Beyond Secularization: Religion, Science and Technology in Public Life
We explore ideas of progress that underpin common understandings of what it means to be human, to live a good life, and to aspire to a better future. We examine how science, technology, religion, and secularism interact to shape these ideas—and with what effects.
How do technological aspirations inform and reflect the futures we imagine?
We investigate how understandings of science and religion, the secular and the sacred shape ideas of what is real and good, knowable and worth-knowing.
What visions of progress figure at the frontiers of science and technology?
We examine how culturally situated relations among science, technology, and religion shape collectively held conceptions of progress—material, social and spiritual.
Is science secular?
We interrogate how the idea that science secularizes society shapes innovation, spirituality, nature, and self, and how collective commitments to technology govern the remaking of human life.
This interdisciplinary research project, funded by Templeton Religion Trust, looks at relationships between religion, science and technology in several important domains of public life:
in environmental movements;
in shifting ideas of the spiritual self that draw upon science;
in arenas of high-technology innovation that are reshaping how we live; and
in the ways societies debate and govern technologies with the potential to remake human life.
This program of cross-cutting social research begins with two crucial observations: the boundaries between science and religion, and between the secular and the sacred are neither sharp nor self-evident; yet the idea that they are—and that scientific and technological advance inevitably drives secularization and diminishes religion—shapes public life in consequential ways. This project rejects the notion that science and religion are categorically distinct and intrinsically at odds, and problematizes the assumption that progress is intrinsically science-driven and secularizing. Instead, it takes as an object of social inquiry the interlacing of science, technology and religion in public life order to reassess—and re-imagine—dominant ideas of progress.
Working as a CoLab (a collaborative laboratory), this intellectual hub of ASU scholars organizes research around three areas of inquiry:
Biotechnologies capable of reshaping who we are raise fundamental questions about what it means to be human—and about who answers those questions and how, drawing upon what bodies of knowledge and what ideas of human nature, purpose and progress. As scientists, ethicists and publics seek to make sense of the significance of advancing biotechnologies like genome editing for the human future, questions of human identity, integrity and dignity have become central. Sites of scientific and technological innovation have also become sites of moral and spiritual inquiry. This area of research explores how conceptions of the rightful uses of science and technology that could, at the limit, alter our ideas of being human are taking shape in arenas of research, innovation and governance.
Embedded in many innovation cultures is the idea that all aspects of life--from cells to societies to ecosystems—house information that can be directed and altered as easily as software engineers modify code. Built into this idea is the expectation that humanity can be improved and a better world built simply by working out the kinks or upgrading imperfections—aims that might be achieved by harnessing science and technology. Recognizing how Silicon Valley’s innovation culture, profoundly shaped by the idiosyncratic spirituality and culture of northern California, has traveled and given rise to a plurality of tech enclaves, this research area explores the complex spiritual visions these enclaves emerge from and give rise to—visions in which technological innovation is the key to material abundance, political freedom, and the evolution of human consciousness.
How we think about nature and how we think about the self are central concerns of both science and religion. These ideas frame a moral relationship, impacting how humans relate to the natural world and to each other. They even shape how we think we know—whether by intuition, reasoning, measured studies, mystical experiences, or something else—as well as what we think that knowledge is good for. Through case studies, field work, and interpretative analysis, this research area explores how the material world and the self are re-conceptualized and re-invigorated by ecotheologians, environmental activists, and spiritual entrepreneurs who connect science directly to religion and spirituality.
About the icons: Blurring the lines between the literal and the representational, the ill-defined and the evocative, these icons seek to conjure a spectrum of associations held within spaces of the “realistic” and the “figurative.” Each icon plays off of the acronymic visualization of an area of inquiry (H, D, and N) while also channeling and juxtaposing imagined connotations of each area's resonant concept: “The Human,” represented in figures that are tied together with DNA and a shared comradery; “The Digital,” represented in severe lines of runistic mystery and futuristic innovation of information architecture; and “The Natural,” represented in aerial views of steady streams or contour lines of earthly topography.
By creating icons that play with concepts through juxtaposition and varying degrees of ambiguity, the observer is invited to consider multiple methods of interpretation and challenged to consider how boundaries and conceptual distinctions might be working, that is how wide—and just as well, how narrow or even better, how fixed or elusive, how rigid or permeable—lines and gaps are between musings of objects, concepts, and meanings.
This interdisciplinary initiative hosts renowned Visiting Scholars to spend one- to two-week in periods of residence at the CoLab (collaborative laboratory). While in residence, scholars offer a seminar and a public lecture, and they serve as consultants to the project, exploring synergies and alternative innovative approaches to the project’s areas of research.
Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm
Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm is Chair and Professor of Religion and Chair of Science & Technology Studies at Williams College.
“Opening a Star Gate to the Dark Gods”: Psychic Espionage, Satanic “Cults,” & Occult Nazis on the Dark Web
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 • 11:00am
Online, via Zoom
Outside the panopticon of conventional policing, a subset of the deepweb known as “the dark web” contains markets for illegal drugs, hacking groups selling their services, and underground networks of terrorists, assassins, and pornographers. Alongside these better-known dangers, it also hosts spell books and occult secret societies.
Departing from a particular darkweb occult library, this talk will unravel a tangled skein that connects a 1947-48 Chilean expedition to establish an air base in Antarctica to the US military’s “Star Gate” remote viewing project to a far-right explicitly “satanic” Neo-Nazi secret society. Along the way we will encounter people who believe in: telepathy; psychokinesis; virtual voodoo; dark enlightenment; the reality of Satan; the recovered magical traditions of an isolated coven of witches in the Welsh Marches; and much, much more. Taken together, this talk aims to shed light on white supremacy, contemporary antisemitism, the myth of disenchantment, the Cold War psychic military industrial complex, “porous selves,” and the dark underbelly of the “post-secular.”
Bennett, Gaymon. “The Digital Sublime: Algorithmic Binds in a Living Foundry,” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Angelaki, Taylor & Francis, Volume 25, Issue 3 (2020)
Bennett, Gaymon, “The Politics of Intrinsic Worth: Why Bioethics (Still) Needs Human Dignity.” In Human Flourishing in an Age of Gene Editing, edited by Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston, pp.228-246. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2019.
Bennett, Gaymon with photography by Taylor R. Genovese. “Anima, Animism, Animate: Ethnography after Authenticity,” Techniques Journal 1, no. 1 (April 16, 2021) https://techniquesjournal.com/anima-animism-animate-ethnography-after-authenticity/
Cady, Linell E., “’Wild Beasts of the Philosophical Desert:’ Religion, Science and Spirituality in a Postsecular Age,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 32, no.1 (2020): 29-48.
Calhoun, Craig. “Secularism and Social Transformation,” Keynote Address to the European Academy of Religion,” in pp. 19-55 in EUARE Lectures, 2019. Bologna: European Academy of Religion (2020).
Calhoun, Craig. “Populism and Democracy: The Long View,” pp. 227-46 in B. Vormann and M. Weiman, eds., The Emergence of Illiberalism: Understanding a Global Phenomenon, London: Routledge (2020).
Calhoun, Craig. “Moishe Postone and the Transcendence of Capitalism,” Critical Historical Studies, 2020, Vol. 7 (1): 145-65.
Harsh, Matthew, Kerry Holden, Jameson Wetmore, G. Pascal Zachary, and Ravosh Bal, “Situating science in Africa: The dynamics of computing research in Nairobi and Kampala,” Social Studies of Science, 49 no.1 (2019): 52–76.
Hilgartner, Stephen, J. Benjamin Hurlbut, and Sheila Jasanoff. “Was ‘science’ on the ballot?” Science, February 2021, Vol. 371 (6532): 893-4.
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin. “Dangerous Practices of Sovereign Science.” Somatosphere, March 3, 2021. http://somatosphere.net/forumpost/dangerous-practices/
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin. “Decoding the CRISPR-baby stories.” A review essay of Kevin Davies’ Editing Humanity, Walter Isaacson’s The Code Breaker, and Ebon Kirksey’s The Mutant Project. MIT Technology Review, February 24, 2021. https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/02/24/1017838/crispr-baby-gene-editing-jiankui-history/
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin. “Imperatives of Governance: Human Genome Editing and the Problem of Progress.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 63, no. 1 (February 11, 2020): 177–94.
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin, “Behold the Man: Figuring the Human in the Era of Biotechnology.” In A Critical Reflection on Automated Science: Will Science Remain Human? edited by Marta Bertolaso and Fabio Sterpetti, p. 249. New York: Springer, 2020.
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin, Ingrid Metzler, Luca Marelli, and Sheila Jasanoff. “Bioconstitutional Imaginaries and the Comparative Politics of Genetic Self-Knowledge.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 45, no. 6 (November 1, 2020): 1087–1118.
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin, Sheila Jasanoff, and Krishanu Saha. “Constitutionalism at the Nexus of Life and Law.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 45, no. 6 (November 1, 2020): 979–1000.
Jasanoff, Sheila, J. Benjamin Hurlbut, and Krishanu Saha, “Democratic Governance of Human Germline Genome Editing.” The CRISPR Journal 2, no. 5 (October 1, 2019): 266–71.
Mellquist Lehto, Heather. “Designing Secularity at Sarang Church.” Journal of Korean Studies, vol. 25, no. 2, (October 2020): 429-454.
Mellquist Lehto, Heather. "Learning from Religious Diasporas in Pandemic Times" Religion and Society, vol. 11, no. 1 (November 2020).
Misha Angrist, Rodolphe Barrangou, Françoise Baylis, Carolyn Brokowski, Gaetan Burgio, Arthur Caplan, Carolyn Riley Chapman, George M. Church, Robert Cook-Deegan, Bryan Cwik, Jennifer A. Doudna, John H. Evans, Henry T. Greely, Laura Hercher, J. Benjamin Hurlbut, Richard O. Hynes, Tetsuya Ishii, Samira Kiani, LaTasha Hoskins Lee, Guillaume Levrier, David R. Liu, Jeantine E. Lunshof, Kerry Lynn Macintosh, Debra J.H. Mathews, Eric M. Meslin, Peter H.R. Mills, Lluis Montoliu, Kiran Musunuru, Dianne Nicol, Helen O'Neill, Renzong Qiu, Robert Ranisch, Jacob S. Sherkow, Sheetal Soni, Sharon Terry, Eric Topol, Robert Williamson, Feng Zhang, and Kevin Davies. “Reactions to the National Academies/Royal Society Report on Heritable Human Genome Editing.” The CRISPR Journal 3, no. 5 (October 1, 2020): 332–49. https://doi.org/10.1089/crispr.2020.29106.man
Nydal, Rune, Gaymon Bennett, Astrid Lægrid, Martin Kuiper “Silencing Trust: Confidence and Familiarity in Re-engineering Knowledge Infrastructures.” Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy (Springer, 2020) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11019-020-09957-0
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava, “Eliezer Schweid: A Zionist Prophet of Post-Secularism.” In Jewish Thought and Its Research: The Thought and Works of Eliezer Schweid, Vol. 2, edited by Yehoyada Amir and Joseph (Yossi) Turner, pp. 281-310. Jerusalem: Carmel. Hebrew edition, 2020. English version forthcoming 2021.
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava, "Ethics of Care and Responsibility: Bridging Secular and Religious Cultures." In Environmental Ethics: Crosscultural Explorations, edited by Monika Kirlosak-Steinbach and Madalina Diaconou, pp. 29-57, Freiburg: Verlag Karl Alber, March 2020.
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava, “Human Flourishing and History: A Religious Imaginary for the Anthropocene," Journal of Philosophy of History, 14 (2020): 382-418 in special issue on Historical Thinking and the Human, ed. Zoltan Simon and Marek Tamm, (Brill).
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava, “The Paradoxes of Transhumanism: Technological Spirituality or Techno-Idolatry?” Theologische Literaruzeitung (Leipzig, Germany).
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava, Religion and Environment: The Case of Judaism: Proceedings of the Goshen Conference on Religion and Science, 2016. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2020.
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. “Religion, Science, and Secularism,” in Bloomsbury Religion in North America, Theology an Religion Online, ed. Whitney Bauman and Lisa Stenmark (London: Bloomsbury Publishiing, 2021). http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350934986.006
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. Review of David Seidenberg, Kabbalah and Ecology: The Image of God and the More-than-Human World (Cambridge, 2015), Worldviews; Global Relations, Culture and Ecology 25 (2021): 180-182.
Zachary, G. Pascal, “Book Review: The Technology Treadmill,” review of Ingenious: The Unintended Consequences of Human Innovation by Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson in Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2020: 69-71.
Bennett, Gaymon. “A Plague of Darkness: Pandemic, Policing, and Possession,” Annual meeting of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities, October 2020
Bennett, Gaymon. “Authentic Madness: Technology, Soul and San Francisco.” St. Louis U research colloquium, October 2020
Bennett, Gaymon. “Pandemic and Possession: An Anthropology of Evil,” Annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, December 2020
Bennett, Gaymon. “Biosecurity and Religion: Pandemic and Possession,” 5th Annual Arizona Biosecurity Workshop, December 2020.
Calhoun, Craig. “The Climate of History in a Planetary Age,” December 10, 2020. https://calhoun.faculty.asu.edu/events/climate-history-planetary-age
Calhoun, Craig. “Polanyi’s Great Transformation and Transformations Today,” ISCTE Lisbon, November 2020. https://videoconf-colibri.zoom.us/j/87814012183
Calhoun, Craig. “Simpósio 8 | Mundo Social e Pandemia.” BVPS, June 2020. https://blogbvps.wordpress.com/2020/06/04/simposio-8-mundo-social-e-pandemia/
Calhoun, Craig. “Are Digital Futures Choice or Fate,” Keynote at launch of the Center for Digital Culture and Society, University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School, April 4, 2020, https://vimeo.com/405104514
Calhoun, Craig “Human development as an individual, social and transformative process,” https://council.science/current/news/craig-calhoun-human-development-as-an-individual-social-and-transformative-process/
Calhoun, Craig. “The Human in Human Rights,” LSE Human Rights Public Lecture, 3 October 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsVHidEaOGM; Lecture 1 of 3; Lecture 2 on 11 May 2021.
Genovese, Taylor R. and Annie Hammang. “Panel: Troubling the Actor and Analyst in Ethnography,” American Anthropological Association, Baltimore, MD, Nov 17, 2021.
Genovese, Taylor R. “Russian Cosmists and Border Ghosts: Eclectic Anthropologies of Death and Memory.” American Anthropological Association, Baltimore, MD, Nov 17, 2021.
Genovese, Taylor R. “Cannibal Dialectics: Constructions of Memory and Progress Amid Soviet Ruins.” Techniques in the Making 2.0 Symposium, Center for Philosophical Technologies, November 10, 2021.
Hammang, Annie. “Blue Skies and Long Nows: The Future in Technomoral Reasoning of San Francisco Bay Area and Boston Startup Biotechnology” Science Democracy Network. August 13, 2020.
Hammang, Annie. “’Emeryville is Weird:’ Cosmopolitics of Urban Renewal in San Francisco Bay Area’s Biotech Corridor.” Society for Social Studies of Science. August 18, 2020.
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin. Regulation as Governance? Heritable Human Genome Editing and the Politics of Ethical Judgment, Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics Annual Conference, June 10, 2021; https://bioethics.hms.harvard.edu/events/annual-bioethics-conference
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin. Harvard STS Graduate Summer School, co-organized, plus lectures: Introduction to the STS Lexicon; Genome editing and Bioethics, Aug 2 2021 (200 + students from 5 continents) https://stsprogram.org/summerschool/2021-program/
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin. Faculty commentator, Disciplinary Encounters at the Crossroads of Law & STS, May 5, 2021
Hurlbut, J. Benjamin. Discussant, Won’t you be my neighbor?”: Towards Theory and Ethics in Society, Society for the Social Studies of Science, October 9, 2021
Hurlbut, Benjamin J. “Constructing Common Ground: Biotechnology, Bioethics, and Public Deliberation.” ANSES International Symposium 2021: Credibility of Scientific Expertise, Paris, France (via WebEx), February 2, 2021.Hurlbut, Benjamin J. Covid Governance in Comparative Perspective, Thai Institute of Justice, Bangkok, Thailand (via zoom), March 24, 2021
Hurlbut, Benjamin J. “Inevitable Progress: genome editing, sovereign science and the politics of the human future.” Program in Science, Technology and Society, Bar Ilan University, Israel (via zoom), January 17, 2021.
Hurlbut, Benjamin J. “Taking Responsibility: Governing Research at the Edges of Human Life.” Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Biology, Kyoto University (via zoom), December 11, 2020.
Hurlbut, Benjamin J. “What Caused the Pandemic? Explaining Origins.” Southwest One Health Symposium. December 11, 2020.
Hurlbut, Benjamin J. “The Origins of the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic,” Biosecurity, Biosafety and Bioethics Annual Conference, Society for Biological Engineering (virtual, via Zoom), December 4, 2020.
Hurlbut, Benjamin J. “Technopopulism and Post-National Constitutionalism.” Commentary on Neil Walker “The Crisis of Constitutional Democracy in Pandemic Times,” Science and Democracy Lecture Series, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (via Zoom), November 10, 2020.
Hurlbut, Benjamin J. “Breaking the Glass: Responsibility and Its Limits at the Frontiers of Genome Editing.” National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Lecture Series, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland (via webex), November 5, 2020.
Hurlbut, Benjamin J. “Can’t Stop Progress: Inevitability as Authorization in the Politics of Human Genome Editing.” STS Circle, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (via zoom), November 2, 2020.
Hurlbut, Benjamin J. “Genome Editing, Human Dignity and the Global Observatory Project.” Genome Editing and Human Dignity: Comparative Perspectives, Robert Bosch Academy, Berlin (via zoom), September 10 & 11, 2020.
Hurlbut, Ben and Sheila Jasanoff. “Global Observatory for Gene Editing,” Presentation to the WHO Expert Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland (via zoom), April 9, 2020.
Hurlbut, Ben, “The Ethos and Ethics of Scientific Self-Regulation.” Arizona Biosecurity Workshop, ASU, December 6, 2019.
Hurlbut, Ben, “Rational Kernels and Religious Reasons: Governing Deliberation at the Frontiers of Biotechnology,” Symposium on Human Genome Editing, Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, NY, November 20, 2019.
Hurlbut, Ben, “Imperatives of Governance: Pathways for Democratic Deliberation and the Global Observatory Project.” American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy Policy Summit: Ethical, Societal, and Policy Issues in Germline Gene Editing (co-panelist with Margaret Hamburg, NAS/WHO and Anne-Marie Mazza, NAS). Washington, D.C., November 6, 2019.
Hurlbut, Ben, “Sovereign Science, Laggard Law: Ethics, Deliberation and Governance at the Frontiers of Human Biology.” SFIS Unplugged. School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University, October 31, 2019.
Hurlbut, Ben, “The Global Observatory Project” CRISPR Consensus? public debate and the future of genome editing in human reproduction. Innovative Genomics Institute, UC Berkeley, October 26, 2019. https://innovativegenomics.org/crispr-consensus-symposium/
Hurlbut, Ben, “Guiding Conceptions: lessons for governance of heritable genome editing.” Kenneth J. Ryan Ethics Symposium: Ethics in Embryo Research: In Consideration of Patients, Progeny and Professional Norms (co-panelist with Feng Zhang, Broad Institute). American Society for Reproductive Medicine 2019 Scientific Congress, Philadelphia, PA, October 14, 2019. https://vimeo.com/asrm/review/366917104/9308b2c675
Hurlbut, Ben, “CRISPR conceptions: lessons for governance.” Cordell3: Ethics of Human Genome Editing. The Cordell Institute for Policy in Medicine and Law, Washington University in St. Louis. St. Louis, MO, October 11, 2019.
Hurlbut, Ben, “CRISPR Conceptions: challenges of governance in heritable human genome editing.” Neuroscience Research Seminar, Biodesign, ASU, October 4, 2019.
Hurlbut, Ben, “Misguided conceptions: CRISPR Babies and the Human Future.” Emtech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, September 18, 2019. https://events.technologyreview.com/video/watch/benjamin-hurlbut-human-genome-editing/
Marquez, Schuyler. “Visualizing Vinyasa: Temporalities and Rhythms in Online Representations of Yogic Practice.” Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival March 19-28, 2021.McCrary, Charles. "Religious Freedom in the United States.” St. Louis University. November 5, 2020.
McCrary, Charles. "Religion and Public Education" at University of Northern Iowa. October 22, 2020.
Mellquist Lehto, Heather. “Skinship: Communion and Contagion in South Korea.” American Academy of Religion. December 3, 2020.
Mellquist Lehto, Heather. “Skinship: Relationality and the Skin Microbiome,” Society for the Social Study of Science Conference, October 8, 2021, online.
Mellquist Lehto, Heather. "Panel: Religion in an Age of Information Technology," UC Berkeley, Social Science Matrix, November 2, 2021, online.
Mellquist Lehto, Heather. “Beyond Shincheonji: South Korean Megachurches during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” International Research Network for the Study of Science & Belief in Society, July 9, 2021.
Mellquist Lehto, Heather. From Ethics to Politics: Performing Public Anthropology of Religion, Society for the Anthropology of Religion Biannual Conference, May 16, 2021.
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. “Ethics of Care in the Time of Pandemic,” Judaism and Ethics in Times of Crisis, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, April 20, 2020, Online Conference.
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. “Ludato Si’: The Cry of the Earth/The Cry of the Poor, Interfaith Power and Light, June 30, 2020.
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. “Theology of the Earth Webinar, Hope of the Future,” UK Climate Charity, July 15, 2020.
Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. "Transhumanism from a Judaic Perspective," in a seminar on "Law, Halakha, and Ethics and the Challenges of AI," Hebrew University, Jerusalem Israel. December 31, 2020.
Zachary, G. Pascal, “Philosophical and Historical Approaches to Understanding Emerging Technologies,” SFIS Unplugged, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University, September 19, 2019.
Vaccines and Religious Exemptions
Virginia Tech Center for Humanities
How are religious objections to and religious exemptions for vaccines redefining ethics as they blur the lines of religious, scientific and civic authority--and what is at stake in such moves?
Reflections on Covid: Learning from Religious Diasporas in Pandemic Times
Article for Religion & Society
Our social and professional activities during this extended pandemic may be shot through with compromise and consolation (whenever is this not the case?) As Anand Pandian (2020) offered recently, "When the driving pressure of this moment begins to ebb, as it will, where might we find ourselves? What kind of anthropology will we have made possible?” When a vaccine emerges as our own deus ex machina to lift our pandemic displacements, who will we have become?
Is ALL Technology “Humane”?
Op-ed for Techonomy
What makes us truly and fully human? What tools, techniques and technologies enhance and reinforce our humanity? And given the vast diversity in how humans live and what they want, could there ever be a single answer, or set of answers, to the question “what is humane about technology?”
Laid Bare: Vulnerabilities and Vitalities at the Nexus of Religion, Science and Technology
The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis unlike any in recent memory. Yet even in this unprecedented time, covid-19 has contributed to a somewhat ironic outcome: it has laid bare cares, concerns, and contradictions that have long been present, re-establishing and re-framing everyday experiences and vulnerabilities intensified by the severity of our situation.
In this series of conversations, we bring together unusual pairings of guests from the worlds of science and religion, technology and public life to discuss the simple—but consequential—things of life that maybe didn’t get our shared attention, or not to the same degree, until the virus laid them bare.
These informal salons bring together unlikely dialogue partners around a provocative question or topic in unusual and inviting private spaces to foster safe, free-ranging exploratory discussions beyond the university with leading figures in science, technology, religion and public life.
Topic & Themes:
Marking the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, the discussion focused on two questions that sit at the heart of Shelley’s novel and that remain central to matters of science, law and ethics two centuries later: What makes a monster? and Who is responsible for its creation and consequences? Participants were invited to tell “monster stories” from their professional experiences, fostering a rich discussion of responsibility, virtue, hubris and humility in a variety of science and technology domains.
Participants engaged in rich and free-ranging discussions of Digital Immortality—from who owns brain scans of the dead, to whether we can engineer collective intelligence, to the ways DI may disrupt received notions of life and death.