What makes living things special? What sets them apart from inanimate matter?
We can point to self-organisation, replication, growth, and other properties, but the really fundamental, essential characteristic of living things is that they "do things".
They comprise collections of atoms and molecules that are acted on by the same physical forces as everything else in the universe. But things do not just happen to them, or even happen in them. They are themselves causal agents in the world.
In this talk Kevin Mitchell will explore how such agency can exist in a supposedly deterministic universe, how it can evolve into more sophisticated forms with ever greater autonomy and causal power, how it can ultimately form the basis for our own free will, and he will also explore the prospects of us creating artificial agents with free will of their own.
WHAT: HAI Darwin Day lectures are a unique opportunity to hear an expert speak in an accessible manner on what can often be a complex and inaccessible scientific topic. It is a FREE event and ALL ARE WELCOME.
WHEN: Wednesday, February 12th 2020 at 19.30
WHERE: The Robert Emmet Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin
(The Theatre is in the Arts Building, which is the building you encounter immediately upon entering the campus from Nassau Street)
WHO: Dr. Kevin Mitchell of Trinity College on the Evolution of Free Will
Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12th, is marked among humanists as a celebration of the rational. Darwin’s theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is, some humanists would argue, the greatest idea ever. It shows that organisms can improve in tiny steps by blind evolution without any higher purpose or higher cause. It changed completely humanity's view of ourselves and establishes humans firmly as part of nature as a whole.
The Humanist Association of Ireland has, for many years, marked the occasion with a public lecture by a distinguished scientist who will bring information and insights about important developments to a general audience.
Kevin Mitchell is Associate Professor in the Smurfit Institute of Genetics in Trinity College Dublin and a member of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience. His interests are in understanding the genetic program specifying the wiring of the brain and its relevance to variation in human faculties, especially to psychiatric and neurological disease and to perceptual conditions like synaesthesia. He writes the Wiring the Brain blog (www.wiringthebrain.com) and is on Twitter @WiringtheBrain. He is the author of: “INNATE – How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are” (Princeton University Press, 2018).