Empathy, Altruism & Agape:Perspectives on Love in Science and Religion
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October 1-3, 1999, University Park Hotel at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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William B. Hurlbut is physician and lecturer in the Program in Human Biology at Stanford University, teaching courses in biomedical ethics. After receiving his undergraduate and medical training at Stanford, he completed post doctoral studies in Theology and Medical Ethics. First studying under Robert Hamerton-Kelly, the dean of the chapel at Stanford and subsequently with Rev. Louis Bouyer of Paris. His main areas of interest involve the ethical issues associated with advancing technology and the integration of philosophy of biology with Christian theology. He has co-taught courses with Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Director of the Human Genome Diversity Project and Baruch Blumberg who received the Nobel Prize for discovery of the Hepatitis B Virus. Currently, he teaches upper division courses which include: “Adam 2000: Images of Human Life in the Age of Biomedical Technology”and “Ethical Issues in the Neurosciences”. He has also been working with the Center for Security and International Cooperation on a project formulating policy on Chemical and Biological Warfare and with NASA on projects in Astrobiology.
Empathy, Evolution and Ethics

Advances in biotechnology are opening possibilities for intervention in human life that create an urgent need for ethical guidance. At the same time, emerging theories of the evolutionary processes that have shaped the human mind call into question our ability to understand our motivations and intentions. According to this view even moral codes may be delusions sponsored by genetic self-interest. This raises the possibility that our new powers may be used in the service of competition, status-seeking and self-promotion. Notwithstanding the pessimism of such views and prospects, recent findings in the neuroscience of emotion and empathy suggest a biological basis for genuine community of identity and a natural moral law.

Emotions have their evolutionary origins in the physiological processes of biological regulation; the postural and visceral changes in emotional states place the organism in a condition of readiness for action or response. The subjective feelings of emotions are evolution's later additions in the service of the inner life of consciousness and purposeful desire. This inseparable psychophysical unity of manifest emotions embodies the evolutionary experience of life's long history. Far from a private inner language of being, it reflects survival strategies shaped by the physical and social parameters of our environment and shared with other members of our species (and indeed across life's larger process). It is this shared quality of emotions between individuals that allows the process of empathy.

Emotional expressions, together with special adaptations for their communication and detection, provide the basis for the empathic resonance of a shared psychophysical state. This intersubjectivity allows a coherent communion in the inner life of feelings, values and intentions. This in turn has profound implications for the development of the shared consciousness, identity and symbolic language that provide the foundations for the development of human culture.

The human community made possible by a shared culture provides more than a useful survival setting for the individual. Rather, it is the context and content of human flourishing. In the words of Charles Taylor, there is no monological human existence, we are intrinsically dialogical. Inwardly we feel the awareness of our conscious self and, through empathy, this is reflected outward in recognition of the consciousness and sensitivity of the other---with implicit moral meaning, This moral disposition, and the concern for others that it implies, is more than an evolutionary strategy that sustains the adaptive advantages of social life. It is also the substance of human happiness. As Hans Jonas says, “It is one of the paradoxes of life that it employs means which modify the end and themselves become part of it.”

The powers of advancing biomedical technology will deliver their most difficult ethical dilemmas in the realm of the neurosciences. Possible interventions in neurological development, medical treatment of criminal behavior and enhancement of competitive performance raise profound questions about the meaning and purpose of human life. And beyond this, there is the prospect of technological intervention in the very process of human evolution. I will suggest that a useful guiding principle for the application of these new powers will be that they shall preserve individual freedom, protect the rights of others and sustain the relational realities that reflect and promote the attitudes and actions of genuine altruistic love.

Friday, October 1, 1999

Elliott Sober, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin
Mapping the Conceptual Terrain

Leda Cosmides, Ph.D. & John Tooby,Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Friendship, engagement, and the Banker’s Paradox: Other pathways to the Evolution of Altruism

William H. Durham, Ph.D.
Stanford University
The Role of Culture in the Evolution of Altruism

David Sloan Wilson, Ph.D.
Binghamton University SUNY
The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Altruism in Evolutionary Theory: Discussion with Audience

Frans B. M. de Waal, Ph. D.
Emory University, Yerkes Primate Living Links Center
Communication of Emotions and the Possibility of Sympathy in Monkeys and Apes

Antonio R. Damasio, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Iowa Hospital
The Neurobiology of Emotion

Hanna Damasio, M.D.
University of Iowa Hospital
Impaired Emotion and Social Behavior Following Brain Damage

William B. Hurlbut, M.D.
Stanford University
Empathy, Evolution and Ethics

Rev. Eugene Rivers
Ella J. Baker House

Saturday, October 2, 1999

Thomas R. Insel, M.D.
Emory University, Yerkes Primate Center
The Molecular Biology of Monogamy

Greg Fricchione, M.D.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Brain Evolution: Separation, Attachment and Agape

Jerome Kagan, Ph.D.
Harvard University
The Human Moral Sense

Don Browning, Ph.D.
The University of Chicago
Agape, Empathy and the Foundational/Nonfoundational Debate

Joan Eads, Zone Coordinator
L’Arche USA

Jeffrey P. Schloss, Ph.D. Westmont College
Is It Really More Blessed to Give than to Receive?: Emerging Questions in the Evolution of Radical Altruism

Edith Wyschogrod, Ph.D.
Rice University Pythagorean Bodies and the Body of Altruism

Stephen J. Pope, Ph.D.
Boston College
The Ordering of Love

Rev. Robert Hamerton-Kelly
Woodside Village Church
Emergence of Radical Love in the Biblical Tradition

Dame Cicely Saunders
St. Christopher’s Hospice

Sunday, October 3, 1999

Samuel P. Oliner, Ph.D.
Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute
Extraordinary Acts of Ordinary People: Faces of Heroism and Altruism

Pearl Oliner, Ph.D.
California State University - Humboldt
Ingroup and Outgroup Altruism: Protestants and Catholics

Kristen Renwick Monroe, Ph.D.
University of California
How Identity and Perspective Constrain Choice

Dan Batson, Ph.D.
University of Kansas
Addressing the Altruism Question Experimentally

V.S. Ramachandran, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
Neural Basis of Empathy and of Artistic Experience

Lynn G. Underwood, Ph.D.
Fetzer Institute
The Human Experience of Agape & Compassion: Conceptual Mapping and Data from Selected Studies

Ruben L.F. Habito, Ph.D.
Southern Methodist University
Compiversity Pythagorean Bodies and the Body of Altruism

Stephen J. Pope, Ph.D.
Boston College
The Ordering of Love

Rev. Robert Hamerton-Kelly
Woodside Village Church
Emergence of Radical Love in the Biblical Tradition

Dame Cicely Saunders
St. Christopher’s Hospice

John Templeton Foundation
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