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The complexity of the world in view of a "dogmatic" science

by Richard Meckien - published Jul 08, 2016 02:35 PM - - last modified Jul 19, 2016 10:08 AM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Sylvia Miguel

Till Roenneberg

According to Till Roenneberg, "we are loosing our critical view into how we make science.


"It seems like they are trying to eliminate the humanities because there is an idea that apparently this field does not bring much money or many students to the institutions. This is the worst direction we could take. There is a crisis in the way we deal with the humanities and we should change it."

The quote by chronobiologist Till Roenneberg seeded his conference on interdisciplinarity given at the Waseda Institute for Advanced Studies (WIAS) during the 1st Intercontinental Academia (ICA). The dialogue between different kinds of knowledge, or what academia calls interdisciplinarity, will be the topic discussed by Roenneberg on July 19, in the IEA Events Room, from 10 am.

Invited by the IEA to revisit the presentation of the ICA, the scientist from the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) will give the conference Why Science needs more than Interdisciplinarity. The event will be broadcast live on the web.

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The challenges to interdisciplinarity

The IEA, an interdisciplinary body par excellence, is revisiting the issue of interdisciplinarity from meetings with renowned experts. German sociologist Peter Weingart, board member and director of the Bielefeld University's Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF), has shown that the achievement of interdisciplinary model will only be effective through an institutional restructuring in teaching and research institutions. Despite being fashionable in academia for over 20 years, interdisciplinarity was still a concept "empty of meaning" until recently, he said during his lecture at the IEA.

In Roenneberg's vision, science needs more than interdisciplinarity. "Modern science uses objective methods and criteria to find the ‘true’ mechanistic causes behind observed associations. While we have made great advances in explaining extended putative causal networks, we are loosing our critical view into how we do this," he says.

For the scientist, not biological dogmas or physical theories, not genes or quarks are at the centre of our scientific endeavours. "Only one thing is the central commonality of every scientific discovery: our own brain, which is basically a story-telling machine," he says.

At this meeting, Roenneberg will remember the necessity that we have to fuse as many different brains as possible to make larger jumps in our scientific insights.

The conferencist

Till Roenneberg is a professor of chronobiology at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) in München, Germany. He explores the impact of light on human circadian rhythms, focusing on aspects such as chronotypes and social jet lag in relation to health benefits. Roenneberg attended both the University College London and LMU, where he began by studying physics. He switched to medicine in order to focus on the science of the human body, but ended up studying biology. As a postdoctoral fellow, he studied again under Jurgen Aschoff, studying annual rhythms in the body, then moved to the United States to study the cellular basis of biological clocks under Woody Hastings at Harvard University. In 1991, he began the tradition of giving the Aschoff’s Ruler prize to a chronobiologist who has advanced the field. He is currently the vice-chair of the Institute for Medical Psychology of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the head of the Centre for Chronobiology, the president-elect of the European Biological Rhythms Society, the president of the World Federation of Societies for Chronobiology, and a member of the Senior Common Room of Brasenose College, University of Oxford. From 2005 to 2010 he was the coordinator of "EUCLOCK" and coordinator of the Daimler-Benz-Foundation network "ClockWORK", and from 2010 to 2012 was the member at large of the Society for Research of Biological Rhythms.