When we attempt to define human nature, we tend to refer to features and behaviour that are products of the mind: language, emotions, creative capacity, altruistic and collaborative conduct, conscience, et cetera. Nonetheless, we still know very little about how these qualities have developed to the point of becoming attributes that characterise the human species. The mind/brain duality established by modern western science and influenced by the Christian distinction between body and soul, has been superseded by the discoveries of neuroscience and we now know that mind and brain are inseparable. Indeed, scientists and philosophers presently affirm that the human mind, with all its capacities, is the fruit of biological evolution and subject to the same adaptive criteria as other aspects of life. What do we know, then, about what really makes us human? What happens in our mind/brain when we are able to speak, create and be moved?
On the occasion of Spain’s Year of Neuroscience, this debate offers an approximation to the latest advances in neuroscientific research and its consequences for our notions of what defines us as human beings.
Monday 21 May, 7.30 p.m.
THE NATURE OF THE CONSCIOUS MIND
Ignacio Morgado, Professor of Psychobiology at the Institute of Neurosciences of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and author of Cómo percibimos el mundo (How we Perceive the World, Ariel, 2012).
Moderator: Jaume Bertranpetit, Professor of Biology at the Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona.
Tuesday 22 May, 7.30 p.m.
CAN WE SIMULATE THE HUMAN MIND?
Henry Markram, neuroscientist, Director of the Blue Brain Project at the École Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne.
Moderator: Francesc Subirada, Associate Director of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center- Centro Nacional de Supercomputación.
Tuesday 29 May , 7.30 p.m.
THE RISE OF NEUROETHICS
Kathinka Evers, Associate Professor of Philosophy and senior researcher at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics at Uppsala University and author of Neuroética. Cuando la materia se despierta (Neuroethics: When Matter Awakens, Katz, 2011).
Moderator: Òscar Vilarroya, director of the “Social Brain” Chair at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Tuesday 5 June, 7.30 p.m.
NEUROLOGICAL BASES OF IMITATION AND EMPATHY
Francisco Rubia, Professor of Physiology at the Complutense University of Madrid and author of ¿Qué sabes de tu cerebro? (What Do You Know about Your Brain? – Temas de Hoy, 2006).
Moderator: Adolf Tobeña, Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Monday 11 June, 7.30 p.m.
WHO DECIDES? NEUROSCIENCE AND THE QUESTION OF FREEDOM
Michael S. Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychology and Director of the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California (Santa Barbara) and author of ¿Quién manda aquí? El libre albedrío y la ciencia del cerebro (Paidós, 2012 – published in English as Who’s in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain, New York, Ecco).
Moderator: Jordi Camí, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona and Director of the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park.