with David Wood
of the Lunchbox
May 3, 2006
What has Buddhism to Teach us Today?
Visiting Associate Professor, Center for the Study of Religion and Culture
Buddhism is a tradition followed by one-sixth of the world's population. It was founded by an Indian named Siddhartha Gautama who lived in India 2,500 years ago and is described by his followers as 'Buddha' - the 'enlightened' or 'awakened' one. Buddhism has been called both a religion and a philosophy, but Siddhartha did not claim to be a god, nor to offer a set of metaphysical teachings, but rather offered a diagnosis of our existential condition, its causes and a practical path leading to the end of suffering. What was his message and in what ways might it speak to our condition today?
April 5, 2006
Sex, Morality and Law
Dean, Vanderbilt Law School
Moral values, we are told, was the most important issue in the 2004 election, but all sides in modern political controversies lay claim to being "moral." What was really on people's minds was sex -- the issue implicated in debates about abortion, birth control, gay marriage, even stem cell research. But why has sex become such an important political issue? And why is it so closely linked to other political issues? If someone is opposed to abortion and gay marriage, for example, we can predict that they will be in favor of the war in Iraq and harsher criminal laws. But why are these seemingly unrelated issues so closely linked?
March 1, 2006
Science Education in the 21 st Century
Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach and Professor of Pathology
The jobs of the future are going to require a basic understanding of principles of science and math. The challenge for all of us is to ensure that our children are scientifically and technologically prepared for this future. Where does the U.S. stand relative to the rest of the world in educating its children in science and math? What strategies are being developed at the national and local levels to elevate our students' scientific literacy? What impact are these programs having on achievement in science and choice of science as a career? Finally, what role should universities play in K-12 science education?
February 1, 2006
Dying Old as a Social Problem
Centennial Professor of Philosophy
Vast improvements in medical technology are creating large numbers of sick and old people who have lost their appetite for life. Are we to allow these friends, neighbors and loved ones to terminate their lives at will? What can we do to help make their existence bearable?