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Centre for Inquiry UK events at Oxford Literary Festival 2014

Bruce Hood

Introduced by Stephen Law

The Self Illusion: Why There is No You Inside Your Head

Saturday 22 March 2014
Experimental psychologist Bruce Hood argues that the self is an illusion but one that we cannot live without. He says most of us believe that we exist as a self – an internal individual who resides inside our bodies, making decisions, authoring actions and possessing free will. The feeling that a single, unified, enduring self inhabits the body – the ‘me’ inside me – is compelling and inescapable. This is how we interact as a social animal and judge each other’s actions and deeds. But that sovereignty of the self is increasingly under threat from science as our understanding of the brain advances. Rather than a single entity, the self is really a constellation of mechanisms and experiences that create the illusion of the internal you. We only emerge as a product of those around us as part of the different storylines we inhabit from the cot to the grave. It is an every changing character, created by the brain to provide a coherent interface between the multitude of internal processes and the external world demands that require different selves.

Hood is director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the experimental psychology department at the University of Bristol. He recently published The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity.

David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton talk to Stephen Law

Morality Puzzles - Would You Kill The Fat Man?

Monday 24 March 2014

Suppose you were out for a walk and whilst crossing a railway bridge you met a fat man. Would you push him over the bridge? One hopes not. But what if, by doing so, you could stop a runaway train from killing five people tied to a track? David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton discuss our moral intuitions in respect of this and other such cases and their fascinating implications.

Edmonds is a senior research associate at Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and a multi-award winning documentary maker for the BBC. He is the author or co-author of several books which have been translated into 25 languages. They include, with John Eidinow, the international bestseller Wittgenstein’s Poker. With Warburton he co-runs Philosophy Bites, the popular philosophy podcast which has had over 20 million downloads. Would You Kill The Fat Man? is his latest book.

Warburton is a freelance philosopher, writer and podcaster. His books include A Little History of Philosophy, and Philosophy: the Basics, and, with Edmonds, Philosophy Bites and Philosophy Bites Back. He is a frequent contributor to BBC radio programmes.

John Lennox and Stephen Law

Designed by God?

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Does observation of the universe provide us with evidence for, or against, the existence of God? Is there evidence of cosmic design? Might there be evidence against the existence of the Judeo-Christian God? These and other fascinating questions concerning God, design and our ultimate purpose are discussed by a Christian professor of mathematics and an atheist philosopher.

Professor John Lennox is professor of mathematics at Oxford University and a fellow in mathematics and the philosophy of science at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He is also interested in the interface of science, philosophy and theology and his recent books in this area include Gunning for God, Seven Days that Divide the World, God and Stephen Hawking and God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? He has participated in a number of debates with high-profile atheists including Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Stephen Law is senior lecturer in philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. He is also a well-known atheist and humanist writer and blogger, as well as the author of many popular philosophy books including The Philosophy Gym, The Great Philosophers and, for children, The Complete Philosophy Files. He has debated a number of Christian apologists including William Lane Craig. 

Chaired by Stephen Law

God and The Limits of Science

Saturday 29 March 2014

Is science our only route to knowledge? Are there questions science cannot answer? Might science provide us with grounds for supposing there is a God, or that there is not? Join three leading, provocative and controversial thinkers as they discuss these and other fascinating questions concerning the limits of our understanding.

Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and 10 books, including The Science Delusion. He was a fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University, and a research fellow of the Royal Society. 

Dr James Le Fanu is a general practitioner in South London and writes a regular column on medicine and science for The Daily Telegraph and on natural history for The Oldie. His books include The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine, winner of The Los Angeles Times book prize in 2001, and Why Us: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves

Martin Robbins is a researcher and writer who appears regularly in The Guardian, New Statesman and VICE Magazine. His writing explores themes of denial, conflict and mystery at the fringes of science and human understanding, where evidence and culture collide.


Unknown said…
Hey stephen, just wondered if your debate with John Lennox was recorded?

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