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Peter Woodford
Science and faith lecture and discussion on altruism

Why be nice rather than selfish? This question underlies a talk about altruism to be given by Dr Peter Woodford in Norwich on Monday 3rd July.

From the scientific perspective, the evolution of altruism has been a curious puzzle ever since Darwin proposed his theory of natural selection. At the same time, altruism has always been a central value in Western ethical and religious thought.  How can these viewpoints be reconciled? From selfish genes and altruistic animals, what can we learn about ethics in human society?
Dr Woodford will discuss examples of research into altruism in both animals and humans. How do we explain the evolution of altruistic behaviour, given the competitive struggle to survive and reproduce? Is altruism in social animals any different from altruism in human societies? Does this insight have implications for our understanding of ethics and morality?
Meerkats Screen Shot 2017 1Dr Peter Woodford is interested in the relationship between philosophy, religious thought, and the biological sciences. Since 2014, he has been at Cambridge University where he is based jointly in the Department of Divinity and the Large Animal Research Group in the Department of Zoology. He is studying social behaviour and its evolution, with a particular focus on mechanisms of cooperation and competition in animal societies. This overlap between social biology and ethical theory provokes debate over the compatibility between religious and scientific reflections on nature.
Previously, Dr Woodford did his PhD at Stanford University, studying the impact of Darwinism on the 19th-century German movement of “Life-Philosophy” that grew out of the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. This explored the way in which the new picture of “life” that emerged from evolutionary biology created a set of questions about the origins, persistence, and validity of cultural values in human society.
The meeting on Monday 3rd July will take place from 7.30 – 8.45 pm at Trinity Meeting Place, Essex St., Norwich NR2 2BJ.

All are welcome to this open lecture and discussion organised by Science Faith Norfolk (SFN), a Norwich-based group affiliated to Christians in Science. SFN meetings and lectures aim to explore the interface between science and religious belief. No booking is required. There will be a retiring collection. For further information contact Professor Nick Brewin (07901 884114);

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