Science is giving rise to powerful technologies which will increase our capacity for constructing the world and shaping humanity. Quantum computing and Genome editing (CRISPR/Cas9) are among the technologies with the most far-reaching implications.
The technique CRISPR/Cas9 allows scientists to snip strands of DNA quickly and efficiently, removing some genes and inserting others. It can be used to develop therapies and cure diseases, in particular ailments in utero. But it will also enhance the motivation of parents to design their offspring and increase the waste of embryos for research. Policies allowing this are in fact denying the foundation of law, i.e., the principle that every human being is a person and has the rights of the human person; on pain of circular reasoning, the fundamental rights cannot be established from the membership of a subgroup of humankind. Similarly, by constructing human-like robots and producing animal-human hybrids the boundary between humanity and non-human living forms or machines can be blurred.
Quantum physics, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and computer science have brought results which seem to be of help in overcoming a flat materialistic view of the world and of human beings. Nonetheless, the fascination with new technologies needs to be enriched with reflection about how scientific results may contribute to discussing and answering anthropological and theological questions relevant to science and technology.
The 20th International Interdisciplinary Seminar aims to address the tendency of reducing anthropological notions to scientific notions and technological achievements, defining humanity merely in terms of what the individual can do. Some of the topics that can be addressed in the seminar are:
* Experimental science relies on observation. Can there be observation without the human observer, including his or her five senses?
* Free-will and personal identity logically precede the formulation of scientific theories. Are rationality and science without free-will and consciousness even possible?
* Experiments in neuroscience are persistently referred to in popular media as demonstrating that we make our decisions unconsciously. Do these results actually achieve what is claimed, and do they exclude responsible behaviour?
* Determinism, quantum physics, many-worlds and free-will: Does quantum physics allow for the unity of randomness and control characteristic for purposeful behaviour? What can we learn from quantum contextuality?
* Arguably, the beginning of humanity cannot be established exclusively by genetic evolutionary means. What are the anthropological implications of these limitations?
* Human creativity cannot be reduced to deterministic computing. Could it however be reduced to quantum computing? And what is quantum computing after all?
* Can we define what is human without referring to moral responsibility and sense of law?
* Transhumanism: what are the possibilities and dangers of “improving” humanity?
Thursday 4th January
10:00-18:00: Visit to Oxford with Academic Session(s)
Friday 5th and Saturday 6th January
10:00-18:00:Academic sessions in London (including standing-lunch and coffee breaks)
£50 for participation to the Academic Sessions, two standing-lunches and coffee breaks.
£170 for accommodation at Netherhall House and attendance of the Academic Programme.
The excursion to Oxford and is not included in either of the costs.
Residenza Universitaria Torrescalla (Milan)
Netherhall House (London)
Studentenhaus Allenmoos (Zürich)
Kulturni centar Gracec (Zagreb)