Past Lectures

Observing the Invisible: The Hunt for Dark Matter with Computer Simulations

Melissa Jacquart, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 7pm
Whitesides Hall 118

One of the most fundamental scientific questions is “What is the universe made of?” To date, we only know the answer for about 5% of the universe, but astrophysicists tell us that perhaps 24% of the universe is dark matter. The very nature of dark matter remains mysterious—unlike ordinary matter, we cannot directly observe dark matter, and we only detect it through its gravitational interactions. Although most astronomers accept that dark matter exists, very little is known about it. In this talk, I detail collaborative work between astronomers and philosophers attempting to search for this dark matter by using telescope observations and computer simulations. I will discuss some of philosophical questions related to the justification of scientific knowledge: how do we blend observation, simulation, and theory to obtain knowledge about these dark matter objects? By focusing on the role computer simulations play in astrophysical inferences, I provide an argument for how scientific justification works, and how computer simulations contribute to evidence in our dark matter hunt.

Sponsored by the Philosophy Club, Carol G. Belk Distinguished Professorship, Office of Dean of Humanities & Philosophy Department

Love’s Authority: Medieval Women Contemplatives and the Power of Mystical Union

Guest Speaker: Professor Christina van Dyke, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 7:15 pm
Laurel Forum in Karpen Hall

"Why should anyone listen to me?" This common question takes on special significance in the case of female contemplatives in the 13th-14th centuries. Barred from participating in the university system, women in the Middle Ages couldn't appeal to their education or boast about their 'book-learning' to gain authority for their claims. Still, figures such as Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Mechtild of Magdeburg, and Julian of Norwich produced a vast store of mystical and contemplative literature that was taken seriously both in its own time and today. In this talk, Dr. Christina Van Dyke will discuss two moves that made this possible:

1) a close identification of their humanity with Christ's incarnated body, which serves as a bridge to Christ's divinity and unmediated contact with God, and

2) an emphasis on God's love working through them, particularly insofar as love increases knowledge without the need for formal education training or theological disputations. Dr. Van Dyke will close by discussing how this second move sets the stage both for the Reformation and the modern divide between religion and science. "

Love’s Authority: Medieval Women Contemplatives and the Power of Mystical Union Handout

Sponsored by the Philosophy Club, Humanities Program, and Philosophy Department