News | 16 May 2019

First Faculty Ethics Bowl at UC Santa Cruz to Focus on the Far Future


Writing at UCSC News, Scott Rappaport previews The Faculty Ethics Bowl: Ethics and the Far Future, on May 20, 5pm at the Bhojwani Room, University Center. This event is free and open to the public.

“What role should thinking about the far future—1,000 years ahead and beyond—play in research on campus?

That’s the key question that will be discussed in Ethics and the Far Future, the first UC Santa Cruz Faculty Ethics Bowl, set to take place on May 20 at the University Center’s Bhojwani Room.

Professors David Haussler (The Genomics Institute), Sandra Faber(Astronomy & Astrophysics), and Anthony Aguirre (Physics), will face off with Pranav Anand (Linguistics), Sylvanna Falcón(Latin American and Latino Studies), and Nico Orlandi (Philosophy) to debate how much of our time and resources, if any, should be put into thinking about the far future.

But this won’t be your ordinary run-of-the-mill debate. Ethics Bowl is very different from traditional debate formats. The teams are docked for using rhetoric, spin, aggression, and clever rationalization. Instead, each team is judged on the basis of active listening, flexibility, collaboration, and analytical rigor—essential ingredients for a meaningful discussion on difficult topics.

“What the Ethics Bowl does is get people thinking explicitly about the goal of productive discussion on contentious topics, how difficult that is to achieve, and how all of us could do it better,” said UCSC philosophy professor Jon Ellis, director of the Center for Public Philosophy. “What’s great about it is that it gets people of many different backgrounds and perspectives together, not only talking about pressing ethical questions, but doing so in a way that they’re consciously attending to—what we sometimes call epistemic or intellectual ‘hospitality.’”

“Nearly everyone would agree that our country needs more of this,” he added. “But so do we ourselves, the faculty, and the campus at large. You might think that faculty are more advanced and skillful at critical thinking, fair-minded active listening, etc. But anyone who’s been at an Academic Senate meeting, department meeting, and so on, knows that this isn’t always true.”

In fact, that’s what Ellis’s own research is currently about—the role that motivated reasoning and bias plays, even in people who care greatly about critical thinking, score highly on various measures of intelligence, and are particularly reflective and well-informed.

“We can be so quick to roll our eyes or express outrage at something we hear,” Ellis added. “There’s definitely a lot to be outraged by, yes, but those quick reactions are so consequential in committing us down a path and making it even harder for the other side not to do the same. Those lightning-quick moments are the source of so much distrust, scorn, and misunderstanding. Ethics Bowl helps you be a little more wary of these human tendencies.”

Read the full story by Scott Rappaport here.