Dr Jonathan Pettitt

Thursday, August 25 2011 at 7:30PM

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35 Rosemount Viaduct
City Centre, Aberdeen AB25 1NE

Dr Jonathan Pettitt

What's the talk about?

Since the beginning of the Enlightenment, our understanding of what makes us human has changed dramatically: from having a unique place in God’s creation, we are now “nothing but mammals”, our characteristics determined, in large part, by our genes. The news media run stories of “My genes made me do it!”, or announce the discovery of a “new gene for” a particular human behavioural trait, such as ruthlessness, commitment-phobia, or a risk-taking. Neuroscience, too, has thrown light upon the biological basis of human nature, locating previously nebulous human traits, such as love, to specific areas of the brain; even suggesting that free will itself is an illusion. Unsurprisingly, many people reject this apparently deterministic view of ourselves, and in doing so retreat back from a rational view of humanity. In this talk Dr Jonathan Pettitt (University of Aberdeen) will give an account of how science has brought us to this apparently “bleak” view of ourselves, exploring how the difficulties with materialistic accounts of human nature are due to the inherently hierarchical nature of biology.