Speaking Events

"Quantitative and Qualitative Evaluation Methods to Assess New Experiential Teaching Techniques in Astronomy Theatre"

International Astronomical Union
Focus Meeting 15 on "Astronomy for Development" 
Poster Session & Talk
August 28-31
Vienna, Austria

Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport. Chris will take the presentation of our poster in Vienna, this August. This is only one of his many activities, which include presenting a paper on his astronomical research, too.

For an overview of the FM15 activities on Astronomy for Development, click here

Here is our poster. It summarizes the evaluation methods that we used in preparation for our 2017 book, Space Science and Astronomy Theatre. Click the image to connect to the web page on our book.


"Ethical Systems Evolve Bio-culturally from Theological Thinking in the Genus Homo"
Conference on "Evolutionary Ethics: The Nuts and Bolts Approach"
Oxford Brookes University
July 20-21, 2018
Headington, England

Post by Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ. Chris will present for us at a conference on "Evolutionary Ethics" at Oxford Brookes. He will speak on the functions of the fronto-parietal and default brain networks, as well as the precuneus, in theological thinking in the genus Homo. He illustrates several points with images from an article by Bruner & Iriki 2016, and a new paper by Dixon et al. 2018. He looks forward to meeting new friends and colleagues, and taking questions that will help us further develop an ongoing book manuscript on "Keeping Alive, Becoming Religious," on the neuroscience of human cognitive evolution.


"Importance of the Activation and Deactivation of the Precuneus in Human Theological Thinking and Experience of Immanence and Transcendence”

17th Conference of the 
European Society for the Study of Science and Theology
Conference Theme: "Nature and Beyond: Transcendence and Immanence in Science and Religion" 
April 17–22, 2018
Lyon, France

Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport, and Chris Corbally, SJ

As a member of ESSSAT, Chris was happy to return this meeting where he knows so many, for so long. Together, we contributed a paper that has been brewing for some time. We focused on the potential roles of the parietal lobes, in particular, the precuneus, in 
the human experiences of immanence and transcendence. For further information on the meeting, click here. Plenary speakers include Philip Clayton, Lydia Jaeger, Christopher Southgate, Helen De Cruz, and Bertrand Souchard. The conference is organized in partnership with the ISSR, International Society for Science and Religion.

Margaret Boone Rappaport


Tent Talk at the Tucson Festival of Books on

University of Arizona Campus
Tucson, Arizona
March 11, 2018

Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport

Our Tent Talk was enormous fun. It was a glorious, early Spring day in Tucson, and went up to the low 80s. Everyone enjoyed the large and diverse scene on the University of Arizona campus. That evening, we went to an after-party hosting a number of authors present that day. 

We gave an introduction on the types of teachers, scout leaders, park service people, and public education people at planetaria that might find our book useful.

Here is the text from the back of our book, and it describes our audience well:

If you're a teacher or parent struggling to get youngsters or young adults interested in space science and astronomy--or an inquisitive student--then you'll love this fun-filled book of theatrical scenes. In addition to astronomers and astronauts, the scenes also feature engineers, accountants, graphic artists, public relations practitioners, biologists, meteorologists, and others who play a critical role in space adventures.

Scenarios will take you into the past and into the future and include: - A cosmologist and a computer graphics artist are preparing a presentation for public television on theories about the distribution of galaxies in the universe, and the placement of voids where no galaxies are found.- An astrobiologist and an engineer discover the first positive biosignature data from an exoplanet near Earth. The findings provide a big surprise.- Two recent high school graduates explore a star factory (nebula) in the constellation Orion, and using a video arcade game, they make speculations about the future.While the props and costumes needed for scripts are minimal, the scenes promote deep learning. Get ready to be entertained and informed with Space Science and Astronomy Theatre. <<<


"Proven Efficacy of New Experiential STEM Teaching Methods”

129th Annual Meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Meeting Theme: "Beyond the Eclipse: Engaging Diverse and 
Underserved Communities in Astronomy and STEM"
St. Louis, Missouri
December 5-8, 2017

Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport

We assembled a report and illustrated it in poster form, on our evaluation results with Spanish-origin high school graduates. We reported on our, and others' efforts to teach astronomy and space science using experiential techniques.

We explored the ways in which these methods can attract new women and minority students to the fields of space science and astronomy, those demographic groups where participation is the lowest or the least successful, to date. We recommended steps for incorporating experiential methods at high school and college levels. 

Chris Corbally and Margaret Boone RappaportHere, we presented our evaluation results in the form of "Best Practices," in poster form so that we had added opportunities to speak directly with conference participants about methods that we have been testing. We met wonderful contacts that will help us reach people who can make good use of our new book - contacts in the Girl Scouts, planetaria, and state & national parks. We sold a few books, and gave many people the online ordering information. 

For more information on the conference, click here.


A Plenary Address

"Intersection of Prehistoric Evolutionary Models for Moral and Religious Capacities"

>>For an Outline, click HERE.<<
>>For Slides, click HERE.<<

Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, from 6:00 to 6:55

Conference: The Evolution of Religion II: 
How Biology, Psychology and Culture Interact
Dates: November 12-15, 2017
Tamaya Hyatt Resort, Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico

Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ

We learned of this very interesting meeting from our friend and colleague from ESSSAT, Lluis Oviedo, of the Pontifical University Antonianum, who was one of the organizers. We decided this would be a good opportunity to cross-reference our two models on the evolution of morality and religious capacity in the genus Homo. We were also very happy that it was so convenient to Tucson, and located in such a beautiful spot. For others who are interested in the meeting, click here for more information. Proceedings will be published in 2019.

Professor Konrad SzocikWhile we were at this meeting, we had a chance to meet, face to face, for the first time with the editor of a book that has just been accepted for publication by Springer. Our editor is Professor Konrad Szocik, who is with the University of Information Technology and Management, Department of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, in Rzeszow, Poland. The edited book will be titled, The Human Factor in a Mission to Mars; An Interdisciplinary Approach. Our own chapter will be: "Program Services Planning for a Mars Hardship Post; Reflections on the Need for Social, Psychological, and Spiritual Services."


"Evaluation Research Using Astronomy Theatre Suggests Good Promise for Young Hispanic Women to Choose Science Majors"
at the
International Symposium on Education 
in Astronomy and Astrobiology (ISE2A)

Co-sponsored by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) 
and the European Astrobiology Campus (EAC)
Universiteit Utrecht
Dates: July 3-8, 2017
Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands

Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in city of Utrecht, especially the food at restaurants in the older parts of its center city. Utrecht University, the location for the conference, was founded in 1636 and it is still going strong. The conference we attended provided useful information on new and developing techniques in astronomy education, as well as an opportunity to meet others interested in new methodologies. Not surprisingly, we learned how effective Twitter is in reaching others interested in astronomy and astronomy education. 

Preliminary notices on this symposium explain that it "is designed to bring education research in astronomy in general, and in astrobiology in particular, to the professional scientific community." For further information, click here. We contributed in the area of astronomy and astrobiology education, drawing on our work in evaluating astronomy and space science theatre techniques among college students, including a Script on Biosignatures from an Exoplanet.

Among the topics of key speakers addressed were the following:

  • State-of-the-art in astronomy and astrobiology education research
  • Content of astronomy teaching and popularisation in schools and culture
  • Innovations in research methodologies and instruments in school, museum, and planetarium learning
  • Analyses of astronomy successful evidence-based practice, materials, and programs
  • Astronomy research on leveraging new media and information systems for teaching and learning
  • Impact of the 2015 International Year of Light on astronomy education of astrobiology teaching in different institutions and different countries
  • Teaching astrobiology to a university multidisciplinary audience: opportunities and pitfalls
  • New assessment forms for multidisciplinary courses
  • Teaching astrobiology to young pupils (10-16 years)
  • How to present astrobiology lectures to general audiences
  • Future international cooperation in astrobiology teaching and training
  • Open discussions on innovative teaching and assessment methods.



"Evolutionary Biology and the Development of Human Conscience"

Keynote Presentation and Curriculum Workshop for
"Teaching at the Interface between Science & Religion"

In Conjunction with the McGrath Institute, 
University of Notre Dame
at Mercy High School, Middletown, Connecticut
Date: March 13, 2017

Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport 

We were happy to accept an invitation to take part in one of the annual teacher in-service seminars at Mercy High School, a Catholic diocesan college preparatory high school for young women. Activities are provided through a grant program with the University of Notre Dame. The Mission Statement of Mercy High School notes that "Mercy is committed to providing a challenging educational experience in a safe and nurturing environment. The school responds to individual needs and provides students with the technological and social skills needed in the 21st Century." 

Chris Corbally and Margaret Boone Rappaport
We were told that the teachers might like to learn more about evolutionary biology and the development of human conscience - a topic that dovetails nicely with our recent work on "The Human Hearth and the Dawn of Morality." 

We provided a keynote address on this topic, anchoring it in a general framework on the relationship between Science and Religion. 

Our goal was to help Diocesan teachers fulfill the missions of their schools in preparing students for full and productive lives that involve Science, Religion, and Art.

We were especially happy to make new friends and colleagues in Jay Martin and Heather Foucault-Camm, with the McGrath Institute as staff and consultant in Science and Religion.


“LIFEBOAT Career Development Workshop
“Applied Astronomy and Consulting Roles: 
An Introduction”

Astronomy Department, Steward Observatory
Date: February 2017
Location: University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ

We were happy to receive an acceptance of our proposal to provide one of the LIFEBOAT career workshop to graduate Astronomy Students at the University of Arizona.

A description of the material we will cover follows.

Part I of this workshop will be a review and discussion of some recent, future, and re-targeted roles for astronomers in applied fields, for example, aerospace engineering; commercial spaceflight; computer engineering; public education programming in museums, planetariums, and adult education programs; energy applications (such as solar); defense applications and employment in Space Command as staff or consultant; commercial research on human systems in controlled environments (on spacecraft or on non-terrestrial surfaces); and space mining.

Part II will cover some necessary steps in setting up a small consulting company to market services to government, academic, and commercial clients. Then, presenters will cover a selection of the desirable skills that are especially helpful to an astronomer working in non-academic settings or as a consultant. We include: public speaking; grant and contract proposal development; slide preparation and use of software for presentations; techniques for the oral marketing pitch (“dog and pony show”); and public relations activities such as job-finding and publications placements for others.


“Demonstration of New Modalities to Teach 
‘Science & Culture’ through Theatre; and 
‘Science & Religion’ through the Short Dialogue"

The Jesuit Institute
Boston College
Dates: October 17 and 18, 2016
Location: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport 

We were extremely pleased that the Director of the Jesuit Institute at Boston College, and Canisius Professor of Theology James F. Keenan, SJ, extended an invitation to us to present on two days in October. 

Day One is a version of our presentation in Krakow, plus some new points. Day Two is an opportunity to have fun with teaching techniques in "Science and Culture" and "Science and Religion" - topics of the post title above. Summaries of "Human Hearth..." are also in events listed below.

Day One (October 17) – Lecture with Discussion

Topic: “The Human Hearth and the Dawn of Morality”

Description: An in-depth examination of a model of the origination of the first rudimentary, hominin moral systems in Homo erectus

The presenters explore the species'
biology, demography, technology, and social and generational structure to lay a foundation for the emergence of morality in the genus Homo. Language is considered as a possible factor, replacing grooming when it reached 30% time, according to some theorists. Most importantly, the presenters explain how moral systems may have originated in the social and emotional context set by the control of fire at one million years ago. Levi-Strauss informs the model by introducing dualities such as “in the light of the fire,” and “outside it”; “them” and “us"; “danger” and “safety”; and even “bad” and “good”.  The authors then delve into modern cognitive science and neuroscience to search for mechanisms that are requisite in the development of the first, rudimentary moral systems.
Day Two (October 18) – Luncheon Discussion

Topic: “Demonstration of New Modalities to Teach ‘Science & Culture’ 
through Theatre; and ‘Science & Religion’ through the Short Dialogue”

The presenters have been experimenting with short skits to teach space science and astronomy (including astrobiology, astrogeology, and asteroid mining). They will perform a selection of 5-minute skits, followed by discussion. 

They will then perform one of their 3-minute Dialogues on Science and Religion, and follow-up with a series of guided questions to elicit audience reaction to the theological and philosophical meanings in the Dialogues. It is a new use of Plato’s old approach.


"Human Phenotypic Morality, and the
Biological Basis for Knowing Good"

The Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS)
Conference Theme: 
"How Can We Know? Co-creating Knowledge in Perilous Times"
Co-organizers: Pat Bennett, Ruben Nelson, and John Teske 
Conference Date: June 25 - July 2, 2016
Location: Star Island, New Hampshire

Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport 

As a past-President of IRAS, Chris had been glad to receive the invitation that we come and speak to conference participants on some of our recent work. "The Biological Bases for Knowing Good" seemed to fit in well with our research for the ESSSAT Conference in Spring 2016. We decided to develop and present several new examples of our "Evolution Dialogues," but in the end, we performed two of our Space Science and Astronomy Skits. One went with our theme of Morality's Origins, and the other was simply a sweet skit and a nice way to say "Good Night" after an interesting follow-up discussion that occurred on the evening of our morning's presentation.

Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally

We were delighted to hear that plans are underway for John Teske to edit a series of papers composed of the speakers' contributions, for the journal Zygon; Journal of Religion and Science.

We took part in many good conversations at this week-long conference, both singly and together, with many of the attendees. We went to all of the other Plenary sessions, and the Speakers Group discussions each day in rocking chairs on the front porch. 

We were especially delighted to get to know our fellow Speakers: Wenztel Van Huysteen, Jonathan Marks, Phil Cary, Louise Sundararajan, Warren Brown, and John Teske, who was one of the organizers along with Pat Bennett and Ruben Nelson. Good exchanges of ideas - great food - a divine setting in the relaxed atmosphere of Star Island, New Hampshire! What more could you want? The link to the IRAS Conference 2016 is here. The theme for next year's conference is the Environment.


"Update 2016: Our State of Knowledge of the Genomic Basis for Human Specialness, 
with Implications"

European Society for the Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT)
Conference Theme: "Are We Special? Science and Theology Questioning Human Uniqueness"
Conference Date: April 26 - May 1, 2016
Location: Łódź, Poland

Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ

Before reporting on our paper, we want to give some of the high points of our visit to Poland - especially, the wonderful food. Here is HSP Co-Founder Chris Corbally at a local Krakow restaurant enjoying a cabbage-and-meat stew in its own bread bowl. Delicious! Krakow is a city of universities. The original city wall remains in place around central neighborhoodsThe next picture is of HSP Co-Founder, Margaret Rappaport before a meal of grilled trout with some interesting garnishes, including apples creamed with butter!

After a formal presentation and an informal coffeehouse discussion in Krakow (described below, and here), we traveled to Łódź, where we registered for the ESSSAT conference, and gave our paper on the first day. We then took a day off and visited Toruń, the birthplace of Copernicus in 1473. His family home remained standing. He's the astronomer who got our solar system's arrangement right, that is, the planets circling around the Sun, instead of the other way around!

Chris CorballyMargaret Boone Rappaport

Now, for a synopsis of our paper at the ESSSAT meeting...

We provided an update on efforts to identify aspects of the human genome that have evolved to make humans special. In archaeology, human distinctiveness is defined qualitatively by signs of religiosity, artistry, and intelligence. These capacities, which set the human condition apart, can now - in a very limited way - be connected to the sequenced human genome, especially by comparing it to the sequenced genomes of non-human hominoids (the “great apes”), and humans’ near, extinct relatives (Neanderthals, Denisovans, and another unknown hominin species). Much of all these species’ genomes appear to be the same, and recent focus has shifted to include how the genes are expressed. The current estimate for human/chimp difference is 4 percent, up from an initial estimate of 1 percent.
After a brief description of biologists’ tables of phenotypically “special,” Human Lineage Specific qualities for our species, we focused on a sample of genes that provide some basis for known, phenotypic characteristics that set humans apart. The first, an enhancer gene, is an update from the time our abstract was submitted. Unlike the others, the mechanism of its action is now known. 

  • HARE5 which increases rate of brain cell division through the Frizzled 8 (FZD8) gene
  • FOXP2 variant gene (speech in humans) (FOXP2 for communication in other animals)
  • miR-941-1 gene (development of brain areas for language and decision-making)
  • ARHGAP11B gene (brain size and cortical folding)
  • DUF1220 copy  number (brain size)
  • HAR1f region of accelerated evolution (fetal brain cortical development)
  • HACNS1 (morphology of hands and feet)
  • Inactivation of sialic acid synthesis (possibly immune function; research in progress).

We addressed the variability imposed on the genome through its constant interaction with human culture, which is always changing. We also considered the possibility suggested by biologists that humans have escaped some of the force of natural selection through culture, and we will mention the apparent "evolutionary trade-offs" between brain size and mental illness.
Then, we described Wallace’s Conundrum – the notion that there is, to date, no good biological explanation for how natural selection led, before the fact, to the remarkable capabilities centralized in the human mind. We summarized theological and philosophical questions suggested by findings on the human genome, with particular reference to Van Huyssteen’s argument for flexible boundaries for science and theology and the “creative rethinking” of the imago Dei in Christian theology.


"The Human Hearth and the Dawn of Morality"

Commission on the Philosophy of Natural Sciences
Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences
Date: April 25, 2016
Location: Krakow, Poland

Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport 

I was extremely happy to have an old friend, Polish philosopher, cosmologist, and priest, Fr. Michał Heller, arrange for us to make a presentation at a Commission of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences in Krakow. 

Here is a good picture of him, just before the presentation began.

                                                                                                                                       Father Michael Heller

We drew the highlights of our talk from a recent paper on the origins of morality on the hominin line - when it may have happened, how it likely happened, and which species of the genus Homo was involved. We drew much of our discussion from philosophers, in order to define more precisely what "moral capacity" involves, and then, what kind of species was most likely to have developed a rudimentary moral system first. Here is a picture of Co-Founder Chris Corbally, as he explains one of our main points.

Chris Corbally          
Our model for the origination of a rudimentary moral system in Homo erectus emerged out of the species' biology, technology, and demography. We relied on some aspects of neuroscience and cognitive archaeology, as well as the analyses of modern philosophers who see modern humans as distinctly different from the higher apes. 

            Margaret Boone Rappaport
Margaret Boone Rappaport
              Chris Corbally, SJ

We finished with the broader implications for an increasingly complex interaction between physical evolution and cultural evolution at about the time Homo erectus migrated out of Africa for the first time. 

At right, Co-Founder Margaret Rappaport explains the relevance of neuroscience to our theories of morality's origins.                                                                                         
"Conversations Over Coffee"

After the formal presentation, an open discussion followed at a nearby coffee house, De Revolutionibus. Each of us took questions from the audience in a relaxed setting. Some important issues of evolutionary science and religion were discussed, and a good time was had by all!
For more information on the informal discussion, click here.


"Human Distinctiveness: Dialogues toward an Accord between Science and Religion"

    St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center
    Location: 1615 East 2 Street, Tucson, AZ
    Near the University of Arizona
      Weds., Feb 24, 2016, at 7:30 pm

      Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ

      We enjoyed our time with participants at the Newman Center. We performed a different selection of seven Dialogues this time. The focus was on "Human Distinctiveness," and the ways in which philosophers, theologians, and biologists see humans as distinctive. Each Dialogue lasted 3-5 minutes, and then there was a chance for the audience to make comments and ask questions.

      A final part of our presentation was the performance of one of our 5-minute "Astronomy Skits." We chose a skit that highlights important assumptions about life on Earth, including human life. By extension, the skit addresses assumptions about life on other planets, too. While “Science and Discovery of Biosignature Data from Exoplanets Nearest to Earth, A.D. 2075” dramatized the discovery of life on another planet that is in some ways like ours, the question remains open as to whether any life we find elsewhere in the universe will indeed be like ours, or based on some other biochemistry.


      "Sleep Changes in Homo erectus
      The Implications for Creativity 
      and Emotionality in Later Hominins"

      Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP)
      Conference Date: January 28-30, 2016
      Poster Session E, January 30, 8-9:30
      Convention Center, San Diego, California

      Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ

      We enjoyed meeting psychologists with similar interests at this conference, and we had a wonderful time preparing a giant, 4 by 6 foot poster, illustrating the oral presentation of some of our ideasClick here for the poster. We will be using it for some other upcoming presentations.

      Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone RappaportOur Abstract follows here...

      Psychologist Coolidge and anthropologist Wynn (2009) propose sleep pattern changes in Homo erectus, a successful hominin living 1.9 mya to 100 kya. They connect a terrestrial existence (no nesting in trees), including lengthened sleep period, REM sleep, and full muscle atonia, to improved priming and possibly greater creativity. We take the authors’ sleep model and trace hypothetical consequences for science, religion, and art in later hominins. Homo erectus had improved visuospatial abilities for biface construction and terrestrial navigation in a larger home territory. How did all these changes affect Homo heidelbergensis (early Homo sapiens), Homo sapiens idaltu (early Homo sapiens with possible “ritual” behavior), archaic Homo sapiens in Africa and Eurasia, and modern Homo sapiens sapiens? Our poster includes timelines, diagrams, and images in a large, causal flow chart. This poster is part of a longer paper on “The Emotional Brain Hypothesis,” whose preliminary concept paper is published 2015.


      "Human Evolution and Uniqueness; 
      Dialogues toward an Accord between 
      Science and Religion"

      Dominican University of California
      Date:  October 7, 2015
      San Rafael, California

      Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport

      Using a combination of quotes from scientists, poetry, and rock lyrics, we presented 7 of our 10 "Evolution Dialogues" - short conversations that work toward an accord between science and religion. Students and faculty had an opportunity to comment and pose questions, and at the end, we enjoyed rousing applause and well appreciated comments on the evaluation forms.

      The Evolution Dialogues were followed by a performance of "Cel's Way," a new astronomy skit first performed in London at INSAP IX, where astronomers, artists, and archivists all enjoyed it (See INSAP IX, below). "Cel's Way" is based on genetic research results suggesting that until relatively recently, most children were fathered by a few related males (headmen). The diversity of Y chromosome DNA is substantially less than mitochondrial DNA passed through females.

      The action in the skit centers on a heated exchange - with an eventual resolution - between father and daughter, on which man she should marry. The action takes place 19,000 years ago, near Lascaux in present-day France. The well-dated star maps on the cave walls at Lascaux suggest a reasonable, although fictional, cultural content of the exchange and eventual accord between father and daughter. The low genetic diversity of the Y chromosome provides a real scientific basis for the cultural solution found by Cel and her father. Once again, the sciences of astronomy and genetics provide the parameters of our skit productions.

      The address at Dominican University was a happy offshoot of our attendance at the Big History conference on the campus of Dominican University, where we had the opportunity to meet and spend time with Scott Sinclair and J. Daniel May, who is Thresholds editor. Scott is both a professor at Dominican U and an ordained Episcopal priest.


      "When Hominins First Looked Up and Saw Constellations"
      INSAP IX
      Conference on the Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena
      Date:  August 23-28, 2015
      Gresham College
      London, England

      Post by: 
      Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ

      In response to a question from an astronomy student, we researched the cognitive literature on viewing and perceiving constellations. We found it was a much more complex skill that we ever imagined. In the presentation at INSAP IX, we proposed a time period in human evolution when hominins probably had developed the ability to see figures in groups of stars. Before that time, it was probably impossible, although earlier members of the genus Homo may have been able to locate and remember individual stars based on color, brightness, and position. 

      Our thinking followed the new field of cognitive archaeology, and took us deep into the cognitive psychology literature, where evidence from research on children points the way toward an understanding of this fundamental human ability. We asked and answered this question: Are the images of constellations in the Caves at Lascaux probably the very earliest we can expect to find, or are other findings of archaeological depictions of constellations likely?  

      We followed our scientific presentation with a new skit, "Cel's Way: How the Stars Led One Young Woman to Her Own True Love." It was energetically received, and we appreciated the applause!


      "The Origins of the Modern Mind:
      Finding Common Ground 
      among Evolutionary Biology, 
      Cognitive Archaeology, and Analytic Theory"

      Philadelphia Jungian Professional Club
      Date:  May 15, 2015
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
      Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ
      We were delighted to accept an invitation to address the "Jung Club" of Philadelphia. We presented on some of the origins of "modern thinking" in Homo sapiens. It was an interesting, innovative, and interactive format for an afternoon's seminar. We were also gratified for the opportunity to speak about our model of Matrix Thinking and the Emotional Brain Hypothesis, and to draw parallels between their work and our own. While there are only hints at connections between archaeology and psychoanalytic theory, the interface between the literatures on cultural anthropology and analytic theory is substantial. We enjoyed a lively discussion!


      "Giant Molecular Clouds"
      Skyline Country Club Astronomy Club
      Date:  February 5, 2015
      Tucson, Arizona

      Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport

      We enjoyed our presentation to a brand new astronomy club in Tucson, Arizona. The topic was Giant Molecular Clouds. After we provided some basic science on these gargantuan cosmic structures, and why they're so important in star formation, we performed two of our Astronomy Skits, which both feature Giant Molecular Clouds in their dialogue, very different ways.


      "Astronomy Skits for Secondary School Science Education"
      Prescott Astronomy Club at the Prescott Public Library
      Date:  October 16, 2014
      Prescott, Arizona
      Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ
      We enjoyed our evening with the Prescott Astronomy Club. We described our upcoming book for science educators, and reviewed the latest information on opportunities for students interested in Space Science and Astronomy. We then illustrated our book with a performance of two of our Astronomy Skits, and discussed their purpose of attracting young adults to Space Science, Astronomy, and the sciences, in general. We finished the evening with frozen yogurt at a local eatery, where the conversation continued!


      “Evaluating the Definition of Big History Threshold 6:
      The Rise of Collective Learning, Human Ritual, and Other Precursors to Religious Thinking"

      Conference Theme: "Teaching and Researching Big History: 
      Big Picture, Big Questions"
      International Big History Association (IBHA) Conference
      Date:  August 6-10, 2014
      Dominican University of California
      San Rafael, California

      [*Previous title: "Crossing the Latest Line, Part 2: The Emergence of Sentience in Science, Religion, and Art"]

      Posted by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ

      We were both excited about attending our second Big History conference - the first being in Moscow last year, and hosted by the Lomonosov Moscow State University (see our post below). We became new members of the International Big History Association in order to present, and are glad of it, partly because of the IBHA's outstanding ORIGINS Newsletters with articles on a variety of topics related to our work. The link provided here will take the reader to the International Big History Association. Once there, click on "Origins" to find downloadable issues.

      For our Big History presentation in San Rafael, we returned to our theme of the emergence of sentience among early members of the genus Homo, as a way to evaluate Big History Threshold 6 - the rise of of Homo sapiens and "collective learning." We focused on Homo sapiens idaltu, who lived some 160,000 years ago in East Africa. We tried to pinpoint - as closely as the latest archaeological evidence allows - when and where the development of "collective learning" took place on Earth.

      We also returned to our theme of the origins of religious thought as an aspect of the development of sentience. We found far more people than we expected interested in religion's place in Big History.

      One of the most gratifying aspects of this conference was meeting and chatting with others who are interested in Big History, and who believe in the broadest scope for teaching evolution. It was exciting to see the beginnings of a fine, cross-disciplinary organization of individuals committed to teaching, and who offer a perspective that brought under one umbrella our main fields of Astronomy and Anthropology.



      The Emotional Brain Hypothesis:
      Emotional, Social, and Religious Vetting 
      in the Evolution of Rational Decision Making 
      and Scientific Modeling”

      European Society for the Study of Science and Theology
      15th European Conference on Science and Theology
      Conference Theme: "Do Emotions Shape the World? Perspectives from Science and Theology"
      Date:  April 30 - May 4, 2014
      Assisi, Italy
      Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ

      While Chris has been to ESSSAT meetings in the past, this was the first time that together, we had an opportunity to present our newly developed "Emotional Brain Hypothesis" (analogous perhaps to Dunbar's 1998 "Social Brain Hypothesis"). At the conference in Assisi, we focused on the importance of emotional evaluation in human decision making for members of the genus Homo (in addition to rational and social factors). We noted that much attention had been paid to the importance of social interaction in hominin learning, and in intellectual creations in science, religion, and art by Homo sapiens. However, less attention had been paid to the role of emotion. 

      Our paper seemed very compatible with other papers at the conference. However, it was unique in its very long-term perspective, back to the Middle Stone Age in Africa. We speculated on the role of emotion in "cultural ratcheting" (e.g. Dean et al. 2012) by early humans, and gave a reading from our Astronomy Skits Book (click on the Astronomy Skits Program to the left). We read the roles of a skit entitled, "Early Man and Middle Stone Age Constellations," which is a work of fiction, but one based clearly on the latest archaeological findings. In this skit, the importance of emotions in rational decision making is illustrated by two early humans, Seer and Em, while they confront the need to move and find better food sources.

      Chris was delighted to see old friends and Margaret was glad to make new ones. The ESSSAT membership, the extent and quality of the program, and the setting of Assisi all made for an excellent experience indeed.

      To view our preliminary conference paper, click the following PDF icon. The paper will now be fully developed for publication.




      "The Prehistory of Artistic Thinking: 
      From the Sophisticated Inca Back to the Dawn of Sentience in Africa"
      John David Mooney Foundation
      Advanced Study in the Fine Arts for Graduates & Mid-Career Professionals 
      Date:  March 13, 2014
      Chicago, Illinois
      Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ, and Margaret Boone Rappaport 

      A full evening of reception, presentation, and Peruvian buffet took place on the several floors of John David Mooney's art foundation and exhibition space in Chicago.  
      We were honored to have the Consuls General of both Peru and Argentina in attendance.

      Our presentation included two skits that we had not yet performed publicly, one on the Inca and their interpretation of Milky Way constellations, and the second, on Early Man (75,000 years ago), who, we speculated, devised a "star map" and "earth map" that were incised on red ochre - showing "external storage of symbols," a mark of modern thinking. Of course, no one yet knows how the many pieces of incised ochre from the Middle Stone Age were used by early members of the genus Homo, so our guess might be as good as any.

      Our host, artist John David Mooney, had already set the stage for us with his 125' sculpture, "Milky Way," which we integrated into our talk. Both skits were well received by an audience of around 80. Our presentation gave the latest scientific findings on origins of sentience (science, religion, and especially art, this evening) in hominins leading to modern man, and we illustrated the use of Matrix Thinking in our two costumed Astronomy Skits. 

      "Matrix Thinking in Science, Religion, and Art"
      The Marian Club at St. Thomas the Apostle Church
      Date:  January 8, 2014
      Tucson, Arizona 
      Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport and Chris Corbally, SJ

      Wednesday night was full of fun at St. Thomas! Chris Corbally and I enjoyed presenting our ideas on Matrix Thinking and two skits to the Marian Club members. We appreciate very much their willingness to fill out "pre-evaluation forms" giving their impressions of the two Supernovae Skits we performed: One in A.D. 1054 (creating the Crab Nebula), and the other in A.D. 2054, where we anticipate Eta Carinae "going supernova." The responses on the forms will go far in helping us to design useful evaluation forms for our IAU grant. Involvement in local activities has a high priority for both of us and we were delighted to be there.

      "Big History and Global Evolution"
      International Congress "Globalistics-2013"
      Date:  October 23-25, 2013
      Lomonosov Moscow State University
      Moscow, Russia
      Post by: Chris Corbally, SJ

      We were happy to be invited to this international symposium hosted by Professors Leonid Grinin and Andrey Korotayev. The symposium included David Christian and Joseph Voros, among an international group of scholars. We were especially gratified that our paper - "Crossing the Latest Line: The Evolution of Religious Thought as a Component of Human Sentience" - was chosen for inclusion in the yearbook publication based on this symposium. The volume is entitled: Evolution: Development within Big History, Evolutionary and World-System Paradigms, and it is published in Volgograd, by Uchitel, 2013, and edited by our hosts. 

      The text of our article in this publication can be accessed by clicking this link:


      "Interdisciplinary Studies: The Next 25 Years"
      JIS 2013 International Symposium
      Date:  August 1-4, 2013
      Pasadena Hilton
      Pasadena, California
      Post by: Margaret Boone Rappaport

      Chris Corbally and I were delighted to be asked to deliver the Keynote Address for this very interesting, interdisciplinary conference.  Participants came from as far away as China, Indonesia, and Nigeria.  Anita Lie, who came from Widya Mandala Catholic University, presented an interesting paper on character education, and Miguel Ángel Quintana-Paz, from the Universidad Europea Miguel de Cervantes, in Spain, gave a paper on ethics, religion, and politics.  An entire session on "Interdisciplinary Research in China" included four papers by Chinese scholars from the PRC and USA.  We enjoyed getting to know Jesse J. Thomas, of San Diego State University, and many others doing interdisciplinary research and writing.
      INSAP VIII: "City of Stars"
      Conference on the Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena
      “Art as an Evolutionary Adaptation: Inspirations from the Visible Supernovae of A.D. 1054 and A.D. 3054”
      Date:  July 7-12, 2013
      Hayden Planetarium
      Rose Center for Earth & Space
      American Museum of Natural History
      New York, New York
      Post By:  Chris Corbally, SJ

      At last, I’ve been to an Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena (INSAP, meeting. I’ve known about them since the first one in 1994, just across Lake Albano from the Vatican Observatory’s headquarters.  INSAP VIII "City of Stars"
      ( was hosted most efficiently and in a friendly way by the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.  It was my opportunity to go - and it didn’t disappoint.

      Among many fine presentations, Ralfee Finn’s multimedia one was based on interviews with urban students, and it showed how their attention could be lifted to the stars, even in a city.  John David Mooney’s urban public sculptures also revealed how city art can become transformative of our perspectives.  Margaret Rappaport’s and my presentation of skits and a dialogue on the impact of visual supernovae took participants by surprise, but we were gratified by their enthusiastic acceptance of this practical illustration of Matrix Thinking.

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