Nobel Prize winner Sir Harold Kroto to speak on NU's Boston campus

Science, Society, and Education

A necessary condition for creativity in the sciences and the arts to flourish is a liberal/ democratic socio-political environment. In Europe this was manifested in the Enlightenment as Galileo, Copernicus and others laid the foundations for the evidence-based natural philosophy which signaled the birth of the Enlightenment.

The importance of intellectual and personal freedom for humanitarian advance is clearly manifested in the exponential success of the sciences in conquering many humanitarian problems from starvation and disease to the more obvious technologies that make modern life relatively pleasant for many – especially in the developed world. The down side has been the reckless thirst of a plethora of governments to exploit the vast powers of the sciences to construct ever more powerful destructive weapons.

Great thinkers from Kant to Russell, scientists from Einstein to Feynman and writers from Whitman to Shaw have repeatedly pointed to the importance of the doubt-based philosophy that is the crucial antidote to the stultifying effect of dogmas of all kinds. Indeed it is only doubt that leaves the road open for all advances in human endeavour.

We have reached a watershed in that the human race now confronts a set of crises significantly more serious than any previously. These threats can only be overcome by an open minded liberal education of the next generation of young people.

Before the name "Science" was coined it had another name, "Natural Philosophy" which more adequately describes its primary place in the spectrum of human culture. More important than any other aspect is the fact that Natural Philosophy is the only philosophical construct we have devised to determine Truth with any degree of reliability. As such it should be a primary ethical focus for the education of every child, student and citizen so at the very least they can decide whether what they are being told is actually true. This is also a strong intellectual basis for fostering creativity. For a truly humanitarian global society to evolve, equality of opportunity and personal freedom will be necessary for all young people whatever their race, colour, nationality and most importantly sex.

Bio: Sir Harold Kroto, FRS is the English chemist who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. Kroto is the Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry at the Florida State University, which he joined in 2004. Prior to that, he spent a large part of his career at the University of Sussex, where he now holds an emeritus professorship.

Sponsoring Organization: NSF Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing