Brasenose College, Oxford - Tanner Lectures
(Full text now available! Tanner_Lectures_09_Complete)
As many will know, the Tanner Lectures on Human Values are a distinguished annual event at Brasenose. In this, our quincentennial year, the 2009 Tanner Lectures formed the intellectual centrepiece of our BNC500 celebrations.
With the generous support of the Tanner Foundation we had the pleasure of welcoming an especially distinguished, and a singularly numerous and diverse, programme of Tanner Lecturers. The theme which united them was simple, but not easy: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century.
In its 500th year, BNC has much history to celebrate; but the Tanner Lectures afforded us an opportunity to look forward too; and a chance to remind ourselves of the central value of Brasenose as an academic institution which can, through the efforts of its men and women, help make the world a better place, intellectually, morally and practically.
The lectures, which divided into four sessions, took place over Friday and Saturday of Fifth week of Hilary. We were delighted by the number of alumni who were able to attend and to take part in the discussions. Overall we had somewhere in the region of 800-900 people attending the various sessions.
In the first session, Professors Robin Weiss (UCL), Jane Cardosa (U Malaysia Sarawak) and Eddie Holmes (Penn State) took up the Challenge of Emerging Infection, with Prof William James (Fellow, BNC) in the chair. They were joined for discussion by a panel of local experts including Prof Paul Klenerman (Fellow BNC), Prof Tim Peto (BNC old member) and Prof Harold Jaffe.
We then moved to the question of Terrorism and International Security: What have we learned from Afghanistan and Iraq? led by Dr Llewelyn Morgan (Fellow, BNC). This session was characterised by a compelling and instructive plurality of viewpoints. Lt-Col John Nagl and Leo Docherty gave us their reflections as, respectively, US and British former serving officers (chair: Paddy Docherty). They were followed by a panel discussion involving Ana Rodriguez Garcia (protection of Afghan cultural heritage), Alan Macdonald (mine clearance), John Bingham (journalist), Joanna Buckley (UN in Afghanistan), Susanne Varga Nagl (on problems for US service families) and George Noel-Clarke (political officer in Afghanistan);the last four again BNC old members.
The Saturday morning session was concerned with Human Rights in the 21st Century, organised by Prof Stefan Vogenauer (Fellow, BNC). In the first part, introduced by Lord Justice Scott Baker (Hon Fellow, BNC), Prof Vernon Bogdanor (Fellow, BNC) and Kate Allen (Amnesty UK, Hon Fellow, BNC) talked on democracy and human rights in the context of terrorism and security. In the second, introduced by Sir Nicholas Bratza (European Court of Human Rights, BNC old member), the topic turned to bioethics and human rights, with Professors Sir Ian Kennedy (Healthcare Commission) and Julian Savulescu (Uehiro Centre).
In the final session we faced Environmental Challenges in a Warming World, chaired by David Shukman of the BBC and organised by Dr Giles Wiggs (Fellow, BNC). Professors Robert Watson and Sir David King provided comprehensive reviews from the perspective of present and past Chief Scientific Advisers to the Government; Prof Deiter Helm and George Monbiot (both BNC alumni) talked respectively on the economic aspects and the necessity of leaving fossil fuels in the ground. All four joined forces for a stimulating panel discussion to close the event.
The drinks after the lectures each day provided further opportunities for lively interchanges. The lectures and discussions were recorded; and the full text of the lectures and discussion sessions may now be found here: Tanner_Lectures_09_Complete.
The lectures will also be published in the series of volumes, Tanner Lectures on Human Values, produced by the University of Utah Press. In future years' Tanner Lectures we hope to revisit some of the themes discussed in 2009, and to see how matters have indeed progressed. We begin in 2010 by returning to the topic of the state of affairs in Afghanistan and surrounding areas (see here).
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