Welcome to the Center for Values

Aug 31, 2010 by Matthew J. Brown

Welcome to the new face of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology.  To kick things off, I’d like to begin by introducing everyone to the Center – or as we sometimes like to call it, the C4V.  I’d like to tell you a little bit about who we are, what are aims are, and what kinds of things we do.

Who we are: Well, we’re a dean, a psychologist, two historians (of Latin America and of science), a philosopher, and a literary scholar.  We are a center based in the School of Arts and Humanities at The University of Texas at Dallas.  We’re a group of scholars dedicated in one way or another to dealing with the difficult issues presented by the intersection of human and cultural values with medicine, science, and technology.

The mission of the Center is simple yet multifaceted: we seek to understand, evaluate, and support the improvement of the ethical and cultural influences on and implications of science and technology.  Our values and our culture are and ought to be factors in scientific inquiry and technological advancement, and the progress of science and technology have undeniable and often unavoidable consequences for the way we live our lives, the structure of our society, and our most deeply held values.  Science and technology are indelibly human pursuits, subject both to the wonders of human innovation and the difficulties of human folly.  In seeking to understand and evaluate these complex confluences and interactions, we hope to make some contribution to rendering these consequences less haphazard and more humane.

This mission leads naturally to several types of effort:

  • We seek to support scholarship that addresses the matters related to our mission in crucial ways.
  • We engage in a variety of educational efforts within and outside of the University that aid in the understanding of and encourage reflection upon these issues.
  • We seek to reach out to professionals in the various practical pursuits of medicine, science, and technology to encourage them to consider and reflect upon the ways that values relate to their work.
  • We carry on a tradition of public intellectualism, bringing light to these issues in public forums with the hope of creating an informed, reflective, and ongoing conversation amongst citizens of the local, national, and global communities that the University serves.

What we’ve done: Last year, the Center’s theme was Creativity in the Age of Technology, and we ran a series of free public lectures that looked not only at how the values of creativity and innovation play a role in a technological society and in the scientific process, but also the way in which science and technology change our understanding of human creativity, including talks by several prominent psychologists on the nature of human creativity.  We ran several courses related to the topic of the series, a discussion forum about “Eureka!” moments, and an exploratory graduate seminar on the topic of Science, Values, and Democracy.

What we’re doing: This year’s theme is Exploring Human Enhancement.  Our lecture series for the Fall will feature speakers who imagine the possibilities of a future where humans are enhanced by the fruits of technology and medical science: the science fiction author Robert Sawyer, the philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark, and the artist-engineer Jonathan Tippett.  The Spring series will feature lecturers who reflect on the implications of human enhancement through science and technology: philosopher of science Janet Kourany, ethicist and disability theorist Eva Kittay, and best-selling science writer Rebecca Skloot. We will have a host of other public events, and we will continue to offer a variety of related courses.

The future: We hope to continue supporting scholarship, education, and public intellectualism while expanding the reach and depth of our work.  One major venue of that expansion is this very website, which we hope will become an incitement to reflection and the home of an ongoing conversation.  We also hope that we can contribute to the amelioration of social issues where medicine, science, and technology loom large.