Synopsis:Astronomy and Civilization, Budapest (Hungary), August 10-13, 2009

The conference, held to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009, is intended as an exceptional, multidisciplinary event on the most challenging questions of science, religion, and philosophy. Its motto and central theme can be stated as follows: "The level of knowledge attained in all ages has been determined by the generally accepted theory of the Universe", as observed by Paul Couderc in Histoire de l'Astronomie, 1960, page 8. The goal of the conference is to call attention to the close relations between astronomy, natural sciences and civilization, first of all to the foundational, active and renewing role of astronomy in the development of our civilization and shaping our future. Astronomy has significant impact on science in general as well as on public imagination. The conference intends to combine plenary sessions on big questions in an inspiring manner with minisymposia on cutting-edge research in physics, astrobiology, complexity sciences, and on the relations between art, religion and astronomy. Therefore, in addition to the plenary talks, a few minisymposia will be held: "Physical Cosmological Models and the Astronomically Observed Universe"; "Complexity, Emergence and Astrobiological Aspects of the Universe"; "Astronomy and High Tech" and "Astronomy, Art and Religion".

The main idea of the conference is to aid and promote the future of science by enlightening how the pursuit of astronomy has elevated our civilization and how it can improve the prospects of Homo Sapiens. We attempt to reach the highest possible impact on the public sphere with the help of large-scale media coverage. It has been our experience that most people, including a majority of astronomers, do not realize the key role that astronomy plays in the self-understanding of a culture, and how this shapes civilization. In ancient traditions, cosmogony played a central role. Nowadays, in the era of the consumer society, it is more and more usual to regard astronomy as an uneconomic, superfluous branch of science. This view presents a threatening danger not only to the intellectual and social status of astronomy in modern societies, but also to the future of science and civilization. The deep and complex idea of the Universe we suggest to promote seeks to elevate prevailing social viewpoints from the consuming attitude to a systematically developed, widened, and deepened concept of the real Universe that progressively captures its extraordinary complexity, and ultimately its integral unity. In the 21st century, the century of biology and complexity, the widest range of life (astrobiology) and complexity sciences is the real Universe, and so it offers the most general and complex context for the progress of natural sciences. We plan also Public Lectures in Hungarian and in English, to be broadcasted also locally and internationally.

We think that Asia contributed much of great significance to the culture and harmony of mankind, in their dealings with one other and with the Universe, than it is known today in the West. For this reason, besides presenting the Western achievements, we plan to give a special emphasis to the contributions of Asia to civilization.

Talks and poster contributions accepted by the scientific organizing committee of the conference will be published. We invest work securing the long-timescale impact of the conference on the wide public with the help of local and global press, videos, television and radio programs.

The themes of the Conference will be divided into the following topics:

1. Astronomy and Civilization; History of Astronomy; The Effect of Astronomy on the Foundations of Civilization
2. Astronomy and Physical Models; Theory of Cosmology and the Observed Universe
3. Astronomy, Complexity, Emergence and Astrobiology
4. Astronomy, Philosophy, Religion and Art

In particular, the meeting will focus on the following fundamental concepts, questions and problems:

* Why is astronomy so important for mankind?
* What is the basis of the concept of the Universe? What are the presuppositions of science basic in our present physical world picture?
* What are the important differences between the observed Universe and its physical models? What is the relation between our perceptions and the Universe?
* What is complexity, and how can it be important in the study of the Universe?
* Does quantum mechanics play a non-trivial role in the astrobiological aspects of life?
* What are the most general aspects of life within cosmic conditions? Are there cosmic life forms different from terrestrial ones?
* How can philosophy, religion and art contribute to obtain a more complete concept of the Universe?
* What are the most significant and genuine contributions of astronomy to civilization — and how can it improve the perspectives of mankind?