Science and religion in a globalised world: conflict or conciliation?

Friday, 29 January 2016, 14:00, Chadwick Amphitheatre, Institute Laue Langevin, Grenoble

We have heard of science and religion being at odds in classrooms and courtrooms. Proselytisers are active in the streets and on the Internet preaching a return to religious values as an antidote to alleged decline in public morality. After two centuries, could this be twilight for the Enlightenment project and the beginning of a new age of unreason? Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews? Can evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuroscience help us to better understand how we construct beliefs, and experience empathy, fear and awe? Can science help us create a new rational narrative as poetic and powerful as those that have traditionally sustained societies?

The aim of this mini-symposium is to bring various scientific perspectives into dialogue with the study of religion. How does science affect the way religion is regarded? Does science confirm or invalidate the perspective of faith? Does it lead believers to revise their understanding of religious practices and experience?

Two renowned researchers, who are also experts on religious affairs (Christian and Muslim, respectively) will give keynote talks addressing the crucial question whether science and religions are compatible, or mutually exclusive. The two talks will be followed by an open discussion.

The meeting is open to all, registration is free.

For attendees coming from outside the EPN campus registration is mandatory; to register, please send an email to:

Invited speakers

Rana Dajani, Associate Professor of Molecular Cell Biology, Hashemite University, Jordan

Evolution Stories... How do they end?

There has been much controversy on the compatibility of biological evolution and religion in general and Islam in particular. Biological evolution is a fact. Yet because of misunderstanding, lack of freethinking, ignorance and parties with a hidden agenda the controversy between evolution and Islam has become mainstream. As a Muslim molecular biologist, for me there is no incompatibility between biological evolution and Islam. I intend to draw upon my experience as an educator who teaches evolution and went through discussions and debates to present this issue in a new light taking into consideration all the students’ and community’s feedback.
This work is very important and is a significant contribution to development of scientific thought especially in the Muslim world. It will advocate for compatibility of biological evolution with Islam, calling for reinterpretation of holy texts in light of modern scientific discoveries, introducing a new approach, encouraging freedom of thought to address controversial issues whose manifestations on human wellbeing is enormous.


Rana Dajani holds a PhD in molecular biology, she has been an Eisenhower and a Fulbright Fellow, and she is an Associate Professor, Hashemite University, visiting professor at the Yale stem cell center and the University of Cambridge. She is an reknown expert on genetics of Circassian and Chechan populations in Jordan focusing on diabetes and cancer.
Dajani is an outspoken advocate of biological evolution and Islam and has spoken about such issues widely, at Cambridge, McGill and MIT, for instance, and reports on science and the Middle East for Nature. She is member of UN Women Jordan Advisory Council, was chosen as one of 20 most influential women scientists in the Islamic world in 2014, and appointed 12th out of the 100 most powerful women in Arab world for 2014 and 2015, as well as included aomng Women in science hall of fame for 2015. Rana Dajani has received numerous awards, for instance the PEER Award for the mentoring model Three Circles of Alemat; the Synergos award for Arab world social innovators 2009; membership to Clinton Global Initiative 2010, 2015; the Library of congress literary award 2013 for best practices; WISE Award winner 2014; and top idea award for refugee education in 2015.


Philippe Deterre, Director of Research, Center of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris, France

Christian faith and scientific research: a “meaningful” affair

The emergence of scientific research in Western societies causes numerous shocks in current cultures in general and particularly in religious beliefs. One could think of the Copernican revolution, the Galilei trial, as well as Darwin’s theory of evolution. That scientific discoveries shake up current cultural and religious beliefs is still true today. It will be argued that in the present global world, a debate between sciences, philosophies and religious faith is needed, especially regarding ethical issues raised by technical advances. A necessary –certainly not sufficient – condition for such a calm and fertile debate is to realize that both are based on human interpretative ability and its extension to all culture components.

Philippe Deterre, an engineer from the National Polytechnical Institute in Grenoble, holds a PhD in physics, as well as in biology. He worked in neurobiology (electrophysiology and signal transduction), biochemistry (retinal phototransduction). He works currently in immunology (functional roles of chemokines) at the Center of Immunology and Infectious Diseases (CIMI-Paris, Inserm U1135, UPMC UMRS 1135, CNRS ERL 8255) on the Pitié-Salpêtrière site in Paris.
He is a catholic priest and holds a master degree in theology. He is regularly invited to speak about science and religious issue, and co-founded a French-speaking network about “sciences, cultures and faith” called “Blaise Pascal network”. He coauthored with the astrophysicist Pierre Valiron a book called Chercheurs en science, Chercheurs de sens (Editions de l’Atelier, Paris, 2009) consisting of a dialogue between two researchers, a Christian believer and an agnostic about the passion for scientific research and about the way that researchers may approach questions of religion, the Bible and Christian believes.



Marco Marcia, EMBL
14:00-14:05 Introduction
Halldór Stefánsson, EMBL
14:05-14:35 Evolution Stories... How do they end?
Rana Dajani, Associate Professor of Molecular Cell Biology, Hashemite University, Jordan
14:35-15:05 Christian faith and scientific research: a “meaningful” affair
Philippe Deterre, Director of Research, Center of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris, France
15:05-16:00 Open Discussion
16:00-16:30 Reception