Annual Public Lecture

Monday, 19 June 2006, 6-7:30 pm 
Venue: Old Theatre

Science and Democracy: The Essential Partnership
Speaker: Lee Smolin (Perimeter Institute, Wateerloo, Canada)
Chair: Jeremy Butterfield (All Souls College Oxford)                      

Lee SmolinLee Smolin is a theoretical physicist whose main contributions have been to the unification of quantum theory and general relativity. He has worked also in elementary particle physics, cosmology, theoretical biology and the foundations of quantum theory. Born in New York City and educated at Hampshire College and Harvard University, he is a founding researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo Canada. Previously he was on the faculty of Yale, Syracuse and Penn State Universities as well as a visiting professor at Imperial College. He is the author of Life of the Cosmos (1997), Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (2001) and the forthcoming, The Trouble with Physics.

Abstract: I will begin by proposing an answer to the question of what science is and why it works. Part of the answer is that scientists form a community that is defined by adherence to a set of ethics which encourages honest reporting of observations and results as well as an awareness that future generations will know far more than us. As such science is based on a tragic understanding of how easily we fool ourselves and others and its success is due to the discovery of techniques whose use helps us discovery error. In this and other ways I will discuss science is tied to democracy in that both require members of a community to adhere to ethics designed to allow us to achieve as a community far more than would be possible each on our own.

But there is another tie between science and democracy, which reside in formal analogies between conceptions of cosmology and society. I will trace these through the main stages in the development of cosmological ideas, leading me to ask, but not answer, the question of whether present developments in political theory may mirror contemporary developments and controversies in cosmological theory.

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis.

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