Atheism: A Respectable Intellectual Position - PZ Myers & Sam Harris @ TSN

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Atheism: A Respectable Intellectual Position - PZ Myers & Sam Harris @ The Science Network (TSN) - Beyond Belief: Enlightenment 2.0

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Paul Zachary "PZ" Myers (born March 9, 1957) is an American biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) and the author of the science blog Pharyngula. He is currently an associate professor of biology at UMM, works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), and also cultivates an interest in cephalopods. He is a public critic of intelligent design (ID) and of the creationist movement in general and is an activist in the American creation-evolution controversy.

• http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/
• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PZ_Myers

Sam Harris is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" which won the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, and "Letter to a Christian Nation". His writing has appeared in Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere. He is currently researching the neural basis of religious belief while completing a doctorate in neuroscience. He is also a Co-Founder and Chairman of The Reason Project.

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As you watch the conversation in Beyond Belief: Enlightenment 2.0, it might help to know about one of the sources that was helpful to me in formulating the agenda, assembling the cast of characters, and setting the tone for the meeting. I quoted this passage from Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century by Jonathan Glover (who directs the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King's College, London):

"Now we tend to see the Enlightenment view of human psychology as thin and mechanical, and Enlightenment hopes of social progress through the spread of humanitarianism and the scientific outlook as naïve...One of this book's aims is to replace the thin, mechanical psychology of the Enlightenment with something more complex, something closer to reality...another aim of the book is to defend the Enlightenment hope of a world that is more peaceful and humane, the hope that by understanding more about ourselves we can do something to create a world with less misery. I have qualified optimism that this hope is well founded..."

I say Amen to that. If Enlightenment 1.0 took a thin and mechanical view of human nature and psychology, I think Enlightenment 2.0 can offer a much 'thicker' and cognitively richer account - less naïve and also, perhaps, less hubristic. If there's one thing we've learned - particularly from cognitive neuroscience - it is that we need to have some strategic humility about the hobby horses we are inclined to ride.

Roger Bingham
Director, The Science Network
http://thesciencenetwork.org/
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