Moral decisions may go deeper than social conventions, according to Pat Churchland, the speaker at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s 2020 Lorraine Grace Lectureship on societal issues of biomedical research. Churchland, a professor emeritus of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and adjunct professor at the Salk Institute, founded neurophilosophy. By applying philosophy to brain research, she helps scientists understand the origin of morality and why humans are so social. In her talk, she delved into how our brains are built to connect to and care for one another and how we might be predisposed to find certain political and social norms more attractive.
Churchland authored several influential books on the nature of conscience and social bonding. She has earned multiple awards, including the MacArthur Prize, the Rossi Prize for Neuroscience, and the Prose Prize for Science. She held several prestigious positions, including the presidencies of the American Philosophical Association and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.