Global scientific conference on hf blog
Aug 4, 2022

Announcing the First Annual Global Scientific Conference on Human Flourishing

Free and open to all, this virtual conference will showcase dynamic, global dialogues on the most significant scientific discoveries in understanding human flourishing.

By Dr. Andrew Serazin

The late Sir John Templeton placed our distinct cognitive, social, and spiritual capacities at the center of what it means to be human. In The Humble Approach, Sir John wrote: "More and more, healing and health are being seen as involving a partnership between inner resources of mind and spirit and external scientific medicine. Such a vision treats the whole person."

Sir John believed in the expansiveness of the human condition, of growth and progress, and in the search for meaning, purpose, and truth. He also believed in the power of science to help unlock our full potential and aid in the search.

With this vision in mind, the Templeton World Charity Foundation is able and excited to announce the first annual Global Scientific Conference on Human Flourishing. The conference will showcase the most significant scientific discoveries and innovations to help humans flourish together amid current threats and challenges. It will be held virtually 29-30 November 2022 (the 29th would have been Sir John's 110th birthday). In keeping with our commitment to supporting open science, registration will be free for everyone.

Flourishing has deep roots as a vital concept in our intellectual history, but it is only recently that scientists have demonstrated it is possible to empirically measure and study flourishing in its different dimensions. When humans flourish, it means we are on a journey toward a life that is holistically good – encompassing physical and mental well-being. It also means finding fulfillment through relationships and bonds, and living with purpose, and building character. When humans flourish, we have agency and can direct our own lives.

A big question facing flourishing science today is understanding how we can nurture our human capacities despite compounding crises. The continuing COVID-19 pandemic, political polarization, powerful new technology, climate change, and armed conflict all pose barriers to flourishing. Yet when humans flourish collectively, the hallmarks of flourishing can become self-reinforcing and serve to help others flourish.

One major blind spot in scientific inquiry on human flourishing, however, has been the lack of representation of research from non-western and lower-income contexts. Traditionally, scientific research on human flourishing has been disproportionately conducted within a small geographic zone, leaving out significant aspects of the human experience.

Encouragingly, this oversight is beginning to be corrected. An important development in increasing the inclusivity of human flourishing research is a new global longitudinal study that will follow 300,000 individuals from 22 geographically and culturally diverse countries. The Global Flourishing Study is a collaboration among scholars at Harvard University and Baylor University, The Gallup organization, and a consortium of funders.

By starting this new annual conference, we hope to galvanize the field of human flourishing science and drive forward research and innovation by convening scientists from diverse academic disciplines supported by different institutions around the world.

In addition, we hope the conference will connect scientists with policymakers, practitioners, cultural influencers, philanthropists, frontline workers, and grassroots advocates – who can all work together to plot a path forward to achieve ambitious goals to help people flourish.

The conference program has two tracks: 1) understanding and measuring flourishing across cultures and 2) innovations for flourishing amid modern challenges. Researchers are demonstrating that it is possible to identify the dimensions and determinants of flourishing - and to compare and contrast them across cultures. Building on this foundation of science that examines how humans flourish, innovative projects are seeking to discover ways to improve people’s lives today and in the future.

These pioneering projects consider applications for human flourishing science from an impressively wide array of perspectives, including: tools for listening and learning in a polarized world, innovations in character development, the science of spiritual practice, the science of forgiveness, artificial intelligence and moral judgment, economic policy and flourishing, and flourishing in adversity.

Sir John often espoused that periods of difficult change are ripe for us all to participate in the grand creative process of human progress. The complex challenges we face in the modern age are daunting, but they also present an opportunity if we are open to it.

We hope you can join us in November for the first annual Global Scientific Conference on Human Flourishing. Please sign up to receive news and updates, including information about the plenary and scientific abstract programs. Let's commit to learn, to expand, and synthesize our knowledge on what it means to be fully human, and to discover new ways of applying those insights to benefit the world around us.