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A New Science of Morality, Part 3

[9.17.10]

"...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."


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A New Science of Morality, Part 1

[9.17.10]

"I just briefly want to say, I think it's also crucial, as long as you're going to be a nativist and say, "oh, you know, evolution, it's innate," you also have to be a constructivist. 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, you know, all kinds of local factors. A dictum of cultural psychology is that "culture and psyche make each other up." You know, 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. We've got to look at the two-way relations between psychology and the level above us, as well as the reductionist or neural level below us."


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A New Science of Morality, Part 6

[9.17.10]

"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)."


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A New Science of Morality, Part 7

[9.17.10]

"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."


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

[3.17.10]

"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."


 

DON'T DISAPPEAR INTO A DREAM

[12.9.09]

"I was not writing for an audience. I was writing for myself. I was making something for myself. And then just hoping that maybe somebody else had similar interests. But of course, in the early days, 75 percent of my audience would walk out after 20 minutes. And being a young Turk, I thought that was great, because it proved I was making real stuff. But I still have a very ambivalent attitude towards the audience, which is one of the things I've always hated about the theatre, because 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."


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TOXO

[12.2.09]

"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. If you're ever pregnant, if you're ever around anyone who's pregnant, you know you immediately get skittish about cat feces, cat bedding, cat everything, because it could carry Toxo. And you do not want to get Toxoplasma into a fetal nervous system. It's a disaster."


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SIGNATURES OF CONSCIOUSNESS

[11.24.09]

"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."


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WHY DOES THE UNIVERSE LOOK THE WAY IT DOES?

[11.13.09]

"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.  That is why we need to go back before inflation into before the Big Bang, into a different part of the universe to understand why inflation happened versus something else. There you get into branes and the cyclic universe. ... I really don't like any of the models that are on the market right now. We really need to think harder about what the universe should look like."


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THE AGE OF THE INFORMAVORE

[10.25.09]

"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. And you encounter this not only in a theoretical way, but when you meet people, when suddenly people start forgetting things, when suddenly people depend on their gadgets, and other stuff, to remember certain things. This is the beginning, its just an experience. But if you think about it and you think about your own behavior, you suddenly realize that something fundamental is going on. There is one comment on Edge which I love, which is in Daniel Dennett's response to the 2007 annual question, in which he said that we have a population explosion of ideas, but not enough brains to cover them."


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