Selected Fields 2011

Past - Evolution

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The conclusions of Charles Darwin's seminal work "On the Origin of Species" is overwhelmingly and universally accepted by scientists. The principles of evolution constitute the foundation of modern biology, directing research and providing a unifying explanation for the history and diversity of life on Earth. It ties together fields as disparate as genetics and palaeontology. The conclusions and implications of this most influential scientific theory, impact our understanding of nature and also religion, politics, economics and art. Terms such as evolution; natural selection; selective pressures; species and genetic diversity have even become household items.

The concepts of evolution greatly influence our lives in many ways. Evolutionary theory is the basis for interdisciplinary scientific studies on the nature and status of biodiversity on earth and the management of natural resources with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from extinction.

Agriculture uses principles of evolution for ‘artificial selection' in breeding crops and animals and in studying the ensuing ecological changes in the environment. Evolution has played a major role in understanding human disease and medicine, for example the controlled use of antibiotics so as to avoid the evolution of resistance to them. Biotechnology research uses evolution by starting with something that is already there in nature and has a certain degree of usefulness, and then improving it by artificial selection.

Evolution research has had, and will continue to have, a major impact on us physically, socially and spiritually. The 2011 Dan David Prize for the Past Time Dimension will be awarded to an individual(s) who has significantly contributed to the field of evolution and its applications.


Present - Cinema and Society

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Film discourse and cinematic images are an integral part of the fabric of modern society. Films can convey political messages or glamorize reality; they can provide cheap thrills or convey poignant commentary. Cinema is a social platform, a promoter of public dialogue, a trend setter, and has a great influence on the minds and imaginations of young and old alike.

Cinema is like every other art form, not only about entertaining or recording but rather editing and intensifying the world we live in, enabling a new perception of the world, causing intellectual emotion, asking questions, and activating its viewers.

What is the relationship between cinema and society?

Can movies really change our minds and shape our values, challenge the way we think about human relations, world affairs, family values and affect our very characters and identity?

Prof. Maria DiBattista of Princeton University maintains that ... "Movies can take on the great social problems of their time, but they may be the least effective - or appropriate -Did ‘Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' make it easier for interracial couples to marry? Did ‘Wall Street' help unseat the captains of industry and discredit their doctrine of ‘greed is good'? Name any ‘problem film' - whether it deals with discrimination (racial, ethnic, sexual or religious), social reform (of schools, prisons, legislatures) or corporate corruption (national or global) - and you will come up with the same unimpressive results. The more designs a movie has on us, the less willing we are to change our minds, much less our social and business practices". Nedra Weinreich, consultant and author on health and social issues disagrees. "I think that movies .... have the potential to change attitudes and beliefs, and ultimately to bring about individual and social change. In many cases, a movie may be the first exposure an individual has to a particular topic, raising the awareness that a problem exists." When health issues such as Aids are portrayed and humanized in a movie like "Philadelphia", viewers are left with a richer understanding of the individual as he confronts society's fears and prejudices.

The extent of cinema's influence is often debated, some arguing that it merely depicts reality, and others claiming it has an immense impact on people's minds, acting as a force for social change.

The 2011 Dan David Prize for the Present Time Dimension will be awarded to an individual(s) who has significantly contributed to the field of cinema and its impact on society.


Future - Ageing, Facing the Challenge

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Ageing is characterized by the accumulation of changes in an organism over time. In humans, ageing refers to a multidimensional process of physical, biological, psychological, and social changes. Gerontology, is a research area focusing on the biological aspects of the ageing process, the interface of normal ageing and age-related diseases and on the effects of ageing populations on society, including the fiscal effects of pensions, life and health insurance, and of retirement planning.

Modern medicine has both greatly extended the individual's lifespan and provided the means for better coping with age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Due to significant achievements of the biomedical community, the quality of life during old age has been significantly enhanced. New pharmaceutical compounds and gene-based therapies hold out the promise of mitigating, if not ending, the worst aspects of ageing.

It should be realized that today's older generation has different values and requirements from society and government compared to young people. We need to accommodate the requirements of both the ageing as well as those of the younger population. We need to achieve social justice, to continue to fund programs for the elderly and maintain and expand programs for future generations.

The immense knowledge gained in ageing research has empowered men and women to reach old age in better health and with more fully realized well-being. It has become clear that even late in life the potential exists for physical, mental and social growth and development. The challenge facing our society is to materialize this potential.

The 2011 Dan David Prize for the Future Time Dimension will be awarded to an individual(s) who has significantly contributed to the elucidation of the ageing process and to the application of this understanding for the benefit of mankind.