World Knowledge Dialogue

Photo © : V. Krebs, ICVolunteers
Photo © : V. Krebs, ICVolunteers

Project at a glance

Dates and Place

14 - 16 September 2006, Crans-Montana, Switzerland
Centre de Congrès "Le Régent"


World Knowledge Dialogue


250-300 participants, Internationally recognized researchers, either from the natural sciences or from the humanities, personalities holding major positions in the academic and scientific fields (Presidents/Rectors/Deans of Universities, Institute Directors etc.) and in the economic and political fields (opinion leaders and decision makers), from around the world.

Project details


Despite an ever expanding body of scientific knowledge, the comprehension of our surrounding world - i.e. the whole of the discoveries and observations rethought under the light of our historical and humanistic values - has scarcely advanced. The gap between the natural sciences and the human/social sciences, which started during the age of Enlightenment - what C.P. Snow called in 1959 "the two cultures" - is in fact barely disappearing. We are nevertheless forced to admit that both cultures are looking at the same world, albeit using complementary tools.

There are numerous reasons for such a fragmentary dialogue between these two cultures: historical at first as some communities have been suspiciously looking at the unknown being demystified through science; then epistemological as the natural sciences tools have lately allowed an accumulation of knowledge at a speed that had never been reached before; instrumental, finally, as each discipline uses tools which are not necessarily applicable to the others.

Our time is particularly propitious for attempts to bring these two developing cultures closer together: certain extremist and/or harmful positions of the natural sciences and humanities have been clearly identified - pseudo-science serving the 20th century politics for some, and philosophical and religious radicalism limiting scientific development for the others. In addition, the present moulding of our vital environment and of our planet by natural and technical sciences call for a thorough analysis of the role they play in the future knowledge society. In fact, many fields of new scientific convergence already allow us to lift away the obstacles of the double culture by showing us the benefit of a common or convergent approach: the neurosciences, which already allow us understand partially the mechanism of understanding; the history of the Humanity - thanks to genetics - allows in certain cases the passage from hypothesis to veracity by adding biological facts to historical discoveries and theories; climatology and the environmental sciences by blending the complexity of the physical phenomena and of human behaviour.

The Swiss universities are certainly among the best ones to meet such a challenge of bringing the two cultures closer together: their scientific expertise is unanimously acknowledged throughout the world. The stability of our society and the multiculturalism by which it is characterized allow us to take the necessary step back for a "cross viewed" analysis of the great scientific discoveries, of their interpretation and of their consequences for tomorrow's world.


New Discoveries defining Complexity

Three main lectures are scheduled on this topic to focus on particular aspects of complexity, i.e. complexity and biological systems; complexity in climatology; complexity - an approach from epistemology and philosophy.

There are many ways of studying complexity. They generally all handle it by trying to understand the dynamic behaviour of complex systems that range from individual organisms to the largest economic, technical, social, and political systems. By confronting and allowing these approaches to interact, by exchanging views on different complex systems, we expect to gain new ideas and to try to answer such questions as: Which way did science work until now, how did it evolve, and how might it evolve in the future? How can big pictures emerge from a sea of data?

Origin and Migrations of Modern Humans

From the origin of the modern human being to today's Society, what are the forces involved, from where and how did we arrive at the point where we are now?

Palaeontology, anthropology, genetics and linguistics can contribute to our better understanding of our history. How can these different approaches cross-fertilize each other, what have they learnt and what can they learn from each other?


The aim of the workshops is to imagine how the principles of coordination and dialogue between the natural sciences and the humanities can be integrated into everyday decisions and strategies. Participants from different horizons will take part in the discussions : leaders from politics, industry, science, and students, etc.

Role of ICVolunteers

40 volunteers participated in the various aspects of this conference, including of welcoming participants, supervising conference rooms, working as translators, reporters and photographers. The reports were published as main part of the official online news service of the Conference, available at

Volunteering Opportunities

Nous recrutons des volontaires pour accueillir les participants, superviser les salles de conférence, travailler en tant que traducteurs, rapporteurs et photographes.

Short Term Projects

ICVolunteers promotes volunteerism and its recognition, by enhancing civic commitment and involvement, and by providing leadership and links between organizations, individuals and communities. With this perspective, ICVolunteers develops projects and leads initiatives.

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