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Previous Contributors to the Great Debate

Kenan Malik

Kenan Malik trained as a neurobiologist and was a research psychologist at the Centre for Research into Perception and Cognition at Sussex University. He is now a writer and lecturer. His work has appeared in the Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Nature and Prospect. He has his own website, which is an archive of his work including books, television and radio, journalism and book reviews, papers, essays, lectures and debates. The site also acts as an archive of reviews of his books.

Kenan Malik was on the panel of The Great Debate - Evolution, Human Nature and Autonomy in March 2001 and Genes, Memes, Minds in November 2004 and was co-tutor on the day school Modern Theory and the Human Mind in January 2002. He will be speaking at the forthcoming event Agents of Change? Darwinian Thought and Theories of Human Nature Revisited on 25th October 2008.

On this site by Kenan Malik: What Can Science Tell Us About Human Nature?


Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate
Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate [The Science Of Race & The Politics Of Identity] by Kenan Malik

The debate about race is back - and with a vengeance. In the past scientific ideas of race reflected political ideas of inferiority and superiority, whereas today it reflects contemporary notions of diversity. Malik challenges both sides of the race debate, controversially revealing that it is not through the scientific study of human differences but through our political obsession with identity and diversity that racial ideas are once more catching fire.

What Is It to Be Human?: What Science Can and Cannot Tell Us (Conversations in Print)

What is it to be human?
In What Is It to Be Human? Kenan Malik challenges naturalistic explanations of human behaviour: 'The pessimism of contemporary culture has cleared a space for a more naturalistic vision of humanity, a vision that seeks to erase the distinctions between humanity and nature and to deny the special, exceptional qualities of being human.'

Advances in genetics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, psychology and artificial intelligence have transformed the old nature-nurture debate, and established new ways of thinking about human nature. But in attempting to understand humans in the same language as it understands the rest of nature, Malik believes much contemporary science ignores human subjectivity: 'Today, the idea of humans as exceptional beings is regarded as both scientifically false and politically dangerous. I want to argue that the retreat from human exceptionalism makes for both bad science and bad politics.'

Malik's essay is followed by responses from Maggie Gee (novelist), Matt Ridley (science writer), Kiernan Ryan (Shakespeare scholar), Norman Levitt (mathematician), Kevin Warwick (cyberneticist) and Anthony O'Hear (philosopher). Finally Malik replies to his critics.

'What is it to be human?' is part of the Institute of Ideas' Conversations in Print series.

Man, Beast and Zombie: What Science Can and Cannot Tell Us About Human Nature

Are humans unique? Can animals think as we do? Will machines ever be conscious? What is free will? For centuries, attempts to answer these questions have been the stuff of theological and philosophical debate. Now scientists claim they can solve these riddles of human existence once and for all. In doing so, they promise to upset many of the accepted ideas about morality and human nature.

Man, Beast and Zombie is a thrillingly original and accessible book. Huge in its reach and powerful in its grasp, it draws on cutting-edge sciences such as evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence to assess what, precisely, they can and cannot explain about human nature. Kenan Malik explains the histories of these sciences (and the philosophies that underpin them) and analyses the complex relationship between human beings, animals and machines to explore what really makes us human.

The Meaning of Race
The Meaning of Race: Race, History and Culture in Western Society

The Meaning of Race throws new light on the nature and origins of ideas of racial difference. Arguing that the concept of 'race' is a means through which Western society has come to understand the relationship between humanity, society and nature, the book re-examines the relationship between Enlightenment thought and racial discourse, clarifies the nature of scientific racism and presents a critique of postmodern theories of difference. It also looks at the way in which recent social and political developments have shaped our ideas about race, analysing illuminatingly and persuasively the end of the Cold War, the erosion of the postwar liberal consensus and the demise of the left-wing intellectual tradition.

Controversially, Kenan Malik argues that contemporary antiracist theories are rooted in the same particularist philosophies that have given rise to the idea of race. Only a philosophy based on a universalist and humanist outlook, he suggests, can hope to transcend the discourse of race.

Useful Links

Buy Man, Beast and Zombie from Amazon

Buy The Meaning of Race from Amazon

What Is It to Be Human?: What Science Can and Cannot Tell Us (Conversations in Print)

The dirty D-word by Kenan Malik, Wednesday October 29, 2003, The Guardian

Against Multiculturalism by Kenan Malik, New Humanist, Jun 2002

Don't panic: it's safer than you think by Kenan Malik, new statesman, Monday 8th October 2001

Materialism, Mechanism and the Human Mind by Kenan Malik, New Humanist, Sep 2001

Diversity of people or values? by Kenan Malik

There is Nothing Wrong With Humanism by Kenan Malik

The Great Debate: Evolution, Human Nature and Autonomy

Just fancy chimps with attitude? Financial Times; Oct 21, 2000

Can we rise above our natural urges? by MICHAEL PROWSE, Financial Times; Dec 9, 2000

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