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Values in shifting perspectives

“Con­sider what might lie be­hind things”: this year’s edi­tion of the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia FO­RUM fea­tured con­tribu­tions from the natu­ral sci­ence and the hu­mani­ties as the event ex­plored chal­lenges cur­rently facing socie­ty and the role of val­ues.

An exchange across disciplinary boundaries

“It’s a won­derful op­por­tunity to think about sci­ence and the future in a dif­ferent way than we nor­mally do,” said Pro­fessor This­be K. Lind­horst, Act­ing Presi­dent of the Ger­man Chemical Socie­ty, at the start of his speech to the 10th Fo­rum of the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia. The annu­al Fo­rum events, which fea­ture a series of top-class speakers, facili­tate an ex­change of views on a range of topics that span disci­pli­nary boundar­ies.

On 26 April 2018, the Uni­versi­ty of Re­gens­burg's Elite Grad­uate Pro­gram in “Synthesis and Catalysis” invit­ed guests to an event enti­tled “Fu­ture val­ues?! – A change in per­spec­tives”. Tak­ing an inter­disci­pli­nary ap­proach and work­ing at the inter­face of the natu­ral sci­ences and the hu­mani­ties, partic­ipants dis­cuss­ed the role of values and chal­lenges facing socie­ty.

Listening to Goethe, exploring his values

Taking Goe­the’s mag­num opus ‘Faust’ as a start­ing point for his speech, Dr. Manfred Osten ex­plored the cur­rency and prov­idence of Goe­the’s writ­ing. “Goe­the was any­thing but a cul­tural pes­si­mist,” he ar­gued. “He was, how­ever, the per­son to first ask the ques­tion: How will basic re­search im­pact on peo­ple when com­bined with tech­nolo­gy?” said Os­ten, for­mer Secre­tar­y-Gen­eral of the Alex­ander von Hum­boldt Foundation and for­mer Em­bassy Coun­sellor (first class).

Osten con­tend­ed that Goe­the saw the need to pro­mote pro­gress, and that he wel­comed pro­gress and all the bene­fits it of­fered peo­ple. “On the other hand,” Os­ten said, “he took into ac­count the an­thropologi­cal con­se­quences of such pro­gress. He re­flect­ed on this issue guid­ed by values that looked far into the fu­ture.” Osten closed his speech with a “plea for a global ethics sys­tem based on mod­era­tion”.

Considering the consequences of our actions

Profes­sor Dr This­be K. Lind­horst then spoke about “a val­ue-led ap­proach to Chemistry”. In light of the prob­lems and chal­lenges facing the world, she dis­cuss­ed the con­tribu­tion that chem­ists must make and ex­plained the neces­sity of apply­ing a “basis of val­ues” to sup­ple­ment tech­nical knowledge. “We need an ethi­cal basis which we must apply to meas­ure our pro­fes­sional deci­si­ons,” she said. “The task is to reflect on what might lie be­hind things; to con­sider the con­se­quences of our ac­tions.”

In the sub­se­quent podi­um dis­cussion, mod­erated by Pro­fessor Burkhard Kö­nig, Head of the Elite Grad­uate Pro­gram in Syn­thesis and Ca­taly­sis, the speakers and the Presi­dent of the Uni­versi­ty of Re­gens­burg, Pro­fessor Udo Hebel, ex­changed views on “fu­ture val­ues” with active partic­ipa­tion from the audi­ence. Dur­ing this dis­cussion, This­be Lind­horst issued a call for great­er diver­sity. “I think that our aca­demic cul­ture would bene­fit great­ly from more diver­sity in our com­muni­ty,” she said. “We would gen­erate even more ideas and adopt an even more di­verse ap­proach to na­ture. And, per­haps, we might dis­cover entire­ly dif­ferent values which suit re­search very well, and come to accept them as self-evident.”