate in a meaningful dialogue providing them with first-hand information presented in a readily comprehensible form. Over the last three years, the Life Sciences and Society Forum has organised regular lectures designed to offset this deficiency. As a location for such discussion Heidelberg is supremely well suited, given that it is the home of some of the world's leading research institutions in the field of the life sciences. As such it provides ideal conditions for the dialogue between science and society.

The Forum started its activities in 2001 and is the fruit of an initiative instituted by scientists working at the University of Heidelberg (the ZMBH Molecular Biology Centre and the Medical Faculty of the University), the European Molecular Biology Lab (EMBL) and the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ). This is now the eighth time that a scholar or scientist of international renown has given a talk on a topical research subject indicating the significance of science for society and discussing it in readily understandable terms. The lectures are angled at interested citizens, who are also given the opportunity of engaging in discussion with experts and specialists.

The co-organiser of the lecture, the Interdisciplinary Forum, is an initiative of Heidelberg recipients of grants from the Study Foundation of the German People. Since the winter semester of last year they have also organised a series of lectures on the topic of "Designer Man". In this context, as in that of the Heidelberg Forum, renowned speakers discuss crucial, controversial issues with a bearing on future developments involving science and society and advance their theories for discussion with the audience.

For more information go to
Heiko P. Wacker

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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