March 2, 2015 First Blumberg Dialogue to Focus on Astrobiology and Religion

March 18-19 at the John W. Kluge Center

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jason Steinhauer (202) 707-0213; Dan Turello (202) 707-0297
Contact: Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or
Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or

The first Blumberg Dialogue on Astrobiology, hosted by The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, will examine how recent discoveries about the origins and future of life in the universe may affect religious traditions and their various conceptions of humanity, the self, and our place in the cosmos.

The public portion of the program, titled “Astrobiology and the Religious Imagination: Reexamining Notions of Creation, Humanity, Selfhood, and the Cosmos” will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, in room LJ-119, on the first floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed. The three-part Blumberg Dialogue series is part of the Kluge Center’s ongoing Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Program, which investigates the intersection of astrobiology research with humanistic and societal concerns.

This first Blumberg Dialogue will convene seven leading scholars from the humanities and the sciences for a series of conversations on the impact of recent scientific discoveries on religious beliefs about the origins and future of life. Scholars with expertise in a range of religious traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism will participate, in addition to a planetary scientist and a planetary biologist. The scholars are:

  • Steven Benner – Distinguished Fellow, The Foundation For Applied Molecular Evolution
  • John Hart – Professor of Christian Ethics, Boston University
  • Susannah Heschel – Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College
  • Pamela Klassen – Professor, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto
  • Donald S. Lopez Jr. – Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetian Studies, University of Michigan
  • Jonathan Lunine – David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences, Cornell University
  • Ebrahim Moosa – Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Notre Dame

The seven scholars will spend March 18 and part of March 19 in seminar work examining readings and research on astrobiology and its intersections with the world’s religious traditions. Five of the scholars will then participate in the public afternoon roundtable to discuss their findings and insights. Both the seminar and the public discussion will be led by Derek Malone-France, associate professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Religion at The George Washington University, and John Baross, professor in the School of Oceanography and in the Astrobiology Program at the University of Washington.

Two additional Blumberg Dialogues will occur in May and August of 2015. Details will be posted to the Kluge Center website. The series—titled Blumberg Dialogues in honor of late Nobel Laureate Baruch “Barry” Blumberg, founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and former member of the Library of Congress Scholars Council—is held in lieu of an appointment to NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Chair in 2015. A senior scholar position at the Kluge Center, the Astrobiology Chair has been filled for the past two years through an annual competition process managed by the center. An appointment for 2016 is about to be made.

The Astrobiology Chair and the Blumberg Dialogues are the result of collaboration between the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress. Funded by NASA, and executed by the Kluge Center in consultation with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the program promotes research at the intersection of the science of astrobiology and its humanistic and societal implications. A senior researcher is appointed annually to be in residence at The John W. Kluge Center, to make use of the Library of Congress collections, as well as to convene related programs that ensure the subject of astrobiology’s role in culture and society receives considered treatment each year in Washington, D.C.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world's best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library's rich resources, and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information about the Kluge Center visit

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. As the world’s largest repository of knowledge and creativity, the Library is a symbol of democracy and the principles on which this nation was founded. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site, in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and through its award-winning website at


PR 15-033
ISSN 0731-3527