Latest update: September 5, 2015

Sixth Advanced International Colloquium on

Building the Scientific Mind (BtSM2015)

São Raimundo Nonato & Serra da Capivara, Piauí, Brazil
A dialogue among the disciplines organized by the
Learning Development Institute, 17-21 August 2015
in collaboration with
FUMDHAM (Fundação Museu do Homem Americano)
in association with
Fundación Cultura de Paz
Universe Awareness (UNAWE)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
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About BtSM
BtSM stands for Building the Scientific Mind. Since 2005, different Advanced International Colloquia on Building the Scientific Mind were held every other year in different parts of the world. The sixth colloquium currently under preparation comes in the wake of five prior Building the Scientific Mind colloquia, held under the auspices and/or with the support of UNESCO, namely BtSM2013, held in May 2013 in Lembang, Indonesia; BtSM2011, which took place in March 2011 in Stellenbosch, South Africa; BtSM2009, held in Cairo, Egypt, in May 2009; BtSM2007, held in Vancouver, Canada, in May 2007; and the inaugural colloquium BtSM2005, which took place in May 2005 in The Hague, The Netherlands. Each of the colloquia focused on a specific theme.
The sixth colloquium is deliberately being planned to take place in Brazil so as to favor participation from the Latin America and Caribbean region, while continuing the practice of the past colloquia to discuss issues regarding the scientific mind in a planetary perspective. In other words, participation from all parts of the world will be encouraged and we hope to see many familiar faces from the past alongside many new ones. Those new to BtSM may want to check the above links to find out more about the past colloquia so as to have an idea of what to expect in 2015. A short video made during the Stellenbosch colloquium gives a good idea of the atmosphere during these meetings. A different brief video impression takes you to the Lembang colloquium.
Less wide-ranging BtSM events, at national level or in specific professional contexts, have complemented the international five colloquia mentioned above. All in all, the decade long dialogue has involved several hundred people of diverse backgrounds and interests, comprising scientists--including several Nobel laureates--working in fields related to the natural as well as the social and human sciences; thinkers; educational researchers and practitioners; medical professionals; decision makers; artists; managers; et cetera; and just anyone interested in the matter at hand. An important achievement of this work, in addition to establishing an informal global transdisciplinary BtSM network, has been the consensus view that emerged around the definition of the scientific mind as:
a way of being in the world, inspired by the heritage of the millennia-long history of the human pursuit of knowledge (scientia) for the advancement of understanding and wisdom, comprising
• habits of thinking and dispositions in approaching the world, as well as
• values, ethical concerns, aesthetic considerations, and attitudes, alongside
• the command of a complex array of skills and mental capabilities in varied domains
Note that this definition emphasizes our 'way of being in the world' as the principal aspect of the scientific mind. Skills and mental abilities are important as well, but only in context and they are mentioned side-by-side with values and attitudes.
More about the BtSM colloquium series and its history can be found in the linked document, written in preparation for the colloquium held in Lembang, Indonesia, in 2011, on The State of BtSM.
Initial ideas about the conceptual background of BtSM are elaborated upon in a concept paper on ‘The Scientific Mind in Context,' which served to inform the preparation of the very first BtSM colloquium, held in The Hague, The Netherlands, in 2005.
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About the forthcoming sixth colloquium in 2015
Preparations for the Sixth Advanced International Colloquium on Building the Scientific Mind (BtSM2015) are underway. The colloquium will take place in the small city of São Raimundo Nonato (SRN) in the state of Piauí in the fascinating Northeast Region of Brazil from 17 to 21 August 2015. São Raimundo Nonato is the closest city to the Serra da Capivara National Park, which will play an important role in the colloquium. See the adjacent map.
The colloquium is being organized in close collaboration with FUMDHAM, a not-for-profit scientific entity, headed by pioneering archeologist Niéde Guidon. FUMDHAM has been responsible for creating the American Man Museum (Museu do Homem Americano) in SRN. Luiza Alonso, who participated in two previous BtSM colloquia, deserves the credit for having identified this interesting location and established the initial contacts with relevant members of the local community. Use your favorite search engine to find out more about FUMDHAM, Niéde Guidon, and the ongoing research, such as this recent article on Dating human occupation at Toca do Serrote das Moendas, São Raimundo Nonato, Piauí-Brasil by electron spin resonance and optically stimulated luminescence.
The choice of São Raimundo Nonato and the Serra da Capivara National Park as the venue for BtSM2015 is firmly embedded in our tradition to always meet in inspiring places. Those who attended the BtSM colloquium in Stellenbosch will recall Luiza's presentation on her work in the Serra da Capivara. More information about this interesting location, which has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, can be found at and In March 2014, the New York Times published an article with the title 'Discoveries Challenge Beliefs on Humans’ Arrival in the Americas' on the archeological work undertaken by Niéde Guidon and het colleagues in the Serra da Capivara region.
We'll be meeting in an environment where we are surrounded by vestiges of human habitation dating back tens of thousands of years. In that environment we'll be asking ourselves questions relevant to the theme of our colloquium: 'Building peace in the minds of women and men,' questions that are of all times and thus may have been on the mind of our ancestors as much as they should be a crucial concern for citizens of the 21st century CE. Confronting the world of our ancestors with our own world will hopefully enlighten our reflections regarding the evolving context in which humans have generated knowledge--the business of what we now call science--and sought to understand their own being in the world.
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About the lead theme of the colloquium: Building peace in the minds of women and men
The past BtSM colloquia have considered issues regarding the building of the scientific mind in the light of a variety of challenges faced by the world at our particular junction in time, such as how to deal with the complexity and long term nature of the change processes of which we are a part (2007); how we see ourselves as inhabitants of a tiny planet in a vast universe (2009); how we should conceive of human learning in the perspective of the need to build sustainable futures (2011); and how to use our scientific and technological prowess for the benefit of creating a more beautiful and harmonious world (2013). In 2015 we should like our focus to be on how the building of the scientific mind can contribute to the larger goal of 'building peace in the minds of women and men.' The choice of this theme is inspired by the words of the American poet Archibald MacLeish who inscribed them in 1945 in the preamble to UNESCO's Constitution: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." The manner in which we have defined the scientific mind as "a way of being in the world (Dasein, to use Heidegger's terminology), inspired by the heritage of the evolutionary history of science throughout the millennia" clearly links it to the chosen theme for the BtSM colloquium in 2015. For those interested, it is noted that Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) explores related issues in a series of essays (originally lectures given at MIT in 1953) published under the title "Science and Human Values."
The proximity of the world of our ancestors to the place where we meet will be a crucially interesting feature of BtSM2015, allowing our dialogue to take place in the presence of voices from the remote past humanity's evolutionary history. This may open our eyes to how the knowledge we built over the millennia has become a shining work of art in the light of which we may see our own existence in a cosmos we still hardly comprehend. However immensely different our world seems to be in comparison with the world of pre-historic man, we may be just as mystified when it comes to seeking understanding (St. Anselm's 11th century concept) of who and what we are and where we are going (the questions asked by Gauguin's famous painting). During tens of thousands of years we may have merely raised the bar regarding the level of sophistication of the questions we ask.
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Elements of the dialogue
Contributions received prior to the colloquium:
Participants in BtSM2015--as well as interested persons who, for different reasons, cannot be present--were invited to share, prior to the colloquium, contributions intended to enrich the dialogue. Some of those contributions may be sketchy, incomplete, or provisional. Their authors may want to update them as we progress. They appear below in chronological order of their original submission. Please click on the title to access a particular contribution.
Contribution received while the colloquium was in progress:
Links to important elements of the colloquium proceedings:
Day 1 (August 17, 2015)
Day 2 (August 18, 2015)
Day 3 (August 19, 2015)
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Summary of the wrap-up session of BtSM2015
A summary of the wrap-up session of BtSM2015 on August 21, 2015, was prepared by Muriel Visser. It may later be integrated in a more comprehensive report regarding BtSM2015.
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How to get there
São Raimundo Nonato can be reached traveling by air to Petrolina and from thereon overland in air-conditioned minibuses for some four hours to SRN. International travelers may enter the country via any of the major international hubs--such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo or Brasília--and from thereon continue their journey taking domestic flights to Petrolina. Alternatively, one's international ticket could be routed to either Salvador de Bahia or Recife (via one of the previously mentioned hubs) and one could from thereon take a local flight to Petrolina. If you have to stay overnight somewhere in Brazil on your way to Petrolina, it is far more affordable and pleasant to do so in Salvador, Recife or Petrolina than in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, or Brasília. In September 2014 we undertook a preparatory and exploratory trip to the Serra da Capivara National Park and found that our international air ticket out of Amsterdam via Rio de Janeiro to Salvador was actually cheaper than the airfare from Amsterdam to Rio. One may take advantage of such anomalies by spending some time on the Web, searching for best options.
We found the transport by bus/minivan to be comfortable. The road connecting Petrolina with São Raimundo Nonato is a tarred road. It is generally of good quality. A small portion has potholes. These potholes are well known by the drivers who navigate skillfully around them. Drivers usually make a stop about one third the way from Petroliana to SRN so that you can stretch your legs and/or have a snack.The scenery, as you travel overland, is, according to some travelers, so breathtaking that one might actually feel sorry that the trip lasts only four hours. We found this to depend on the perceiver. Some people perceive the landscape as monotonous and thus boring. However, on more careful inspection one sees beautiful diversity within such monotony (like one sees beauty in the self-similar foliage of a single tree). In 2009, FUMDHAM organized the Global Rock Art Congress in Serra da Capivara. More than 400 people attended, including around 100 from abroad. There is thus prior experience of international gatherings.
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Staying in São Raimundo Nonato
During our exploratory visit in September 2014 we identified three hotels of acceptable quality and stayed in two of them. We found the Real Hotel Empreendimentos (Real Hotel for short) to be the best and thus chose it as the official colloquium hotel. While one should not expect sophisticated luxury in SRN, the Real Hotel is comfortable and clean. It also offers good restaurant services. It is centrally located in town in close proximity to various other restaurants where participants may decide to go for dinner. The negotiated discounted daily room rates at the Real Hotel for guests who book as BtSM2015 participants is R$ 110 for single and R$ 130 for double occupancy. Those rates are 33% below de regular listed rates. Note that at the current exchange rates three R$ are the approximate equivalent of one US$. The rate includes breakfast. The number of rooms is limited, though. Depending on the number of participants who register, there may not be enough rooms for all of them in the Real Hotel. Early booking is therefore strongly recommended. Other hotels--Hotel Serra da Capivara and Hotel Bella Vista--are available should there be an overflow situation. They are of lesser quality and offer a lesser or no discount. Hotel Bella Vista is located in the center of SRN; Hotel Serra da Capivara is located at 20 to 30 minutes walking from the town center. Taxis are quite affordable, though. We consider the Hotel Serra da Capivara of better quality than the Hotel Bella Vista.
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A sketchy look at the program
As in the case of previously organized colloquia, we take the term 'colloquium' (= talking together) seriously and emphasize the value of dialogue over listening to presentations. On the other hand, we find it important to provide an opportunity for all to speak their mind. In the past we solved this dilemma by programming the morning sessions such that everyone who had sent in a session proposal got time to speak, reserving the afternoons for workshop like activities. This time we'll shift the emphasis even further in the direction of dialogue. At least two half days will be spent touring and visiting archeological sites in the Serra da Capivara National Park. In addition we'll spend time visiting the displays at the American Man Museum and interacting with the researchers there. After having visited the site in September 2014, we find Serra da Capivara too good and too interesting an opportunity not to be taken fully advantage of. We see it as an opportuinty to let our remote ancestors to speak to us through the vestiges they left behind in the area where we meet. This means that we plan to reduce the proportion of speaker time in the program in two ways: (1) we'll be more selective in approving proposals and (2) we'll look for session formats to share ideas and experience by individuals in more efficient and less time consuming ways. In addition to proposed workshop and dialogue opportunities conceived by the planning team, we'll also leave ample room for participants to inject their own ideas into the program. Finally, most of the evening time is left unprogrammed so that participants can self-organize their spending time together to socialize and deepen their interactions.
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All are welcome but seats are limited
We welcome participants from across interests, disciplines and persuasions, straddling the entire spectrum from the arts to the natural as well as social and human sciences. We value diversity.
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Because of the limited number of seats available, we encourage those who seriously consider participating to sign up as soon as possible via the registration form below. Those wishing to suggest ideas for the program of the colloquium or who are interested in presenting or organizing an activity during the colloquium should also fill out the session/activity proposal form.
(MS Word version)
(MS Word version)

 Click on link to download the form. If it appears in 'protected view,' enable editing.
We'll be updating this page from time to time. Please keep checking.
We look forward to meeting you in São Raimundo Nonato and the Serra da Capivara.
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