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Over 3,000 people attend largest-ever Darwin Day Lecture, on ‘the new science of right and wrong’

Dr Oliver Scott Curry receives the Darwin Day Lecture medal, presented by Professor Alice Roberts.

Dr Oliver Scott Curry tonight delivered the Darwin Day Lecture 2021, ‘Morality Explained: the new science of right and wrong’, in an event viewed by over 3,000 people worldwide and chaired by Humanists UK President Alice Roberts.

Following the lecture and an expansive question and answer session, Alice presented Oliver with the Humanists UK Darwin Day Medal for his efforts to understand the evolution of morality, and how we can use that knowledge to make the world a kinder, more rational, more tolerant place.

Oliver’s lecture explored the scientific evidence for the origins of moral behaviour not only in humans, but across the animal world. He refuted the ‘creationist’ idea of morality and demonstrated that morality is instead something with its roots in our evolved biology. Describing seven universal moral principles, he showed that these recur across time and in all human societies, although they are applied in different contexts, and refuted the idea that they are culturally specific, as too many have recently claimed.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Humanist thinkers have long deduced from looking at human and animal societies that morality isn’t something handed down from on high, but a product of our practical existence as social animals. Dr Curry’s research provides even clearer evidence that this is true.

‘I’m delighted that more people than ever before were able to join us to mark the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, whose groundbreaking work demonstrated that we are one human family, separated from all other creatures only by the passage of time. We look forward to being able to welcome everyone back, in person, next year.’

The next event in Humanists UK’s annual lecture series is the Rosalind Franklin Lecture, to be delivered by vaccinologist Professor Sarah Gilbert and chaired by broadcaster Samira Ahmed. The event, ‘Racing against the virus’, will take place on Friday 5 March, marking International Women’s Day.

The Darwin Day Lecture was recorded and will be uploaded to YouTube at a later date.

Notes

About Dr Oliver Scott Curry

Curry’s academic research investigates the nature, content and structure of human morality, and encompasses all of the questions above. To reach the answers, he employs a range of techniques from philosophy, experimental and social psychology, and comparative anthropology. His work argues that morality is best understood as a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation and conflict recurrent in human social life.

Dr Oliver Scott Curry is Research Director for Kindlab, at kindness.org. He is also a Research Affiliate at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, and a Research Associate at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, at the London School of Economics. He received his PhD from LSE in 2005.

About Professor Alice Roberts

Professor Alice Roberts has been President of Humanists UK since January 2019. She is Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, Director of Anatomy for the NHS Severn Deanery School of Surgery, and holds honorary fellowships at Hull, York Medical School, and the University of Bristol.

She is an honorary fellow of the British Science Association, a member of the Advisory Board of the Cheltenham Festival of Science, Patron of the Association of Science and Discovery Centres, and a member of the Council of the British Heart Foundation.

She combines her academic career with one as a science presenter on television. She has appeared as a human bone specialist on Channel 4’s Time Team and in various projects on BBC2, including Coast, Don’t Die Young, The Incredible Human Journey, Wild Swimming, Digging for Britain, Horizon, and Origins of Us.

About the Darwin Day Lecture series

The Darwin Day Lecture explores humanism and humanist thought as related to science and evolution, Charles Darwin, or his works. The Darwin medallist has made a significant contribution in one of these fields.

The lecture and medal are named and held to mark the annual global celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin, held every 12 February.

About Humanists UK

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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