Battle of Ideas: My Brain Made Me Do It at the 2007 Battle of Ideas conference hosted by the Institute of Ideas.
With the politics of behaviour in the ascendancy, there is increasing interest in what science can tell us about why people behave the way they do. The British government is funding the creation of the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners, with the express aim of training a 'parenting workforce' to provide science-based child-rearing advice to parents. In the USA, the MRI scanner and the neuroscientific community are entering the court room to give evidence about whether defendants can be regarded as being responsible for their alleged crimes. UK policymakers cite scientific 'evidence' to explain new interventions on everything from early years' education to the alleged impact of school dinners on academic performance. The science of nutrition now informs earnest discussions about how children's diets improve their classroom behaviour, in order to justify policing lunchboxes and putting school meals at the top of the political agenda. Studies of teenage brain development now regularly inform social debates about the impact of new technologies on young people.
But how much can science tell us about behaviour? Do scientific findings justify the government's many interventions into the early years of children's lives? Should neuroscience enjoy an exalted place in the courtroom? Are policies being developed because of genuine advances in scientific knowledge - or is science being (mis)used, perhaps in the place of political conviction, to justify policies?- IoI
Pierre J. Magistretti has made significant contributions in the field of brain energy metabolism over the course of sixteen years it the Department of Physiology at the University of Lausanne Medical School (the last three as co-chairman) and in his current role as Professor of Neuroscience and Co-Director of the Brain-Mind Institute at EPFL and Director of the Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience at the University of Lausanne Medical School and Hospital (CHUV). His group discovered some of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the coupling between neuronal activity and energy consumption by the brain. This work has considerable ramifications for the understanding of the origin of the signals detected with the current functional brain imaging techniques used in neurologic and psychiatric research. The group directed by Pierre J. Magistretti consists of 20 scientists, over two thirds of which are supported by grants awarded on a peer-review basis (eg Swiss National Science Foundation, European Community). He is the author of over 140 articles published in peer reviewed journals. Over the last six years he has given over 50 invited lectures at international meetings or at universities in Europe and North America, including the 2000 Talairach Lecture at the Functional Mapping of the Human Brain Conference.
He was the recipient of the 1997 Theodore-Ott Prize of the Swiss Academy for Medical Sciences and in 2001 was elected member of Academia Europeae (Physiology and Medicine). In 2003 he was elected ad personam member of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences.
David Perks has taught in state schools for over 20 years and is a passionate defender of academic science education. His critique of the new school science curriculum published in What is science education for? provoked the front page headline in The Times - Science elite rejects new GCSE as 'fit for the pub'. David writes more broadly on education and the relationship between science and society. His interests range from environmentalism to intelligent design. David originated the Institute of Ideas and Pfizer Debating Matters sixth form debating competition
Jeffrey Rosen is a professor of law at George Washington University and the legal affairs editor of The New Republic. A widely read legal commentator, his most recent book is The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries that Defined America, a companion book to the PBS series on the Supreme Court.
He is also the author of The Most Democratic Branch, The Naked Crowd, and The Unwanted Gaze.
A graduate of Harvard College, Oxford University, and Yale Law School, he has been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, and his essays and commentaries have appeared in the New York Times Magazine and The Atlantic, as well as on National Public Radio.
Raymond Tallis was trained at the University of Oxford and St Thomas's Hospital, qualifying in 1970. He was a Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and a consultant physician in Health Care of the Elderly in Salford (1987-2006).
He had responsibility for acute and rehabilitation patients and took part in the on call rota for acute medical emergencies. He also ran a unique specialist epilepsy service for older people.
In 2000 he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences; in 2002 he was awarded the Dhole Eddlestone Prize for his contribution to the medical literature on elderly people; in 2006 received the Founders Medal of the British Geriatrics Society; and in 2007 the Lord Cohen Gold Medal for Research into Ageing.
His national roles have included: Consultant Advisor in Health Care of the Elderly to the Chief Medical Officer; a key part in developing National Service Framework for Older People, in particular the standard on stroke; membership of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence Appraisal Committee; and Chairmanship of the Royal College of Physicians Committee on Ethics in Medicine.
Outside his medical career, he has been awarded two honorary degrees: DLitt (Hon Causa) from the University of Hull in 1997; and LittD (Hon Causa) from the University of Manchester in 2002.
In 2004 he was identified in Prospect magazine as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the United Kingdom.
In the first half of 2008, he has books coming out on Parmenides (Continuum), the head (Atlantic) and hunger (Acumen).
His numerous medical publications include two major textbooks, while most of his research publications are in the field of neurology of old age and neurological rehabilitation. He has also published fiction, three volumes of poetry, and over a dozen books and 150 articles on the philosophy of the mind, philosophical anthropology, literary theory, the nature of art and cultural criticism.
Steve Yearley is Professor of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge at Edinburgh University. He is primarily interested in environmental sociology and the social and cultural aspects of science. In recent years he has concentrated on the social aspects of human genetics and in 2006 he was appointed Director of the Genomics Forum at Edinburgh University.
His publications include Sociology, Environmentalism, Globalization (London: Sage 1996), Making Sense of Science: Understanding the Social Study of Science (London: Sage 2005), Cultures of Environmentalism: Empirical Studies in Environmental Sociology (Basingstoke: Palgrave/Macmillan 2005) and The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology (London: Sage 2006, co-authored with Steve Bruce)