Is the Human Mind Reducible to Physics?

Apr 10 2015 12—1:30pm
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
Back to Events

Stephen M. Barr

University of Delaware


a luncheon discussion with
Stephen M. Barr (University of Delaware)


This event is open to University of Chicago students. Lunch will be served. Others interested in attending, please

Materialism or “physicalism” holds that all things, including human beings, are completely explicable in physical terms. While ancient and medieval thinkers expressed this view, it gained a new power with the success of Newtonian physics, whose laws were universal and deterministic, giving rise to the belief that the entire physical universe is a closed system of cause and effect. Does this reduction of human beings to purely physical factors eliminate the possibility of free will? Is an understanding of the human mind as immaterial made impossible by the discoveries of the natural sciences? In this discussion, Prof. Stephen Barr will argue that there is more to the human mind than physicalism can explain, and that reason and science, including recent discoveries in quantum mechanics, imply that the human mind is immaterial.

Participants are encouraged to read THIS SHORT PAPER by Prof. Barr in preparation for the discussion.

Stephen M. Barr, a theoretical particle physicist (Ph.D. from Princeton University), has held research positions at the Univ., of Pennsylvania, the Univ. of Washington, and Brookhaven National Laboratory.  In 1987, he joined the faculty of the University of Delaware, where he is Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Director of its Bartol Research Institute. His research centers on “grand unified theories” and the cosmology of the early universe.  He has written 150 research papers, as well as the article on “Grand Unification” for the Encyclopedia of Physics. He has lectured widely on the relation of science and religion and is the author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, A Student’s Guide to Natural Science, and Science and Religion: The Myth of Conflict.