Sciences of the Human Person Group

Sciences of the Human Person Bios

In recent years increasing attention has been given to questions of what (if anything) constitutes the uniqueness of the human person in light of contemporary science. This group was staffed by specialists in the various sciences which study or are related to the human person: the neurosciences, quantum physics, primatology, cognitive psychology, computer science and Artificial Intelligence, computational theory, clinical psychology, medicine and consciousness studies, to name a few. Each specialist brought his or her disciplinary training and empirical results to bear on the question of the human person and its relation to other animals and to intelligent machines.

Please note: these bios date from the time of the SSQ program. In the time since the program, some of the participants have moved institutions and some have passed away.

Marc Bekoff
University of Colorado, Boulder

Marc Bekoff is Professor of Organismic Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and a former Guggenheim Fellow. He recently was awarded the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society for major long-term contributions to the field of animal behavior. Marc is also regional coordinator for Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots program. He and Jane have recently co-founded the international organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies ( Marc received his Ph. D. from Washington University, St. Louis in Animal Behavior in 1972. Marc's main areas of research include animal behavior, cognitive ethology (the study of animal minds), and behavioral ecology, and he has also published extensively on animal protection. He has published over 150 papers and 13 books.

Dr. Jane Goodall CBE
Jane Goodall Institute

Dr. Goodall began her landmark study of chimpanzees in Tanzania in June 1960, under the mentorship of anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey. Her work at the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve would become the foundation of future primatological research and redefine the relationship between humans and animals. Dr. Goodall defied scientific convention by giving the chimpanzees names instead of numbers, and insisted on the validity of her observations that the chimps had distinct personalities, minds and emotions. She established the Gombe Stream Research Center in 1964. In 1977, Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), which supports the Gombe work and other research, education and conservation programs. Dr. Goodall travels and speaks an average 300 days per year, and continually urges her audiences to recognize their personal responsibility and ability to effect change through consumer action, lifestyle change and activism. Dr. Goodall's scores of honors include the Medal of Tanzania, the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal, and the prestigious Kyoto Prize. In 2001 she received the third Gandhi-King Peace Award for Nonviolence, presented at the United Nations by the World Movement for Nonviolence. Her list of publications includes In the Shadow of Man and Through a Window,as well as two autobiographies in letters, the spiritual autobiography Reason for Hope and many children's books. The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior, is recognized as the definitive work on chimpanzees and is the culmination of Jane Goodall's scientific career. She has been the subject of numerous television documentaries and is featured in the large-screen format film, Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees (2002). Dr. Goodall is a member of the advisory panel named by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to promote the goals of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg in September 2002.

Dr. William Hurlbut
Stanford University

Dr. Hurlbut is currently teaching courses on Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University in the Department of Biology. Biotechnology and Ethics: Beyond Relativism and Symposium Proceedings is his current manuscript for the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at George Washington University. He is frequently requested to speak at symposiums, conferences, and with the media. Recently, his expertise was requested at NASA and as guest lecture with sixteen Nobel Prize winners at UNESCO in Paris, France. One topic of particular concern to Bill is the effects on society by striving for human perfection in the age of biomedical technology. With the advances in biotechnology, medicine is increasingly being used for purposes beyond the traditional concept of healing, in the quest for a perfect life. As a medical student, Bill studied under renowned scientists including Paul Berg who won the Nobel Prize for his work in recombinant DNA. He earned his M.D. in 1974 from the Stanford University Medical Center and completed post-doctoral studies in Theology and Medical Ethics at this university. Between 1977 and 1984, he undertook an independent study with Rev. Louis Bouyer of France. He also writes, performs, and records music and poetry.

Dr. Piet Hut
Institute for Advanced Study

Piet Hut is Professor of Astrophysics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he has been since 1985. He is currently involved in a Tokyo-based project aimed at developing a special purpose computer for simulations in stellar dynamics, with a speed of 1 Petaflops. Besides his work in theoretical astrophysics, much of his research has a broadly interdisciplinary character: he has co-authored papers with computer scientists, particle physicists, geologists, paleontologists, psychologists, and philosophers. During the last few years, he has organized a series of workshops to investigate the character of intrinsic limits to scientific knowledge. There are three main questions he has focused on. To what extent can limits be seen as dictated by the structure of human knowledge? To what extent are limits given in the structure of nature itself? And to what extent are limits inherent in any attempt at mapping reality into a model?

Dr. Stephen Kosslyn
Harvard University

Dr. Kosslyn is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and an Associate Psychologist in the Department of Neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Kosslyn received his B.A. in 1970 from UCLA and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1974, both in psychology. He taught at Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and Brandeis Universities before joining the Harvard Faculty as Professor of Psychology in 1983. Kosslyn's work focuses on the nature of visual mental imagery and high-level vision, as well as applications of psychological principles in visual display design. He has published over 200 papers on these topics, authored or co-authored six books, and co-edited nine books. His books include Image and Mind (1980), Ghosts in the Mind's Machine (1983), Wet Mind: The New Cognitive Neuroscience (with O. Koenig, 1992), Elements of Graph Design (1994), and Image and Brain: The Resolution of the Imagery Debate (1994). Dr. Kosslyn has received numerous honors, including the National Academy of Sciences Initiatives in Research Award, the Jean-Louis Signoret Prix, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Society of Experimental Psychologists.

Dr. Benjamin Libet
University of California, San Francisco

Benjamin Libet was born April 12, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois and raised there as well. He attended the University of Chicago, gaining an S.B. in 1936 (Physiology) and a Ph.D. in 1939 (also Physiology). His thesis work dealt with the electrical activity of the isolated frog brain, under the supervision of Ralph W. Gerard. Libet is Professor Emeritus of Physiology at UCSF, where he began a faculty position in 1949. Before that, he was an instructor in Albany Medical College (New York), a research fellow in the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital (in neurochemistry) in Philadelphia, and instructor in the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and an assistant professor at the University of Chicago (1945-1948). He spent the year 1956-1957 working with Sir John Eccles in Canberra, Australia. Among other things, Eccles and Popper authored the book The Self and Its Brain.

Dr. Michael Merzenich
University of California, San Francisco

Michael Merzenich is a renowned scientist and educator and is the founder of the Scientific Learning Corporation which develops the reading and language learning program Fast ForWord, among other products. He holds the Francis A. Sooy Chair of Otolaryngology and Physiology at the University of California at San Francisco, and with his wife Diane established the Merzenich Chair in Education at the University of Portland—a gift to the Defining Moment Campaign. Michael is an expert on brain function, specifically brain plasticity, or the capacity for growth, and he is both a medical inventor and a software developer. He has a Ph.D. in neurophysiology from Johns Hopkins. Among his awards are the international Ipsen Prize for his work in brain plasticity. Michael is a member of the University's Presidential Advisory Council for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Bill Newsome
Stanford University

Dr. Newsome is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Professor of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He received a B.S. degree, summa cum laude, in physics from Stetson University and a Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Newsome served on the faculty of the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at SUNY Stony Brook before moving to Stanford in 1988. Dr. Newsome is a leading investigator in the fields of sensory and cognitive neuroscience. He has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of how the primate brain mediates visual perception, and is currently attempting to unravel the neural mechanisms underlying simple decision processes within the cerebral cortex. Among his honors are the Rank Prize in Optoelectronics, the Spencer Award for highly original contributions to research in neurobiology from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, and two Kaiser Awards for excellence in teaching from the students of the Stanford University School of Medicine. He recently delivered the 13th Annual Marr Lecture at the University of Cambridge and the King Solomon Lectures in Mechanisms of Animal Behavior at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2000, he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

Robert Elliot Pollack
Columbia University

Dr. Pollack grew up in Brooklyn, attended public schools, and graduated from Columbia College with a major in physics in 1961. He holds a Ph.D. in biology from Brandeis University. He is Professor of Biological Sciences, Lecturer in Psychiatry at the Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, and Director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion, at Columbia University since 1978, and was Dean of Columbia College from 1982 to 1989. He received the Alexander Hamilton Medal from Columbia University, and has held a Guggenheim Fellowship. Dr. Pollack is the author of more than a hundred research papers on the oncogenic phenotype of mammalian cells in culture, and has edited many books and reviews on aspects of molecular biology. Since 1994 Dr. Pollack has concentrated his efforts on questions that lie at the margin of science and religion. His latest work, The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith: Order, Meaning and Free Will in Modern Science was published in 2000, as the inaugural volume of a Columbia University Press series of books on Science and Religion. He is currently working on a book on childhood depression. Since 1998 Dr. Pollack has been the President of the Hillel of Columbia University and Barnard College, located in the new Robert K. Kraft Family Center for Jewish Student Life.

Books by Robert Pollack:
The Faith of Biology, the Biology of Faith, Columbia University Press, 2000.
The Missing Moment: How the Unconscious Shapes Modern Science, Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Signs of Life: The Language and Meaning of DNA, Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

Dr. Paula Tallal
Rutgers University

Dr. Paula Tallal, a world-renowned authority and leading researcher in language learning disabilities, is a cognitive neuroscientist and board-certified clinical psychologist. She was recently appointed Board of Governor's Professor of Neuroscience at Rutgers, and is a founder and co-director of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark. Dr. Tallal is one of the founders of the Scientific Learning Corporation which develops the reading and language learning programs Fast ForWord, among other products that pioneer computer/Internet based training based on neuroplasticity. Dr. Tallal is an active participant in many scientific advisory boards and governmental committees for both developmental language disorders and learning disabilities. She received her bachelor's degree from New York University and her Ph.D. from Cambridge University, with additional research training at The Johns Hopkins University. Paula is an expert on the neurobiological basis of language development and disorders and she has been an innovator of both novel theories pertaining to brain development and disorders as well as practical solutions. Tallal was recently awarded the Thomas Alvin Edison Patent Prize for her work leading to the development of Fast ForWord.

Francisco Varela
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Dr. Varela was born in Chile in 1946, and holds a doctoral degree in biological sciences from Harvard University (1970). Currently he lives and works in France, where he is Director of Research at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), a senior member of CREA, Ecole Polytechnique, and Head of the Neurodynamics Unit at LENA (Laboratory of Cognitive Neurosciences and Brain Imaging) at the Salpetriere Hospital, Paris. His interests have centered on the biological mechanisms of cognitive phenomena and human consciousness, both at the level of experimental research using a variety of methods, and conceptual foundations, including philosophical analyses and mathematical modeling. He has contributed more than 200 articles on these matters in international scientific journals and is the editor of eight collections and the author of a dozen books many of them translated into several languages. Dr. Varela has taught and conducted research extensively in South America, the United States, and Europe, he is a Guggenheim and von Humboldt Fellow, the recipient of the Interamerican Science Prize in Biological Sciences for 1986 and the Presidential Medal of Italy (1999). He has also been a Buddhist practitioner for over twenty-five years, and active in fostering a modern dialog between Dharma and science. He is the co-founder of the "Mind and Life" dialogues on science and Buddhism with HH Dalai Lama that started fifteen years ago.

Dr. Faraneh Vargha-Khadem
Institute of Child Health

Dr. Vargha-Khadem was born in Tehran, Iran and completed her graduate studies in 1979 at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She completed her post-doctoral training at the Montreal Children's Hospital in 1981, thereafter joining the Faculty of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University where she worked for two years before moving to London, England. In 1983, she accepted a faculty research position at the Institute of Child Health, London, where she has remained to the present time. During this period, she has created the first academic department of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience in the UK, and its clinical counterpart, the Department of Neuropsychology at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Dr. Vargha-Khadem's research and clinical work is directed toward understanding the cognitive and behavioural deficits of brain-injured children in terms of the underlying neuropathology, with the goal of developing new knowledge about the ontogeny of specific neural systems. Together with her colleagues, Dr. Vargha-Khadem has made a series of landmark discoveries concerning the ontogenetic neural bases of episodic and semantic memory, speech and language, and differences in the functional organization of the developing brain as compared with that of the mature brain. In recognition of her contributions to the field, she holds a personal chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1998, and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2000. Dr. Vargha-Khadem is a member of the Baha'i Faith, a world religion dedicated to establishing peace and unity among mankind.