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Discussing the question of public morality, with three talks from TED

Discussing the question of public morality, with three talks from TED

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There is a non-profit organisation called TED which is devoted, in its own words, to “ideas worth spreading”. TED arranges conferences around the world and invites speakers who are regarded as experts in their fields to deliver brief talks that are aimed at being accessible to a general audience. The best of these are then posted on the web.

Originally, in the late eighties, the talks mostly came from the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design – hence the acronym T.E.D. Nowadays the spread is much broader, covering science, humanities, and social issues, although TED does not wish to become a forum for partisan political debate. There have been a few notable religious speakers including Pastor Rick Warren, Reverend Canon Tom Honey of Exeter Cathedral and Rev James Forbes of Riverside Church Harlem, as well as leaders of other religions such as the Dalai Lama, Imam Faisal Raul and Richard Dawkins.

At CHOW, which is Business Connect’s latest initiative (Church House On Wednesdays), we will, from time to time, watch a few of the more popular TED talks and enjoy a spirited discussion of the content over a sandwich and a cup of coffee. We think that many of the TED talks raise interesting questions, and the viewership figures on the internet show that these are potentially THE questions for our day. As Christians we believe that the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth, the anointed King, has relevance to the questions that our culture is asking. We are also open to the possibility that we may be surprised by the answers.

Next week at CHOW we will be playing excerpts from three TED talks on a related theme. You can watch them at anytime over the internet. They are:

Jonathan Haidt on “The moral roots of liberals and conservatives.”

Sam Harris on “Science can answer moral questions.”

Paul Zak on “Trust, morality and oxytocin.”

If you haven’t watched any of these by next Wednesday you can still come along. We’re going to play a few excerpts to recap the main points. If you do watch one or more of them at home, why not start the debate by posting a question or comment in the blog below. We’ll probably start off the discussion with one or two of these.

To start us off, Jonathan Haidt says that human beings are not born with a moral blank slate, but have an innate predisposition to moral thinking. His view, which is an offence to many modern thinkers, but is backed up by a neuroscientist whom he cites and strangely seems to coincide with the earlier teachings of certain medieval theologians. What do we think about the moral condition we are born with?

Further on Haidt concludes that moral authority comes, not from moral dogmatism (thinking we know what’s best for people) but from moral humility (being aware of different moral perspectives) – What do we think of that?

We look forward to meeting, eating and discussing with you at CHOW…

Simon Nash

Simon Nash LLB FCIPD is the HR director of the law firm Carey Olsen and a founder member of...

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