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Science and Society in the 21st Century

Published:

November 5, 2010

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The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) welcomes 1996 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry, Sir Harry Kroto to the IUPUI campus for a public lecture. This event is free and open to the public. The event will begin with a reception from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. followed by the lecture from 5:30 – 7  p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010, in Room 450A of the IUPUI Campus Center.

Persons planning to attend may register at http://ctl.iupui.edu/programs/kroto/register/.

In this lecture, Kroto will discuss a necessary condition for creativity in the sciences and the arts to flourish, a liberal/democratic sociopolitical environment. According to Kroto, in Europe this was manifested in the Enlightenment as Galileo, Copernicus and others laid the foundations for the evidence-based natural philosophy which signaled the birth of "The Enlightenment." The importance of intellectual and personal freedom for humanitarian advance is clearly manifested in the exponential success of the sciences in conquering many humanitarian problems from starvation and disease to the more obvious technologies that make modern life relatively pleasant for many – especially in the developed world. On the down side however has been the reckless thirst of a plethora of governments to exploit the vast powers of the sciences to construct ever more powerful destructive weapons.


According to Kroto, “since then, the great thinkers from Hume to Russell, scientists from Haldane to Feynman and writers from Whitman to Pinter have repeatedly pointed to the importance of the doubt-based philosophy that is the crucial antidote to the stultifying effect of dogmas of all kinds. Indeed it is only doubt that leaves the road open for all advances in human endeavour. Unfortunately it is not clear that progress in sociopolitical issues has kept commensurate pace as we still seem unable to solve our pathetically trite interpersonal, international and inter-racial differences without sending young people to kill each other. In the 21st Century we have reached a watershed in that the human race now confronts a set of crises significantly more serious than any previously. These threats can only be overcome by a liberal education of the next generation of young people. They must recognize that Science is the only philosophical construct that man has developed to determine what is true, might be true and/or can be true. This will require equality of opportunity for all young people whatever their race, colour, nationality and most importantly sex. This is vital to the development of the creative sociopolitical as well as science/technology environment that the human race will need to survive. It is almost certainly not an accident that science and technology first broke through in Europe as nowhere else in the world had a sustained Enlightenment occurred - except perhaps in ancient Greece and possibly briefly in the Arab World. These two, all too brief flowerings, seem to have been extinguished by the rise of powerful purveyors of irrational mystical world forces. As the 21st Century begins there are echoes of similar anti-libertarian and antidemocratic forces at work signaling the possibility of Dark Ages 2.0.”

Sponsors of the event also include the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, School of Science, Academic Affairs, and Office for the Vice Chancellor of Research.