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To Unweave a Rainbow: Science and the Essence of Being Human

Thursday, June 2, 2016
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

As long ago as the early 19th century, the poet Keats bemoaned the washing away of the world’s beauty and mystery in the wake of natural philosophy’s reductionist insights—its tendency to “unweave a rainbow.” Two centuries later, the tentacles of science have reached far further, wrapping themselves around questions and disciplines once thought beyond the reach of scientific analysis. But like Keats, not everyone is happy. When it comes to the evaluation of human experience—passion to prayer, consciousness to creativity—what can science explain, and what are the limits of its explanatory powers? What is the difference between science and scientism? Are the sciences and the humanities friends or foes? Join an animated discussion on science, reductionism, the mind, the heart, freedom, religion, and the quest for the human difference.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.


Brian GreenePhysicist, Author

Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, and is recognized for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in his field of superstring theory. His books, The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality, have collectively spent 65 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

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Joanna KaczorowskaViolinist

Dr. Joanna Kaczorowska, internationally acclaimed for her virtuosity and artistry, has performed as a soloist and in combination with such artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the Emerson String Quartet.

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Pablo LavanderaPianist

Pablo Lavandera appears regularly in many prestigious venues in the United States, South America and Europe, both as a soloist and chamber musician, and in duo with violinist Joanna Kaczorowska with whom he received First Prize at the 2009 Liszt-Garrison International Piano Competition in the collaborative artists category including the Liszt and Bayreuth (Germany) performance prizes.

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Miguel NicolelisNeuroscientist

Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., is the Duke School of Medicine Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience at Duke University, professor of neurobiology, biomedical engineering, and psychology & neuroscience, and founder of Duke’s Center for Neuroengineering.

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Leon WieseltierWriter

Leon Wieseltier is the Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is the author, among other books, of the acclaimed Kaddish. He was the literary editor of The New Republic from 1983 to 2014, and is now contributing editor and critic at The Atlantic.

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