The Sweep of Science: Mind, Brain, and Matter Part III

The Sweep of Science: Mind, Brain, and Matter Part III


Thupten Jinpa began the afternoon with a presentation establishing conceptual links between the two investigative traditions of Buddhist thought and contemporary science, drawing especially on key aspects of classical Buddhist epistemology. Questions in the philosophy of science, such as the relationship between scientific claims and truth, scientific method and its legitimate scope, and the central role of observation, hypothesis and experiment verification in science will be addressed and contrasted with relevant notions in classical Buddhist philosophical inquiry. Arthur Zajonc, Wendy Hasenkamp and John Durant followed up the questions and insights offered by Thupten Jinpa, by providing an orientation to the specific areas of science that will be the focus of the dialogues for the week: physics, neuroscience, and consciousness studies. While each of these fields of science shares methods and epistemological assumptions with the others, each also has its own story, its own preferred methods, and its own animating questions. Together, Zajonc, Hasenkamp and Durant aimed to tell these background stories. How does physics think about and investigate the nature of material reality? How do neuroscientists study the brain, and why do they think it is the organ of mind? Where does consciousness fit into the world picture of Western science?

  • Dialogue 26
    27 sessions
  • January 17, 2013
    Drepung Monastery, Mundgod, India
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John Durant

John Durant, PhD, is Adjunct Professor in the Science, Technology & Society Program at MIT, and the MIT Museum Director. He received his BA in Natural Sciences from Queens' College, Cambridge in 1972 and earned a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science, also at Cambridge, in 1977. After more than a decade in University Continuing Education, in 1989 he was appointed Assistant Director and Head of Science Communication at the Science Museum, London, and Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Imperial College, London. In 2000, he was appointed Chief Executive of At-Bristol, a new independent science centre in the West of England. He joined MIT in July 2005 as an Adjunct Professor in the STS Program and Director of the MIT Museum. His earlier research was in the history of evolutionary and behavioral biology, with special reference to debates about animal nature and human nature in the late-19th and 20th centuries. More recently, however, he has undertaken sociological research on the public dimensions of science and technology. He is especially interested in public perceptions of the life sciences and biotechnology, in the role of public consultation in science and technology policy-making, and in the role of informal media in facilitating public engagement with science and technology. He is the founder editor of the quarterly peer review journal, Public Understanding of Science, and the author and editor of numerous books, essay collections and scholarly articles in the history and the public understanding of science.