The Values of Science: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997

The Values of Science: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997

The Values of Science: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997

The Values of Science: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997

Synopsis

In this collection, introduced by Jonathan Rée, six eminent scientists and thinkers explore and explain how we can bridge the gap between the values of science and human values. Richard Dawkins, in a powerful critique of cultural relativism, restates the scientists' belief that there is something almost sacred about nature's universal truths. Environmental campaigner George Monbiot points out that however successful it may be as an objective description of nature's ways, biotechnology is also a force in commerce and politics. Nicholas Humphrey denies the assumption that questions of morality are distinct from those of science. For him, science is itself a moral good and therefore a fundamental human right. John D. Barrow describes how scientific interest has recently shifted from simple and universal laws of nature of the kind formulated by Newton, to the study of complexity and chaos. Daniel C. Dennett, like Dawkins, gives a sturdy defense of the "faith in truth" which he takes to be the distinctive creed of the scientist. He presents this faith as a distillation of a universal human ability to tell the difference between appearance and reality. In the wide-ranging philosophical survey which concludes the volume, Mary Midgley argues against precisely this idea of "omnicompetent science." It is one of three unfortunate "myths" of the European Enlightenment, she argues, alongside the myth of social contract and the myth of progress.

Excerpt

A single idea governs the Oxford Amnesty Lectures. Speakers of international reputation are invited to lecture in Oxford on a subject related to human rights. The public is charged to hear them. In this way funds are raised for Amnesty International, and the profile of human rights is raised in the academic and wider communities.

The organisation of the lectures is the work of a group of Amnesty supporters. They act with the approval of Amnesty International, but are independent of it. Neither the themes of the annual series nor the views expressed by the speakers should be confused with the views of Amnesty itself. For each annual series a general theme is proposed, bringing a particular discipline or perspective to bear on human rights. The speakers are invited to submit an unpublished lecture, which is delivered in Oxford; the lectures are then published as a book.

Amnesty International is a worldwide human rights movement that is independent of any government, political faction, ideology, economic interest, or religious creed. The Amnesty International mandate is as follows: to seek the release of prisoners of conscience--people imprisoned solely for their beliefs, colour, ethnic origin, language, or religion, provided that they have neither used nor advocated the use of violence; to oppose the death penalty, torture, or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of all prisoners; to end extrajudicial executions or "disappearances"; and to oppose abuses by opposition groups- hostage taking, the torture and killings of prisoners, and other arbitrary killings.

The members of the Committee of the Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997 were Madeleine Forey, John Gardner, Chris Miller, Fabienne Pagnier, Deana Rankin, Stephen Shute, and Wes Williams.

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