EDGE VIDEO ARCHIVE 2

EDGE VIDEO ARCHIVE 2

Event Date: [ 12.31.10 ]
Location:

 

EDGE SEMINAR 2010

THE NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY


THE NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY 
A Presentation by Jonathan Haidt

Professor of Social Psychology, University of Virginia; Author, The Righteous Mind

I'm all in favor of reductionism, as long as it's paired with emergentism. You've got to be able to go down to the low level, but then also up to the level of institutions and cultural traditions and, all kinds of local factors. A dictum of cultural psychology is that "culture and psyche make each other up." We psychologists are specialists in the psyche. What are the gears turning in the mind? But those gears turn, and they evolved to turn, in various ecological and economic contexts.  

 


THE NEW SCIENCE OF MMORALITY, PART 2
A Presentation by Joshua D. Greene

Cognitive Neuroscientist and Philosopher, Harvard University

Now, it's true that, as scientists, our basic job is to describe the world as it is. But I don't think that that's the only thing that matters. In fact, I think the reason why we're here, the reason why we think this is such an exciting topic, is not that we think that the new moral psychology is going to cure cancer. Rather, we think that understanding this aspect of human nature is going to perhaps change the way we think and change the way we respond to important problems and issues in the real world. If all we were going to do is just describe how people think and never do anything with it, never use our knowledge to change the way we relate to our problems, then I don't think there would be much of a payoff. I think that applying our scientific knowledge to real problems is the payoff.


THE NEW SCENCE OF MORALITY, PART 3
A Presentation By Sam Harris

Neuroscientist; Chairman, The Reason Project; Author, Letter to a Christian Nation; Free Will

...I think we should differentiate three projects that seem to me to be easily conflated, but which are distinct and independently worthy endeavors. The first project is to understand what people do in the name of "morality." We can look at the world, witnessing all of the diverse behaviors, rules, cultural artifacts, and morally salient emotions like empathy and disgust, and we can study how these things play out in human communities, both in our time and throughout history. We can examine all these phenomena in as nonjudgmental a way as possible and seek to understand them. We can understand them in evolutionary terms, and we can understand them in psychological and neurobiological terms, as they arise in the present. And we can call the resulting data and the entire effort a "science of morality". This would be a purely descriptive science of the sort that I hear Jonathan Haidt advocating.


THE NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY, PART 4
A Presentation By Roy Baumeister

Francis Eppes Eminent Scholar and head of the social psychology graduate program at Florida State University; Author, Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelt

And so that said, in terms of trying to understand human nature, well, and morality too, nature and culture certainly combine in some ways to do this, and I'd put these together in a slightly different way, it's not nature's over here and culture's over there and they're both pulling us in different directions. Rather, nature made us for culture. I'm convinced that the distinctively human aspects of psychology, the human aspects of evolution were adaptations to enable us to have this new and better kind of social life, namely culture.

Culture is our biological strategy. It's a new and better way of relating to each other, based on shared information and division of labor, interlocking roles and things like that. And it's worked. 


THE NEW SCENCE OF MORALITY, PART 5
A Presentation By Paul Bloom

Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale University; Author, How Pleasure Works

What I want to do today is talk about some ideas I've been exploring concerning the origin of human kindness. And I'll begin with a story that Sarah Hrdy tells at the beginning of her excellent new book, "Mothers And Others." She describes herself flying on an airplane. It’s a crowded airplane, and she's flying coach. She's waits in line to get to her seat; later in the flight, food is going around, but she's not the first person to be served; other people are getting their meals ahead of her. And there's a crying baby. The mother's soothing the baby, the person next to them is trying to hide his annoyance, other people are coo-cooing the baby, and so on.

As Hrdy points out, this is entirely unexceptional. Billions of people fly each year, and this is how most flights are. But she then imagines what would happen if every individual on the plane was transformed into a chimp. Chaos would reign. By the time the plane landed, there'd be body parts all over the aisles, and the baby would be lucky to make it out alive.

The point here is that people are nicer than chimps.


THE NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY, PART 6
A Presentation By David Pizarro 

Psychologist, Cornell University

What I want to talk about is piggybacking off of the end of Paul's talk, where he started to speak a little bit about the debate that we've had in moral psychology and in philosophy, on the role of reason and emotion in moral judgment. I'm going to keep my claim simple, but I want to argue against a view that probably nobody here has, (because we're all very sophisticated), but it's often spoken of emotion and reason as being at odds with each other — in a sense that to the extent that emotion is active, reason is not active, and to the extent that reason is active, emotion is not active. (By emotion here, I mean, broadly speaking, affective influences).

I think that this view is mistaken (although it is certainly the case sometimes). The interaction between these two is much more interesting. So I'm going to talk a bit about some studies that we've done. 


THE SCIENCE OF MORALITY, PART 7
A Presentation By Elizabeth Phelps 

Neuroscientist; Silver Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University

In spite of these beliefs I do think about decisions as reasoned or instinctual when I'm thinking about them for myself. And this has obviously been a very powerful way of thinking about how we do things because it goes back to earliest written thoughts. We have reason, we have emotion, and these two things can compete. And some are unique to humans and others are shared with other species.

And economists, when thinking about decisions, have also adopted what we call a dual system approach. This is obviously a different dual system approach and here I'm focusing mostly on Kahneman's System 1 and System 2. As probably everybody in this room knows Kahneman and Tversky showed that there were a number of ways in which we make decisions that didn't seem to be completely consistent with classical economic theory and easy to explain. And they proposed Prospect Theory and suggested that we actually have two systems we use when making decisions, one of which we call reason, one of which we call intuition.

Kahneman didn't say emotion. He didn't equate emotion with intuition.


THE NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY, PART 8
A Presentation by Joshua Knobe

Experimental Philosopher, Yale

...what's really exciting about this new work is not so much just the very idea of philosophers doing experiments but rather the particular things that these people ended up showing. When these people went out and started doing these experimental studies, they didn't end up finding results that conformed to the traditional picture. They didn't find that there was a kind of initial stage in which people just figured out, on a factual level, what was going on in a situation, followed by a subsequent stage in which they used that information in order to make a moral judgment. Rather they really seemed to be finding exactly the opposite.


EDGE CONVERSATION

EAT ME BEFORE I EAT YOU! A NEW FOE FOR BAD BUGS
Kary Mullis 

Nobel Prize winner, Chemistry 1993; author, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field

Now we are starting to work with organisms that are more likely to appear in a hospital, like staph and influenza, and we have our sights on Clostridia difficile, Pneumococcus aeruginosa, Acetinobacter baumanii and an alarming number of other bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. We are also working on influenza, which has a convenient little feature called M2e. 

 

 


EDGE CONVERSATION

DON'T DISAPPEAR INTO A DREAM
Richard Foreman  

Playwright & Director; Founder, The Ontological-Hysteric Theater

"I believe that people, en masse, always have a reaction that is lower and less interesting than any individual person that you can confront and have a relationship with." 


EDGE CONVERSATION

WHY DOES THE UNIVERSE LOOK THE WAY IT DOES? 
Sean Carroll

Theoretical Physicist, Caltech; Author, From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time

Inflation does not provide a natural explanation for why the early universe looks like it does unless you can give me an answer for why inflation ever started in the first place. That is not a question we know the answer to right now.


EDGE CONVERSATION

THE AGE OF THE INFORMAVORE 
Frank Schirrmacher

Influential German journalist, essayist, best-selling author

We are apparently now in a situation where modern technology is changing the way people behave, people talk, people react, people think, and people remember.


EDGE CONVERSATION

DOES TECHNOLOGY EVOLVE 
Brian Arthur
 

Citibank Professor at the Santa Fe Institute

If you ask people, "What is technology," as a whole they would have said it's a bunch of standalone methods or devices: the Solvay process, the computer, laser printers, and so on, that are sometimes interrelated and have some sort of ancestry.


EDGE CONVERSATION

WE ARE AS GODS AND HAVE TO GET GOOD AT IT 
Stewart Brand

Founder, The Whole Earth Catalog; Co-founder, The Well; Co-Founder, The Long Now Foundation; Author, Whole Earth Discipline

edge.org/conversation/we-are-as-gods-and-have-to-get-good-at-itIt involves what ecologists call ecosystem engineering. Beavers do it, earthworms do it. They don't usually do it at a planetary scale.


EDGE CONVERSATION

TOXO
Robert Sapolsky  

Neuroscientist, Stanford University; Author, Monkeyluv

"The parasite my lab is beginning to focus on is one in the world of mammals, where parasites are changing mammalian behavior. It's got to do with this parasite, this protozoan called Toxoplasma."

 

 

 

 


EDGE SPECIAL EVENTS

SIGNATURES OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Stanislas Dehaene  

DEHAENE Neuroscientist; Collège de France, Paris; Author, The Number Sense; Reading In the Brain

"For the past twelve years my research team has been using all the brain research tools at its disposal, from functional MRI to electro- and magneto-encephalography and even electrodes inserted deep in the human brain, to shed light on the brain mechanisms of consciousness." 

 

 

 


EDGE CONVERSATION

AMAZING BABIES 
Alison Gopnik
 

Psychologist, UC, Berkeley; Author, The Philosophical Baby

We've known for a long time that human children are the best learning machines in the universe. But it has always been like the mystery of the humming birds. We know that they fly, but we don't know how they can possibly do it.


EDGE MASTER CLASS 2009

A SHORT COURSE IN SYNTHETIC GENOMICS


A SHORT COURSE IN SYNTHETIC GENOMICS: DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES 
George Church

Professor, Harvard University, Director, Personal Genome Project


A SHORT COURSE IN SYNTHETIC GENNOMICS: CONSTRUCTING LIFE FORM CHEMICALS
George Church

Professor, Harvard University, Director, Personal Genome Project


A SHORT COURSE IN SYNTHETIC GENOMICS: MULTI-ENZYME, MULTI-DRUG, AND MULTI-VIRUS RESISTANT LIFE
George Church

Professor, Harvard University, Director, Personal Genome Project


A SHORT COURSE IN SYNTHETIC GENOMICS: HUMANS 2.0 
George Church

Professor, Harvard University, Director, Personal Genome Project


A SHORT COURSE IN SYNTHETIC GENOMICS: FROM DARWIN TO NEW FUELS (IN A VERY SHORT TIME) 
Craig Venter

Leading scientist of the 21st century for Genomic Sciences; Co-Founder, Chairman, CEO, Co-Chief Scientific Officer, Synthetic Genomics, Inc.; Founder, President and Chairman of the J. Craig Venter Institute; author, A Life Decoded


A SHORT COURSE IN SYNTHETIC GENOMICS: ENGINEERING HUMANS, PATHOGENS AND EXTINCT SPECIES
George Church

Professor, Harvard University, Director, Personal Genome Project


EDGE CONVERSATION

MAPPING THE NEANDERTHAL GENOME 
Svante Paabo

Founder of the field of ancient DNA; Director, Department of Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

When I started out in '84/'85, intent on studying the genomes of ancient civilizations, I was, as is often the case in this kind of situation, driven by delusions of grandeur... Then, after some intital success, I realized the real limitations on what I wanted to do.


EDGE CONVERSATION

THE PHYSICS THAT WE KNOW 
Gavin Schmidt

Climatologist with NASA's Goddard Institute

How do you ask questions about expectations in the future? Obviously, you have to have things that are based on the physics that we know.


EDGE CONVERSATION

THE SIMPLIFIER 
John A. Bargh

Professor of social psychology at Yale University and director of the ACME (Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation and Evaluation) Lab

[H]umans must have had these kinds of mechanistms or these processes to guide our behavior prior to evolution or emergence of consciousness.


EDGE CONVERSATION

CHIMERAS OF EXPERIENCE 
Jonah Lehrer

Contributing Editor at Wired and the author, How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist

After all, we're a brain embedded in this larger set of structures.

 


EDGE CONVERSATION

THE END OF UNIVERSAL RATIONALITY
Yochai Benkler

Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies, Harvard; Author, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

The big question I ask myself is how we start to think much more methodically about human sharing, about the relationship between human interest and human morality and human society.


EDGE CONVERSATION

IS THERE A HIGGS? 
Brian Cox

Particle physicist, Royal Society University Research Fellow and a professor at the University of Manchester; Musician

In a very pure sense you build the accelerator you need when you know what the question is.


EDGE CONVERSATION

THE REALITY OF THE HUMAN SITUATION 
Dennis Dutton

Philosopher; Founder and editor, Arts & Letters Daily; Author, The Art Instinct

Darwinian aesthetics is not some kind of ironclad doctrine that is supposed to replace a heavy postructuralism with something just as oppressive. What surprises me about the resistance to the application of Darwin to psychology, is the vociferous way in which people want to dismiss it, not even to consider it.