13. April 2022

Interview with Dr. Dieter Praas | Director QuellPunkt | Aachen Diocese about the touchpoints of religion and science and their potentials

Authors: Bärbel Keysselitz and Julia Moritz | WBA Aachener Werkzeugbau Akademie GmbH (Aachen Toolmaking Academy)
Dr. Dieter Praas is a graduated theologian and pastoral advisor of the Aachen Diocese. He took on a professional appointment on RWTH Aachen Campus on behalf of the diocese after successfully completing his doctorate in pastoral theology in 2018. To be exact: he moved to the Production Engineering Cluster, where today he holds the role of Director of QuellPunkt.
This is where science and religion meet. How does the mutual exchange actually work?
Admittedly, the reason why QuellPunkt – the Catholic Chaplainy on Campus Melaten – made its home at the Production Engineering Cluster in 2018 was primarily due to infrastructural reasons. But still: Back then – and still today – the Production Engineering Cluster embodied the vision of RWTH Aachen Campus: Top tier research in which the center and its actors collaborate with businesses on finding answers to relevant questions of the future. “The future dimensions of the completed campus became apparent even back then. There was input from church actors at the diocese, as well as from some professors, insisting that ‘the church’ would have to have some presence and perspective at such an important place of science to prevent the withdrawal from society and from social scientific discourse”, Praas recalls. That is how a center for topics like disruption, questioning, spirituality and transcendence, i.e. QuellPunkt, came to be at the Production Engineering Cluster.

Campus GmbH/Moll

The Production Engineering Cluster is one of the largest research laboratories for production engineering and Industry 4.0 in Europe
“Here we create a touchpoint between theology, natural science, ethics, and technology.”
The Production Engineering Cluster and QuellPunkt demonstrate how science and religion can find common ground. “We have topical commonalities with the Production Engineering Cluster, for example the Internet of Production and Industrie 4.0. In these topic areas, we are interested in ethical questions, including in the area of artificial intelligence. I have found that students, as well as research associates and employees say that ethical questions have little to no impact on studies or daily work. Here at QuellPunkt, we provide a space to consciously deal with these topics.” In workshops and personal discussions, visitors have an opportunity to explore, what exactly the EU-defined ‘trustworthy artificial intelligence’ and ‘assumption of responsibility’ mean. “I personally find such discourse very exciting. QuellPunkt gives us the opportunity to offer and contribute ideas and know-how, as well as a network and perspectives to the Production Engineering Cluster”, Praas is pleased to say.
“There is no need to extinguish a perspective. Instead, a tension between the two should be maintained.”
He feels that it is important not to understand the dialog between science and religion as a one-way street: The aim is to create a back and forth of inspiration, which can even at times lead to irritation – in other words: that particular basic assumptions about seemingly self-evident issues are then also questioned again.” That is why Praas does not see any contradiction between science and religion. “Unless very extreme positions are represented on both sides. Meaning: A religious fundamentalism on one side, which mistakes the story of creation for a scientific statement. And a scientific reductionism on the other, which assumes that there is no reality outside of scientific proof. Coming to terms with religious fundamentalism and scientific reductionism will likely be impossible.” He is convinced that faith refers less to holding certain beliefs, but rather to opening oneself to transcendence – a conviction that there is more to the world than what is sensually perceptible and empirically ascertainable. “And it is precisely here that a space is created for religion, science and natural science to meet and come to terms”, he explains. He sees the necessity for an attitude of tolerance of ambiguity, which recognizes that the world is ambiguous. “There is no need to extinguish a perspective. Instead, a tension between the two should be maintained. I personally find this view enriching, and I think that faith and science will have a good space in which to meet.”

Thomas Langens

Hannah Döhmen

L. Schmied

Sustainable production – “Here, in particular, religion can give science a critical impulse.”
In his view, an exciting area of discussion opens up for the topic of sustainable production, which plays a major role at the Production Engineering Cluster. “I find it extremely important that we here at the cluster and on the entire RWTH Aachen Campus begin with exactly defining the term ‘sustainability’. To date, the topic has mostly been viewed from a financial perspective.” What he is looking for? A critical reflection on this viewpoint and an answer to the question what the actual objective should be. He feels that here, in particular, religion can give science a critical impulse. Religion does not view nature as an object and humans as the subject confronting nature. Instead, it views humans as an integral part of nature. “I think it is another impulse that I would say I personally don’t see strongly represented in the discussions here at the Production Engineering Cluster. In my opinion, we need to find a holistic answer to the topic of sustainability. Because otherwise we will get to a point where we have to admit: This is nothing but marketing and green-washing – not an actual conviction”, argues Praas.
The Production Engineering Cluster of (the day after) tomorrow
Praas does not want to take this look into the future. “I think pretty much everyone, who was asked to see 30 years into the future in the 1990s, had no idea of the type of disruptive innovations we would have and the societal and technological change they would lead to. That tells me that we should be sparing with our view of the future.” He does, however, have one wish: “That in 2050, a conclusion can be drawn that we managed to adapt to people’s needs and help shape developments creatively and cooperatively – because we were aware of our social and environmental responsibilities. I truly believe that the needs of humanity will change. That other values, other meaning and New Work will play a much bigger role. This will span from the products we choose to consume, to companies we choose to work for and to ideas we choose to embrace.” His hope is that the Production Engineering Cluster will work towards that goal.

Dieter Praas


A place of peace, discussion, spirituality and reflection – where students, for example, have a space to study or artists to exhibit their works. And a place for readings, panel discussions and other workshops. One key topic at QuellPunkt: spiritual and physical health. “We offer various events on these topics. These may include headlines like ‘Ethics in Leadership’ or ‘Leadership and Spirituality’. We have had professors and institute directors here, who looked for solutions to doing their part in supporting the spiritual and physical well-being of their employees. In that context, QuellPunkt can be the forum to formulate and discuss these needs in the Production Engineering Cluster. I find that amazing”, says Praas.

Events at QuellPunkt

Peter Winandy

Room of Silence

“The Production Engineering Cluster describes itself as highly dynamic and agile. The people here are very willing to perform and respond to the highest performance expectations. At the same time, society tends to worry much about work-life balance. Here at QuellPunkt, we may be in a position to make a small contribution to this work-life balance – for example, with the Room of Silence.” Praas is talking about a dedicated space, where people of all faiths can retreat for prayer, but also for meditation or a moment of silence – whenever they want. The Room of Silence is an otherworldly place on Campus Melaten. It is open to everyone, whatever their religion, their faith or non-faith. It is meant for reflection, for not thinking at all, for stress relief and for inspiration. “The shortest definition for religion is ‘disruption’. Disruption of routines, thought patterns, seemingly impossible logic. We all need a space to critically question these concepts. Many of our visitors have told me that they find this room very helpful”, says Praas. “I would therefore like to extend a warm invitation to all stakeholders on RWTH Aachen Campus to just drop by QuellPunkt whenever they feel like it.”