At their core, multiple branches of knowledge have emerged in response to two age-old questions: First, why are we here? And second, how can we lead a meaningful life? Historically, these questions were the province of religion and spirituality, but with the declining influence of religious traditions and waning academic interest in the humanities, we have been left with a vacuum of meaning.

Recently, however, we have witnessed a resurgence in the quest for meaning. Scientists are now beginning to broach questions of meaning and purpose, drawing on empirical evidence from a variety of fields. This three-part series at the New York Academy of Sciences brings together leading scientists and scholars to explore the meaning of life through the lens of scientific inquiry.


The Power of Meaning: The Quest for an Existential Roadmap
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM Sold Out

Where can we turn to find a roadmap that explains where we have come from, why we are here, and where we are headed? Neurologist Jay Lombard, philosophers Massimo Pigliucci and Michael Ruse, and author Emily Esfahani Smith shed light on these perennial questions. Learn More


The Story of Life: Critical Insights from Evolutionary Biology
Thursday, December 7, 2017 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM Sold Out

The notion that humans are an evolutionary accident is unsatisfying for most non-scientists and fails to resonate with their experience. What can evolutionary biology tell us about the meaning of our lives? Paleoanthropologists Melanie Chang and Ian Tattersall, and paleontologist Simon Conway Morris share their insights on how meaning can be gleaned from the story of life itself. Learn More


A Touch of Awe: Crafting Meaning from the Wonder of the Cosmos
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM Sold Out

Over the past 100 years we have learned more about life in our universe than the entire history of humanity put together. What guidance or wisdom can the study of cosmology and astrophysics offer us in our search for meaning and purpose? Theoretical physicists Paul Davies and Ard Louis, and astrophysicist Lucianne Walkowicz tackle the “big questions” of existence. Learn More

Presented By
The Nour Foundation | NYAS | To The Best of Our Knowledge
Exclusive Media Sponsor
WNYC - Hear It Now
Past Conferences

What, exactly, does it mean to be happy, and how can such happiness be sustained over the long-term? Can happiness be accurately gauged or measured? How does the paradoxical relationship between happiness and pleasure shape our quest to lead the good life?

Featuring: Kim Azzarelli, Darrin McMahon, and Barry Schwartz


Assuming a basic model or map of human nature is needed to navigate the road to the good life, what desires, tendencies, and aversions comprise our core nature? How has our evolutionary history shaped our moral impulses? Are we inherently good, or fundamentally flawed?

Featuring: Christian Miller, Heather Berlin, and Michael Shermer


What is wisdom, and how can it be attained? Is there an empirical relationship between wisdom and the cultivation of character, as Aristotle and others have argued?

Featuring: Philip Kitcher, Valerie Tiberius, and Lisa Feldman Barrett