The 2008 World Science Festival took place on May 29-June 1 in New York City. We offered a slate of exciting new programs and old favorites this year, all aimed at unlocking the beauty and complexity of science for everyone. Sign up for our newsletter to stay connected and get exclusive interviews, stories, and updates.


PARTICIPANTS: Antonio Damasio, Daniel Dennett, Patricia Churchland, Jon Meacham
DATE: Thursday, May 29, 2008
TIME: 8:15 PM-9:45 PM
VENUE: 92nd Street Y

Science is investigating the biological roots of empathy, altruism and cooperation to discover whether we possess an innate moral grammar, much like language, or whether morality arises from the interactions among biological and social systems.

In this presentation at the 92nd Street Y, philosophers Patricia Churchland and Daniel Dennett, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, and evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser discussed the science of right and wrong, and explored how our scientific understanding of morality may affect society, from shaping justice systems to deciding whether to engage in wars or to assist others in economic and humanitarian struggles. The event was moderated by author and journalist Jon Meacham.

Image © Andrey Novikov | Dreamstime.com

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Antonio Damasio is one of the world’s leading neurologists and neuroscientists and has made seminal contributions to the understanding of how the brain processes emotion, decision, and consciousness. Some of these have been described in his books Descartes’ Error, The Feeling of What Happens, and Looking for Spinoza, which have been translated into over 30 languages.

Dr. Damasio is the recipient of numerous academic honors and awards, including the 2005 Asturias Prize in Science and Technology and the 2004 Signoret Prize, which he shared with his wife Hanna Damasio. He is David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

Dr. Damasio’s new book, Self Comes to Mind, will be published by Knopf/Pantheon in fall, 2010.

Philosopher and Author

Daniel Dennett is a philosopher who studies mind and consciousness through the lens of evolutionary biology and cognitive science. Author of several bestselling books including Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and Consciousness Explained, he is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University.

Image © Bettina Strauss (www.best-foto.com)


Neuroethicist Patricia Churchland explores the complex philosophical and ethical impact that the rapidly expanding field of neuroscience has on society. She is the President’s Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla.

Author and Journalist

Jon Meacham is the managing editor of Newsweek magazine, a bestselling author, and a commentator on politics, history, and faith in America. His books include Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship and American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation.