As part of Cambridge Science Festival, on Saturday 23 March 2013, the Menagerie Theatre Company is holding a full day event ‘Acts of Kindness’, centred around ‘The Altruists’, a new play by Craig Baxter (writer of Re:Design and Let Newton Be!). The Altruists is about the lives and ideas of evolutionary biologists, George Price, Bill Hamilton and John Maynard Smith in the late 1960s and early 70s.
The story hones in on the tragic figure of George Price whose work and life so fatally mirrored each other. A brilliant but under-achieving scientist and inveterate milk-drinker, he deserted his wife and children in the USA, and moved to swinging London in 1967. While studying altruism with Hamilton and Maynard Smith, he started to live out his research by giving away all of his possessions to the poor. Plagued by mental illness, he was a committed atheist who claimed he had seen Jesus, and looked forward to the day he would spend his final penny. Price’s story is tragic, but it is framed both within a world of new scientific ideas and a rapidly changing social climate of the late 60s and early 70s.
There will be sessions on game theory, bi-polar disorder, and the presentation of science on stage.
The Darwin Correspondence Project is organising a session from 2.30 to 3.30pm on:
Sympathy and altruism: Charles Darwin’s moral theories and The Altruists
Despite present neo-Darwinist debates, Darwin himself was not concerned with altruism, and he and his supporters distanced themselves from the positivist ideas of Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer. He did not think of moral questions in terms of ‘altruism’ or ‘egoism’ but, instead, his moral vocabulary included ‘sympathy’ and ‘selfishness’, and his project was to investigate the nature and origins of ‘conscience’ and ‘moral sense’. Through short talks by invited speakers, excerpts from The Altruists, and discussion, the session will compare and contrast Darwin’s moral theories with those of the characters in the play from historical, philosophical, and scientific points of view.
Catherine Wilson (Philosophy, York)
Joel Peck (Genetics, Cambridge)
Paul White (Darwin Correspondence Project)
Venue: Robinson Theatre, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge CB2 8PE
Free to all.
Further details and booking for all the sessions at:
Supported by the John Templeton Foundation, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.