Tag Archives: The Science Network

What is Life? Another Great Debate

The Arizona State University Origins Project in partnership with the Science Network, J. Epstein Foundation and the NASA Astrobiology Institute has sponsored another interesting debate – The Great Debate – What is Life? This follows on from their recent debate on morality –  The Great Debate – Can Science tell us Right from Wrong? (see Telling right from wrong).

I have yet to watch “What is Life?” (videos and audio downloads are available) but it certainly looks interesting. From the Science Network description:

Richard Dawkins, J. Craig Venter, Nobel laureates Sidney Altman and Leland Hartwell, Chris McKay, Paul Davies, Lawrence Krauss, and The Science Network’s Roger Bingham discuss the origins of life, the possibility of finding life elsewhere, and the latest development in synthetic biology. More than 2500 people filled ASU Gammage Auditorium on Saturday, February 12 to listen to this remarkable collection of scientists whose particular perspectives range from the cosmic to the microscopic.

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Telling right from wrong – unreligiously

Stephen Pinker participated in the Great debate “Can Science tell us Right from Wrong?” (See Telling right from wrong? for more details of this debate and workshop).

His answer to the question was “Yes and No!” His wasn’t placing a bet
each way – just stressing that the answer depends on how “science”
is defined. Science interpreted in the narrow way it normally is
can’t answer these questions. However, it can – if science is
interpreted to mean “unreligion.” And many people is this debate do
interpret science that way. Pinker starts by explaining how
religion cannot tell us right from wrong. He then goes on to argue
that why while science, determined narrowly, can’t either it has
helped us make these decisions. Its an interesting presentation –
only 12 mins long.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
TSN: Steven Pinker, posted with vodpod

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 Creates Language,” “How the Mind Worksand The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.” 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.”

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Telling right from wrong?

This follows on from my post Can science shape human values? That included an audio of a discussion on science and morality recorded before the Origins of Morality Workshop held at Arizona State University recently.

On November 6th 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.

The discussions was promoted as The great debate: Can science tell us right from wrong?

Videos of the Great debate are now up at the Science Network website (see
The Great Debate). I have reproduced them below. They are each about 14 minutes long.

Well worth watching. (The videos are now starting to be uploaded to Youtube – for those who prefer to download).

The Great Debate

The debate was introduced by Roger Bingham (The science Network) followed by Sam Harris.

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