Author Sam Harris joins us to discuss his new book, "The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values." The book explores the perils of moral relativism and the relationship between knowledge and values.
Tagged with “ethics” (5)
Chair Zeinab Badawi introduces the motion ‘The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world.
Initial Vote: 678 For, 1102 Against, Undecided 346
Final Vote: 268 For, 1876 Against, Undecided 34
Arguing in favour of the motion are Archbishop John Onaiyekan and the Rt Hon. Ann Widdecombe MP.
Archbishop Onaiyekan begins by insisting that if the Catholic Church were not a force for good, he would not have devoted his entire life to serving it. He says that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church exists because of its 1.6 billion members worldwide, rather than in spite of them. He points not only to the spiritual assistance that his Church provides, but also to the tangible aid that is given internationally through Catholic projects. Finally, he admits that Catholics are not infallible, but are by necessity sinners trying to improve themselves through their faith.
Ann Widdecombe suggests that in trawling all the way back to the Crusades to find something to blame the Catholic Church for, Christopher Hitchens merely demonstrates how flimsy his argument really is. Why would the Pope have hidden 3,000 Jews in his summer palace during the Second World War if the Catholic Church was an antisemitic organisation? Admittedly, the New Testament does blame a Jew for the death of Christ; but it also blames a Roman, Pontius Pilate. Are we to infer then that Catholicism is anti-Italian as well as antisemitic? Widdecombe insists that the actions of the Catholic Church in the past should be judged with a degree of historical relativism; they were not the only people to murder and torture those deemed guilty of wrongdoing. She entreats us to imagine a world without the benefits of the Catholic Church, which provides hope, education and medical relief all over the globe.
Arguing against the motion are Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry.
Christopher Hitchens asserts that any argument trying to identify the merits of the Catholic Church must begin with a long list of sincere apologies for its past crimes, including but not limited to: the Crusades; the Spanish inquisition; the persecution of Jews and the forced conversion of peoples to Catholicism, especially in South America. He illustrates the vacuity of recent Catholic apologies by drawing on the case of Cardinal Bernard Law – shamed out of office in the US for his part in covering up the institutionalised sexual abuse of children – whose punishment from the Vatican was to be appointed a supreme vicar in Rome, and who was among those assembled in the 2005 Papal Conclave to choose the next Pope. Hitchens concludes by reminding the Archbishop that his own Church has been responsible for the death of millions of his African brothers and sisters, citing the Church’s disastrous stance on Aids prevention, as well as the ongoing trials in Rwanda in which Catholic priests stand accused of inciting massacre during the 1994 genocide.
Stephen Fry concedes that his opposition to the motion is a deeply personal and emotional one. He criticises the Catholic Church not only for the horrors it has perpetrated in the past, but also for its ideology, and for its sinister temerity to preach that there is no salvation outside of the Church. With two words he refutes Anne Widdecombe’s suggestion that the Catholic Church does not have the powers of a nation state: “The Vatican”. As a homosexual, Fry reflects how bizarre it is to be accused of being “immoral” and “a pervert” by an institution that has persistently hushed up the rape and abuse of children under its care, and whose leading members, abstentious nuns and priests, all share an attitude towards sex that is utterly unnatural and dysfunctional. He concludes by questioning whether Jesus, as a humble Jewish carpenter, would have approved of all the pomp and excess of the Catholic Church, and whether he would even have been accepted by such an arrogant organisation.
Dr. Robot, I presume? Your appendix may be removed by motor-driven, scalpel-wielding mechanical hands one day. Robots are debuting in the medical field… as well as on battlefields. And they’re increasingly making important decisions – on their own. But can we teach robots right from wrong? Find out why the onslaught of silicon intelligence has prompted a new field of robo-ethics.
Plus, robo-geologists: NASA’s vision for autonomous robots in space.
- P.W. Singer – Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, and the author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
- Wendell Wallach – Chair of a technology and ethics working group for Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, and the co-author of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong
- Pablo Garcia – – Principal engineer working on medical robotics at SRI International, Menlo Park, California
- Robert Anderson – Planetary geologist, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Robyn Asimov – Daughter of author Isaac Asimov
Eric Maisel, PhD, is the author of more than thirty works of fiction and nonfiction. His nonfiction titles include Coaching the Artist Within, Fearless Creating, The Van Gogh Blues, The Creativity Book, Performance Anxiety, Ten Zen Seconds, A Writer’s San Francisco, and A Writer’s Paris. A columnist for Art Calendar magazine, Maisel is a creativity coach and creativity coach trainer who presents keynote addresses and workshops nationally and internationally. His new book is The Atheist’s Way: Living Well Without Gods.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Eric Maisel addresses atheists who don’t always find it easy to live as atheists, as well as religious believers who have doubts. He describes how the atheistic scientific worldview offers more advantages than the religious perspective. He encourages an understanding of the "tradition of atheism," and explains how to derive inspiration from it. He talks about how new atheists may cope with the loss of their church communities, even when they satisfy important human needs. He details the "main problem" for atheists, which he argues is making meaning in an indifferent universe. He talks about the importance of the atheist actively self-creating, being the hero of her own story, defending a radical individualism. He talks about existential depression that atheists may experience, and ways to respond to this nihilism and ultimate meaninglessness in the universe. And he defends the position that each atheist should be an "active moral philosopher," and "make his own ethics."
WTP 224: N. Korea Cell Network, Robot Ethics, Iraqi Net Art, Digitizing Dickens, and Cloud Computing
News from North Korea, where a 3G cell phone network has just been launched. We also talk robot ethics, and hear about an interesting Iraqi art project that incorporates the Internet. And we end with a neat little piece on an effort to digitize the novels of Charles Dickens. Oh, and another hidden track at the end. Shhhhh….Show notes, links and pics at tinyurl.com/wtpblog.