Focus on Astrobiology and the History & Philosophy of Science

The second Blumberg Dialogue on Astrobiology, hosted by The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, will look at how recent discoveries about the origins and future of life in the cosmos influence an ongoing tradition of inquiry in the history and philosophy of science.

The public portion of the program, titled “Rethinking Life on Earth and Beyond: Astrobiology and the Role of Paradigm Shifts in Science and Human Self-Understanding” will take place at 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 28, in room 119, on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free, and tickets are not needed.

The three-part Blumberg Dialogue series is part of the Kluge Center’s Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Program, which investigates the intersection of astrobiology research with humanistic and societal concerns. The first Blumberg Dialogue occurred on March 18-19, and the third will take place in August 2015. Details will be posted to the Kluge Center website

For the second Blumberg Dialogue, seven leading scholars from the humanities and the sciences will convene for a series of conversations about how recent scientific discoveries fit within the context of the longer trajectory of the history and philosophy of science. Scholars with expertise in a range of historical, philosophical and scientific disciplines will attend. The scholars are:

  • Linnda R. Caporael – Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Brian Henning – Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies, Gonzaga University
  • Paul Humphreys – Commonwealth Professor of Philosophy, University of Virginia
  • Sarah Stewart Johnson – Assistant Professor of Planetary Science, Georgetown University
  • Mi Gyung Kim – Professor of History, North Carolina State University
  • Eric Schwitzgebel – Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Riverside
  • Kelly Smith – Associate Professor of Philosophy and Biological Sciences, Clemson University

The seven scholars will spend May 27 and part of May 28 in seminar work examining readings and research on astrobiology and its context within the history and philosophy of science. The scholars will then participate in an afternoon public 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.

The three-part 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 the NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Chair in 2015. Nathaniel Comfort, a professor at the Institute of the History of Medicine at The John Hopkins University, has been named to the chair for 2016. He will begin on Oct. 1, 2015, and be in residence for 12 months.

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. Chairs are 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

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 160 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. 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