Practicing Science: Virtues, Values, and the Good Life



August 9-12, 2018

Trafalgar Square

Over the last several decades, virtue has attracted increased attention from philosophers, theologians, and psychologists. However, little of this research has attended to the development and function of virtue within scientific research and practice. This lacuna is surprising given that science has been linked with virtue for much of its history. Philosophers from ancient Greece through to the medieval period saw the study of the natural world as a means to develop particular intellectual and moral virtues. Although the conception of science changed dramatically during the early modern period, scholars continued to see such ties well into the nineteenth century; the study and practice of scientific research was understood both to demand certain virtues and simultaneously to cultivate those virtues. While the language of virtue largely disappeared from discussions of science in the twentieth century, closer inspection reveals that moral dispositions and judgments continue to play a significant role in scientific practice (though perhaps in quite different ways), and that scientists continue to value specific cognitive and behavioral dispositions.

Since 2016, a multi-disciplinary research team at the University of Notre Dame, led by Celia Deane-Drummond, Darcia Narvaez, and Thomas Stapleford and supported by the Templeton Religion Trust, has been exploring the relationship between virtue and scientific practice with a particular focus on laboratory research in biology. As the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science project draws to a close, we invite other interested scholars to join us to continue the conversation. Potential research questions to be addressed include: How can the language of virtue enrich, change, or challenge our understanding of science? Does the contemporary practice of scientific research require or bolster certain virtues (or vices)? How can ideas drawn from virtue ethics or virtue epistemology illuminate (and perhaps improve) the training and mentoring of scientists?

The conference will include a film screening of Cosmos and Creation: A Twelfth-Century Model, which is based on the art, music, science, and theology of Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179). This interdisciplinary model explores the ways a highly-learned nun viewed the cosmos and how it was made, following the “days” of creation as found in Genesis 1. This digital model uses images found in a spectacularly illuminated copy of Hildegard’s first major treatise, Scivias, and works with her ideas about teaching and learning, as well as featuring selections from her chants sung by students in Notre Dame's Program in Sacred Music. The model has been created by Margot Fassler (Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Music History and Liturgy) and digital artist Christian Jara. This full-dome digital model uses Hildegard’s visions of creation and cosmos as expressed in the pages of medieval manuscripts to explore scientific thought in another age using twenty-first-century media. It is supported by funds from the Notre Dame College of Arts and Letters, Notre Dame Research, an ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship, and the Guggenheim Foundation, which has supported Fassler’s forthcoming book on the subject.  


Kristján Kristjánsson, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham
Andrew Pinsent, Ian Ramsey Centre for Science & Religion, University of Oxford
Michael Spezio, Scripps College
Matthew Stanley, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University

Panelists & Discussants

Anna Abram, Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology 
Markus Christen, University of Zürich
Fern Elsdon-Baker, Newman University
Don Howard, University of Notre Dame
Antje Jackelén, Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala and Primate of the Church of Sweden
Gerald McKenny, University of Notre Dame
Darcia Narvaez, University of Notre Dame
Michael Welker, Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg


Notre Dame London Global Gateway

University of Notre Dame (U.S.A.) in England
1-4 Suffolk Street
London, SW1Y 4HG


Registration is closed.

The registration fee includes evening receptions, coffee/tea breaks, lunch on Friday, and the opportunity to attend a special screening of Cosmos and Creation: A Twelfth-Century Model at the Peter Harris Planetarium.

($100 general / $50 postdoctoral fellows / $25 students)

Registration will close July 1, 2018. UPDATED DEADLINE: July 8

Tentative Schedule

Thursday, August 9, 2018

15:30 Arrivals and Registration

16:30 Welcome and Introduction

16:45 Break

17:00 Public Lecture 1: Matthew Stanley, "The Virtue of Productive Uncertainty, or, What to Do When You Don’t Know Something"

Response: Don Howard

18:30 Reception

Friday, August 10, 2018

09:00 Panel: Reflections on the Interdisciplinary Study of Virtue

10:15 Break

10:45 Keynote Address: Michael Spezio, "Value in Virtuous Community: Insights about Valuing the Self and Other from Computational Cognitive and Brain Sciences"

12:15 Lunch
13:15 Parallel Paper Session A

13:15 – 13:40 Daniel Kuebler, "Maintaining Virtue in Modern Scientific Practice: Providing a Foundation to Move Forward"

13:45 – 14:10 Nick Ogle, "The Limits of Interdisciplinary Theology"

13:15 Parallel Paper Session B

13:15 – 13:35 Musharraf Hussain, "Scientific Studies Show Positive Effects of Moral and Spiritual Intelligence on Human Wellbeing: Can These Findings Promote Positive Attitude to Modern Science Among Young Muslims?"

13:40 – 14:05 Matias Petersen and Irena Schneider, "Science, Polycentricity, and Virtue"

14:15 Break

14:35 Paper Session C

14:35 – 15:00 Tim Reilly, "The Character of Scientists: Validating the Virtue in the Practice of Science Scale"

15:05 – 15:30 Braden Molhoek, "The Umbras of Science: Perpetuating Injustice and the Habituation of Reductionism" 

16:00 Public Lecture 2: Andrew Pinsent, "A Fragile Inheritance: Science, Truth, and the Broken Covenant" 

Response: Antje Jackelén

17:30 Bus to Peter Harrison Planetarium

20:00 Lecture and Film – Cosmos and Creation: A Twelfth-Century Model 

Margot Fassler and Christian Jara

21:15 Departure for Amba Hotel, Trafalgar Square

Saturday, August 11, 2018

09:30 Plenary Paper Session

09:30 – 09:55 Markus Christen, "Does the Digitization of Science Affect Scientific Virtue?"

09:55 – 10:15 Mark Graves, "Semantic Analysis of Moral Values in Semi-Structured Interviews"

10:15 – 10:35 Emanuele Ratti, "Phronesis and Machine Learning"

10:35 – 10:50 Discussion

10:50 Break

11:15 Parallel Paper Session A

11:15 – 11:40 Michelle Marvin, "Mapping the Language of Hope within Empirical Research onto Virtue Theory"

11:45 – 12:10 Michael Yankoski, "Blockchain and Virtue: Aid or Anathema?" 

12:15 – 12:40 Jordan Droira, "Caring to Ask: A New Picture of Inquisitiveness"

11:15 Parallel Paper Session B

11:15 – 11:40 Nathaniel Warne, "Have We Forgotten about Happiness?"

11:45 – 12:10 Eranda Jayawickreme, "Promoting Good Thinking Through Intellectual Humility"

12:15 – 12:40 Emily Dumler-Winckler, "Intellectual and Moral Virtues: 'Each Becomes the Other'"

12:45 Break

16:30 Public Lecture 3: Kristján Kristjánsson, "Scientific Practice, Wonder, and Awe"

Response: Darcia Narvaez

18:00 Reception

Sunday, August 12, 2018

09:00 Parallel Paper Session A

09:00 – 09:25 Dori Beeler & Louise Bezuidenhout, "Virtue Ethics and the Responsible Design of Technology"

09:30 – 09:55 Dori Beeler & Louise Bezuidenhout, "Virtue Ethics and the Responsible Design of Technology"

10:00 – 10:25 Fionagh Thomson, "Telescopes, Microscopes & Simulations: The Everyday Scientific Practice of Deciding 'What is Real?'"

09:00 Parallel Paper Session B

09:00 – 09:25 Char Brecevic, "Ethical Virtues in Scientific Representation"

09:30 – 09:55 Mara-Daria Cojocaru, "Where Epistemic and Moral Virtues Coincide: The Case Against Using Animals in Research"

10:00 – 10:25 Jennifer Baker, "Aristotle and Ainslie: How Behavioral Science Fits Virtue"

10:30 Break

10:40 Concluding Panel: Anna Abram, Fern Elsdon-Baker, Gerald McKenny, Michael Welker

12:30 Departures
12:30 Mass (optional)


Christina Leblang, Project Program Manager

This conference is made possible by support from the Templeton Religion Trust.