Gérard Fussman

Belief, Rationality and Irrationality: A Symposium

New scientific discoveries generally give rise to controversy because they tend to shake the dominant worldview.
When these discoveries refute earlier theories that had been generally accepted by the scientific community itself, it becomes even more difficult to win the battle against ancient ancestral beliefs. The Copernican revolution, Pasteur’s discoveries and Darwin’s theory of evolution all illustrate this point.
Today, astrology, alternative medicine, homeopathy and creationism still have advocates. The clash between ancient beliefs, on the one hand, and scientific discoveries and rational behaviour, on the other, often takes the form of a war whose victims can be counted in the thousands — perhaps even in the millions. Such victims include patients who receive inadequate care, people suffering from epidemics that have been allowed to run rampant, entire populations who lack clean water and sufficient food, and the future casualties of global warming.
Where do we stand today in the ongoing conflict between rational action and the rearguard resistance led by upholders of irrational beliefs? That question is answered here by some of the top French and international experts working in a wide range of fields.

Contributors: S. Atran, J.P. Changeux, N. Clayer, J. Decety, J. Delumeau, P. Descola, A. Fagot-Largeault, M. Froissart, O. Houdé, D. Lecourt, P. Mallet, S. Pääbo, J.C. Pecker, A. de Ricqlès, B. Roques, M.L. Roques, M.L. Rouquette, C. Singer, N. Wachtel and H. Whitehouse.