Beyond Belief conference

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The Beyond Belief conference "is an annual meeting organized by The Science Network (TSN), which brings together a community of concerned scientists, philosophers, scholars from the humanities, and social commentators to explore the human quest for the Good Life. The Science Network shares Carl Sagan’s vision of science as a candle in the dark. TSN is committed to enlarging the constituency of reason by making programs about science. More programs, more candles, more light."

Beyond Belief #1

Took place in 2006; no other information at present

Beyond Belief: Enlightenment 2.0

Took place October 31 - November 1, 2007


2007-10-31 Wednesday

  • Session 1 (2:48:08) (intro has an interesting quote from the 10th century)
    • 0:04:20 Darrin McMahon: is "Enlightenment 1.0" in need of an upgrade?
    • 0:25:38 Margaret Jacob: some historical background on the Enlightenment, focusing on the 1680s
    • 0:40:54 Edward Slingerland: more historical background –: the real Confucius (Enlightenment 0.5); gets into psychological issues behind the persistence of religion-based thought; shows how some of the current criticisms of humanism are echoes of criticisms from over 2000 years ago in China; highly relevant to Issuepedia human nature page.
    • 1:21:25 Don Rutherford
    • 1:51:07 Daniel Dennett: responds to claims that the books by the "Four Horsemen" (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens) are insulting, abrasive, offensive, and do more harm than good. Proposes mandatory religious education in the US (including private & home schools), covering all religions -- just the facts, not any judgments. "Toxic religions depend on enforced ignorance of the young." Responds to David Sloan Wilson's writings.
    • 2:19:16 David Sloan Wilson: "What Happened to the Enlightenment?" and other questions. Addresses secular creationism and postmodernism, rational choice theory, evolution of human preferences; "Stealth Religions". Finishes with a list of key questions about religion, and says Dawkins claims utter disinterest in all but the first question; claims that Dawkins and the other "new atheists" actually do care about those things, and need to be more scientific about their approach to religion (which is the whole of his complaint -- not that they are "abrasive, rude" etc.).

2007-11-01 Thursday - Session 2

  • Part 1 (4:03:24)
    • 0:02:40 Sam Harris: dislikes the term "atheism"; argues that religion and science are necessarily in conflict because (e.g.) they disagree about the nature of physical reality; the myth of "non-overlapping magesteria". In the question session, he introduces (in passing) the concept of "rhetorical punishment".
    • 1:04:50 Daniel Lord Smail: apparently the public schools in NYC teach history as beginning in 4000 BC -- conveniently not contradicting Young Earth Creationism.
    • 1:49:42 Jeff Hawkins: a quick thought about entrepreneurs and getting things (specifically, E2.0) done
    • 1:56:18 PZ Myers speaks from the audience, in response to questions
      • 2:01:08 Sam Harris responds to one of Myers's points: different contexts call for different approaches; Myers replies, and a consensus seems to be reached
    • 2:03:34 [ break in continuity ]
    • 2:09:15 moderator dialogue with Dennett
    • 3:31:29 Sir Harold Kroto
  • Part 2 (3:43:58)