From August 4th to 8th, 2014, the Institute of Philosophy at the Universidad Austral organized the II Interdisciplinary Research Week «Determinism and Indeterminism: From Biology to Philosophy,» which took place at the Pilar Campus. This week is part of a three-year project funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which began last year and aims to study the impact of new scientific discoveries on issues related to the determinism/indeterminism of nature, promoting interdisciplinary work among Spanish-speaking scientists, philosophers, and theologians.
The week began with two public lectures, one by Dr. Miguel de Asúa (National University of San Martín, Argentina) titled «Beyond Darwin» and the other by Dr. Rafael Vicuña (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile) on «The Origin of Life on Earth.»
On Monday and Tuesday afternoons, Prof. Francisco Güell (University of Navarra, Spain) conducted the seminar «Developmental Biology and Characterization of Living Beings: Scientific Exposure and Open Philosophical Issues» for a diverse group of biologists, physicists, philosophers, and theologians.
The main activity of the week was the three-day Workshop, which was structured into six working sessions (two per day) and invited a rich dialogue among more than 30 participants from eight countries. The Workshop began with a dialogue between two speakers (one from the field of science and another from philosophy or theology) based on a trigger question, followed by a discussion with the other participants. On Wednesday, philosophers questioned scientists about the epistemological foundations of their discipline. In this case, Dr. Mariano Asla (Universidad Austral, Argentina) engaged in a dialogue with Dr. Valeria Cantó-Soler (John Hopkins University, United States) on the following questions: Do physics and biology understand the notion of determinism in the same way? How does biological determinism relate to physicalism and reductionism?
In the afternoon, Dr. Héctor Velázquez Fernández (Universidad Panamericana, Mexico) and Dr. Guillermo Folguera (CONICET – University of Buenos Aires, Argentina) discussed the topic of evolutionary, systemic, and organizational explanations of biological complexity and their implications for a deterministic or indeterministic view of biological phenomena.
On the second day of the Workshop, biologists questioned philosophers, and the working sessions focused on the concept of information in biology and its relationship with determinism. Dr. Ángela Suburo (Universidad Austral, Argentina) engaged in a dialogue with Dr. María Cerezo (University of Murcia, Spain) about genetic determination, epigenetic factors, and the space they leave for indeterminacy. In the afternoon, Dr. Marta Bertolaso (Università Campus Biomedico, Rome) and Dr. Francisco Güell (University of Navarra, Spain) discussed biological complexity within an indeterministic framework.
On the last day, philosophers and theologians were questioned by scholars from the exact sciences about the origin of the universe and God’s providential action. In the morning, Dr. Rafael Vicuña (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile) and Dr. Rafael Martínez (Pontificia Università della Santa Croce, Italy) discussed the question of whether divine intervention is necessary or not in the emergence of life from the inorganic. In the afternoon, Dr. Ignacio Silva (University of Oxford, United Kingdom) and Dr. Jorge Aquino (Universidad Austral, Argentina) engaged in a dialogue about divine creative action and its relationship with the notion of contingent evolution, including elements of chance. Can divine providence cause through the random mutations proposed by the theory of evolution?