November 9 at 6 p.m. | Quad Club Library | Register here
That humans are social animals is an ancient observation of the earliest philosophers, and the golden rule – to treat others how you would like to be treated – is a nearly universal ethical principle that can be traced across a wide range of religious traditions. At the same time, our present cultural and political moment is still suffused with conflict and crisis, because people fail to get along or see eye to eye. Why is it easier to empathize with certain people than with others? Is empathy solely a force for good or can it also cause harm? Research has shown that non-human animals also act to relieve others’ distress, demonstrating a biological basis for helping. How does this scientific finding challenge or support our assumptions about empathy’s place in human communities? And finally, how might the biology of empathy and helping inform how we approach society’s biggest problems, as well as how we understand ourselves and one another?
At this Roundtable event, we will explore these questions with the help of neurobiologist Dr. Peggy Mason. After a 25-year focus on the cellular mechanisms of pain modulation (how morphine works and what that tells us about the brain), her laboratory and research is now focused on the biological basis of empathy and helping. In addition to leading a research laboratory, Dr. Mason is committed to teaching neurobiology to anyone that will listen, and has pioneered public scholarship via Twitter (@NeuroMOOC), her blog (www.thebrainissocool.com), and a massively open online course (MOOC) on Coursera (www.coursera.org/course/neurobio).