The Great Debate – Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?

Source: http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/the-great-debate

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The Great Debate – Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?

On November 6th, 2010 a panel of renowned scientists, philosophers, and public intellectuals gathered to discuss what impact evolutionary theory and advances in neuroscience might have on traditional concepts of morality. If human morality is an evolutionary adaptation and if neuroscientists can identify specific brain circuitry governing moral judgment, can scientists determine what is, in fact, right and wrong? The panelists were psychologist Steven Pinker, author Sam Harris, philosopher Patricia Churchland, physicist Lawrence Krauss, philosopher Simon Blackburn, bioethicist Peter Singer and The Science Network’s Roger Bingham.
Recorded live at the Arizona State University Gammage auditorium.
“The Great Debate” was sponsored by the ASU Origins Project in collaboration with the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Center for Law, Science and Innovation; the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge; and The Science Network.

 

The Great Debate Panel

The Great Debate Panel

Speakers: Steven Pinker, Sam Harris, Patricia Churchland, Lawrence Krauss, Simon Blackburn, Peter Singer and Roger Bingham

Run Time: 42 minutes

A lively panel discussion between Sam Harris, Patricia Smith Churchland, Peter Singer, Lawrence Krauss, Simon Blackburn, Steven Pinker, and Roger Bingham. If human morality is an evolutionary adaptation and if neuroscientists can identify specific brain circuitry governing moral judgment, can scientists determine what is, in fact, right and wrong?

 

Sam Harris with an introduction by Roger Bingham

Sam Harris with an introduction by Roger Bingham
Run Time: 19 minutes

Speaker: Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values,” “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.” “The End of Faith” won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. Harris has a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA and a degree in philosophy from Stanford University. He is a co-founder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society.

Talk: Sam Harries claims that there is no gap between facts and values. Once evolution gave us beings with experience which can vary within the limits of biology,the upshot was morality. Moral Good could simply be defined as the well-being of conscious beings (humans and animals).

 

Patricia Smith Churchland

Patricia Smith Churchland
Run Time: 14 minutes

Speaker: Patricia Smith Churchland is a Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Her research focuses on the interface between neuroscience and philosophy. Her books include “Brain-Wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy,” ”Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain” and “On the Contrary: Critical Essays 1987-1997,” with husband Paul M. Churchland. Her newest book, “Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality,” is due out in spring 2011.

Talk: There is one end of the spectrum where it is easy to make value judgments based on facts, but there are scenarios where it is much more difficult. Having more facts might help but in some cases it is just a difference in value rather than facts. For instance, interventionist approach to do good which might actually make the situation worse, academic arrogance might lead to silliness etc..

 

Peter Singer

Peter Singer

Run Time: 14 minutes

Speaker: Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He is also a Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. Singer first became well-known internationally after the publication of “Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals.” His latest books include “The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty” and “The Life You Can Save: Acting now to end world poverty.” Singer was the founding president of the International Association of Bioethics, and with Helga Kuhse, founding co-editor of the journal Bioethics. Outside academic life, he is the co-founder and president of The Great Ape Project, an international effort to obtain basic rights for chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. He is also president of Animal Rights International.

Talk: Peter makes the case the science can’t tell us right from wrong, though it does provide us with information which helps in making moral decisions. If Darwin is right, than it is a proof that might is right, one said. But we as humans don’t want to stick to the moral inclinations which are a result of evolution, rather we want to transcend them. Moreover, science cannot give us moral premises.

 

Lawrence Krauss

Lawrence Krauss

Run Time: 14 minutes

Speaker: Lawrence Krauss is a Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Department of Physics in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He also is director of the ASU Origins Project. He is the only physicist to have received the highest awards from all three major U.S. professional physics societies. His popular publications include “The Physics of Star Trek,” “Quintessence,” “Atom,” “Hiding in the Mirror,” and due out in 2011, “Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science” and “A Universe from Nothing.”

Talk: It is not possible to tell right from wrong without science, because it provides the crucial information required to make these decisions and it is the only method to explore the actual world. We can ask actual questions like does putting a woman in bag makes her more happy and get answers.

 

Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn

Run Time: 12 minutes

Speaker: Simon Blackburn is the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College. He is also a visiting distinguished research professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Blackburn has written extensively on the philosophy of mind, language and psychology. Among his latest works are “Practical Tortoise Raising and Other Philosophical Essays,” “The Big Questions: Philosophy” and “How to Read Hume.”

Talk: Science can inform us in making moral judgments but it cannot answer our moral questions. It can’t tell us whether Buddha is right in giving up all desires. It can’t tell whether to take our kids to holiday or denote to save lives in Africa.

 

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker

Run Time: 12 minutes

Speaker: Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard. His research is on visual cognition and the psychology of language. Among his books are “The Language Instinct,” “How the Mind Works” and “The Blank Slate.” He has been named Humanist of the Year, and is listed in Foreign Policy and Prospect magazine’s “The World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” and in Time magazine’s “The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” His latest book is “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.”

Talk: Religion cannot tell us right from wrong. Dogma, scripture, authority or subjective certainty are pathetic reasons to believe in something to be good. Such dogma has caused a lot of suffering like human sacrifice prevalent in religious societies, witch hunt, harsh punishments for petty crimes etc.. Reasoning tells us what’s right and wrong, which is not part of science as the term is generally understood, but could be included in science if we take a broad definition.

Last four hundred years of history shows us that there is definite in progress morality due to the raise of science.

‘Science, Faith and Religion’ dialogue at World Science Festival 2009

Source: http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/programs/science_faith_religion/

Date: Saturday, June 13, 2009
Time: 03:00 PM-04:00 PM
Venue: Tishman Auditorium at The New School
Moderator: Bill Blakemore
Participants: Colin McGinn, Kenneth Miller, Lawrence M. Krauss, Guy Consolmagno

Public debate, pitting atheist against believer, typically yields a polarized picture. Might a more nuanced conversation that transcends simplistic assertions, and weaves insights from physics, biology, and psychology provide a more fruitful exchange of ideas? Bill Blakemore hosts scientists Lawrence Krauss, Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno, and philosopher Colin McGinn to find out.

 

Moderator

bill_blakemore

ABC News Correspondent

Bill Blakemore became a reporter for ABC News 44 years ago, covering a wide variety of stories. He spearheaded ABC’s coverage of global warming, traveling from the tropics to polar regions to report on its impacts, dangers and possible remedies. Overseas, he has covered a dozen wars or major conflicts including the Black September, Bangladesh, 1973 Arab-Israeli, Iranian and Beirut Civil Wars, as well as the Iraq wars (from Baghdad), and the Afghan/Taliban war. On 9/11, he reached Ground Zero before the towers fell. He was ABC’s Rome bureau chief 1978-1984, traveled extensively with John Paul II and wrote several documentaries and the Encyclopaedia Britannica article about him. Since 1984, he’s been based in New York, where he also served as education correspondent. He began focusing on biodiversity, extinctions and global warming in 2004, as well as the emerging sciences of play behavior and animal intelligence, and hosted ABC’s Nature’s Edge until 2012. He has won most major broadcast journalism awards. He currently writes and lectures on the journalistic profession, the “Many Psychologies of Global Warming,” and the cinematic art of Stanley Kubrick.

Participants

colin_mcginn

Philosopher

Colin McGinn is a professor and Cooper Fellow at University of Miami. In 2006, he joined the UM philosophy department, having taught previously at University of London, University of Oxford, and Rutgers University. He was the recipient of the John Locke Prize at Oxford University in 1973. His research interests are in philosophy of mind, philosophy of body, philosophy of language, philosophical logic, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of physics, philosophy of film and literature, ethics, metaphilosophy, philosophy of sport, and Wittgenstein. He has published many articles, and is the author of 20 books, including: Mental Content; The Problem of Consciousness; The Character of Mind; Ethics, Evil and Fiction; The Mysterious Flame; Logical Properties; Consciousness and Its Objects; Mindsight: Image, Dream, Meaning; and Shakespeare’s Philosophy.

kenneth_miller

Cell Biologist

Kenneth R. Miller is Professor of Biology and Royce Family Professor for Teaching Excellence at Brown University. A cell biologist, he serves as an advisor on life sciences to the NewsHour, a daily PBS television program on news and public affairs, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Miller is coauthor, with Joseph S. Levine, of high school and college biology textbooks used by millions of students nationwide. In 2005 he served as lead witness in the trial on evolution and intelligent design in Dover, Pennsylvania. His popular book, Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution, addresses the scientific status of evolutionary theory and its relationship to religious views of nature. His latest book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul addresses the continuing struggle over how evolution is to be understood in American society. His honors include the Presidential Citation of the American Institute of Biological Science (2005), the Public Service Award of the American Society for Cell Biology, the Distinguished Service Award of the National Association of Biology teachers (2008), and most recently, the AAAS Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award (2008).

lawrence_krauss

Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist, and Author

Internationally known theoretical physicist and best-selling author Lawrence Krauss has focused his research on the intersection of cosmology and elementary particle physics. Krauss’s work addresses questions about the origin of matter in the universe, Einstein’s theory of general relativity, astrophysics, the future of the universe and the properties and description of the dark energy that is thought to account for most of the universe’s present energy content.

A fervent advocate for science literacy, Krauss has written nine books for a general audience, including the bestseller The Physics of Star Trek, and most recently A Universe from Nothing, which appeared in January of 2012. He was recently awarded the National Science Board’s 2012 Public Service Award for his contributions to public understanding of science. Krauss is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Director of the ASU Origins Project at Arizona State University.

guy_consolmagno

Astronomer

Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, earned undergraduate and masters’ degrees from MIT, and a Ph. D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona. He was a researcher at Harvard and MIT, served in the US Peace Corps (Kenya), and taught university physics at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, before entering the Jesuits in 1989.

At the Vatican Observatory since 1993, his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies. He observes asteroids, moons, and Kuiper Belt comets with the Vatican’s 1.8 meter telescope in Arizona, and curates the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo. Along with more than 100 scientific publications, he is the author of a number of popular books including Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis), Brother Astronomer, and God’s Mechanics, and editor of a popular account of astronomy and the Vatican, Let Stars Delight.

Dr. Consolmagno served as chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society; is past president of Commission 16 (Planets and Satellites) of the International Astronomical Union, and presently serves as secretary of its Division III (Planetary Systems Sciences) as well as sitting on the IAU Working Group on Planetary System Nomenclature.

Faith and Science 2008 – Dialogue at World Science Festival

Source: http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/programs/faith_and_science_2008/

Date: Saturday, May 31, 2008
Time: 03:30 PM-05:00 PM
Venue: NYU Kimmel Center, Eisner & Lubin Auditorium
Participants: Bill Blakemore, Lorenzo Albacete, Nina Azari, Paul Bloom, William Phillips

Prominent clashes — both historical and contemporary — have led to the widely held conclusion that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. Yet, many scientists practice a traditional faith, having found a way to accommodate both scientific inquiry and religious teaching in their belief system. Other scientists are bringing science to bear on the phenomenon of religion and spiritual belief — neuroscientists are studying what happens in the brain during religious experiences, while anthropologists are investigating how religion is linked to cooperation and community. This program provided an intimate look at what scientists have to say about their religious beliefs and what might be revealed by scientific studies of spirituality.

This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

Participants

bill_blakemore

ABC News Correspondent

Bill Blakemore became a reporter for ABC News 44 years ago, covering a wide variety of stories. He spearheaded ABC’s coverage of global warming, traveling from the tropics to polar regions to report on its impacts, dangers and possible remedies. Overseas, he has covered a dozen wars or major conflicts including the Black September, Bangladesh, 1973 Arab-Israeli, Iranian and Beirut Civil Wars, as well as the Iraq wars (from Baghdad), and the Afghan/Taliban war. On 9/11, he reached Ground Zero before the towers fell. He was ABC’s Rome bureau chief 1978-1984, traveled extensively with John Paul II and wrote several documentaries and the Encyclopaedia Britannica article about him. Since 1984, he’s been based in New York, where he also served as education correspondent. He began focusing on biodiversity, extinctions and global warming in 2004, as well as the emerging sciences of play behavior and animal intelligence, and hosted ABC’s Nature’s Edge until 2012. He has won most major broadcast journalism awards. He currently writes and lectures on the journalistic profession, the “Many Psychologies of Global Warming,” and the cinematic art of Stanley Kubrick.

lorenzo_albacete

Roman-Catholic Priest

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete is a Roman Catholic priest, theologian, physicist and author. A frequent contributor to The New York Times, he is one of the leaders in the United States for the international Catholic movement Communion and Liberation and is on the Board of Advisors of the Crossroads Cultural Center.

nina_azari

Psychologist

Nina Azari specializes in cognitive neuroscience and the psychology of religion. She uses traditional psychological methods as well as cutting-edge medical imaging technology to explore religious experiences, consciousness, belief and perception in her subjects. Azari is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

paul_bloom

Psychologist

Paul Bloom’s research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art. A professor of psychology at Yale University, Bloom has written for scientific journals such as Nature and Science, but also for publications with more general circulation, such as The New York Times, the Guardian, and the Atlantic. He is the author or editor of four books, including How Children Learn the Meanings of Words, Descartes’ Baby, and, most recently, How Pleasure Works. He is currently writing a book about the developmental origins of good and evil.

william_phillips

Physicist and Nobel Laureate in in Physics

Nobel Prize-winning physicist William Phillips is a professor at the University of Maryland and leads the Laser Cooling and Trapping Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. His research on manipulating atoms with laser light has led to more accurate atomic clocks and a more fundamental understanding of light-matter interactions.

Richard Dawkins: I can’t be sure God does not exist

He is regarded as the most famous atheist in the world but last night Professor Richard Dawkins admitted he could not be sure that God does not exist.

He told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that he preferred to call himself an agnostic rather than an atheist.

The two men were taking part in a public “dialogue” at Oxford University at the end of a week which has seen bitter debate about the role of religion in public life in Britain.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9102740/Richard-Dawkins-I-cant-be-sure-God-does-not-exist.html

Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target

Started reading ‘Gunning for God’. This new book by Professor John Lennox tackles the new atheists’ (Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett and others) arguments and explains why they miss their target. Professor does so from a Christian Catholic point of view.

There are quite a few interesting quotations in the book from people belonging to both sides of the fence. Following quotations are some from Einstein:

– “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

– “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naïve.”

– “the only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible”

 

A good 4-page summary of the book is available at http://www.alisonmorgan.co.uk/Lennox2011.pdf

The God Delusion Debate – Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox

A debate between Atheist Richard Dawkins and Christian John Lennox, both are professors at Oxford University. Debate is about Richard Dawkins famous book ‘ The God Delusion’. It is hosted by Fixed Point Foundation whose mission, according to it’s website,  is to seek innovative ways to defend and proclaim the Gospel.

Debate link at Fixed Point Foundation: http://fixed-point.org/index.php/video/35-full-length/164-the-dawkins-lennox-debate