As you watch the conversation in Beyond Belief: Enlightenment 2.0, it might help to know about one of the sources that was helpful to me in formulating the agenda, assembling the cast of characters, and setting the tone for the meeting. I quoted this passage from Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century by Jonathan Glover (who directs the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King’s College, London):
“Now we tend to see the Enlightenment view of human psychology as thin and mechanical, and Enlightenment hopes of social progress through the spread of humanitarianism and the scientific outlook as na?ve…One of this book’s aims is to replace the thin, mechanical psychology of the Enlightenment with something more complex, something closer to reality…another aim of the book is to defend the Enlightenment hope of a world that is more peaceful and humane, the hope that by understanding more about ourselves we can do something to create a world with less misery. I have qualified optimism that this hope is well founded…”
I say Amen to that. If Enlightenment 1.0 took a thin and mechanical view of human nature and psychology, I think Enlightenment 2.0 can offer a much ‘thicker’ and cognitively richer account – less na?ve and also, perhaps, less hubristic. If there’s one thing we’ve learned – particularly from cognitive neuroscience – it is that we need to have some strategic humility about the hobby horses we are inclined to ride.
Director, The Science Network