May 29, 2006

Professors to tackle age-old questions at Foundation Forum

By Louise Donahue

Three noted UC Santa Cruz faculty members will explore two eternal questions on June 8: Where did we come from and how did we get here?

George Blumenthal
George Blumenthal
Photo: Bruce Bridgeman
Bruce Bridgeman
Photo: Gary Lease
Gary Lease

The occasion is the UC Santa Cruz Foundation Forum, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Colleges Nine and Ten Multipurpose Room.

Faculty members George Blumenthal, Bruce Bridgeman, and Gary Lease will address the forum theme of “Origins” from their widely varying academic disciplines. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Blumenthal, professor of astronomy and astrophysics, will focus on “A Century of Paradigm Shifts in our Thinking about the Universe.” Bruce Bridgeman, professor of psychology and psychobiology, will delve into “Origins of Humanity and Origins of Consciousness.” And history of consciousness professor and interim humanities dean Gary Lease will answer with a question of his own,  "Does God Have a Future? The Illusion of Intelligent Design."

“I have long been intrigued by the fact that Nature’s complexity, order, and beauty is used to justify what I regard as diametrically opposed positions and traditions,” said Foundation president Anuradha Luther Maitra. “I thought we could use UCSC’s interdisciplinary focus to generate a discourse. I am really looking forward to hearing them and I hope the audience will also enjoy this performance by the ‘Origins Trio.’”

Blumenthal investigates the origin of structure in the universe, such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies, and the role that dark matter plays in the formation and evolution of this structure. He also studies related cosmological issues, such as the generation of density fluctuations during an early inflationary phase of the universe. In addition to his work in cosmology, Blumenthal has studied gamma-ray bursts, accretion disks, and active galactic nuclei and maintains a strong interest in those areas. He served as chair of the UC Academic Senate for 2004-05, was the faculty representative to the Regents in 2003-05 and chaired the UC Santa Cruz division of the Academic Senate in 2001-03.

Bruce Bridgeman studies spatial aspects of vision. His research has clarified the relationships between two distinct representations of visual space in the brain, one underlying visual perception and the other controlling visually guided behavior. He has taken college students to the local Mystery Spot tourist attraction to demonstrate how the human brain works, and published a scholarly article that explains the perceptual effects at work at the attraction.

Lease’s expertise includes the theory, history, and evolution of religion and culture; German intellectual history; German Judaism; early Christian archaeology; and Vatican foreign policy and canon law. In 2001, Lease returned to the University of Munich as a guest professor, occupying the renowned Romano Guardini Chair for Theory of Culture and Religion. He was dean of the UCSC Humanities Division from 1990 to 1995 and has been interim dean for the last two years. Lease served as executive secretary of the North American Association for the Study of Religion from 1995 to 2005 and was recently re-elected treasurer of the International Association for the History of Religions.

The UC Santa Cruz Foundation Forum brings together UCSC Foundation trustees, faculty, students, and the Santa Cruz community to hear engaging speakers and participate in discussions on current subjects that affect their common interests and goals. Inaugurated in 2002, the lecture series is sponsored by the UC Santa Cruz Office of the Chancellor and the UC Santa Cruz Foundation.

Because parking near the site is limited, there will be parking at the Barn Theater with shuttles running to and from the forum. For more information and disability accommodation, call (831) 459-5003.

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