Testing Conventional Wisdom, Seeking Truth and What It Means to be Human
Robert Lawrence Kuhn, Ph.D. is the creator and host of Closer to Truth: Science, Meaning and the Future. This unique series explores the latest scientific research, philosophical thinking, and expressions of human creativity. Kuhn is the author/editor of 25 books on such diverse topics as creativity and strategy and he produced "In Search of China," which aired on PBS. Additionally, he is an investment banker specializing in mergers and acquisitions. He holds a doctorate in anatomy/brain research.
What sets Closer to Truth apart from other PBS series that explore the advances being made in science and technology?
Robert Lawrence Kuhn: We bring leading scientists, scholars and artists to the table - literally - to take part in spontaneous debates on the meaning behind advances being made in astronomy, brain science, medicine, music, education, the relationship between science and religion, and other areas at the frontiers of science. Our mission is to bring to viewers a multi-faceted perspective on some of the most exciting and controversial "big issues" of our time. Yet the experts who are sharing their knowledge are some of the most down to earth and accessible people you will see on television.
We think it is a unique and fresh approach and one that appeals to an audience that crosses traditional demographic boundaries.
Why now? Why is Closer to Truth so important at this point in our history?
RLK: A primary characteristic of the modern world is our technological development. These science-related changes have a profound effect on our daily lives as well as how we perceive ourselves as individuals and in the world.
The information in our series can help us to make more informed decisions about the choices science presents to us.
What are the challenges facing scientists, scholars and artists, and indirectly you as this series' creator, in persuading the public to understand new knowledge, appreciate it and make use of it?
RLK: The biggest challenge is to get the public to come to new knowledge with an open mind, to acknowledge that many of the advances brought about by scientific research have changed our lives beyond imagination and ultimately, if we're wise, for the better.
We've designed Closer to Truth to focus on five leading areas of research so that viewers can relate the topics to their own lives. Our five areas of inquiry are brain vs. mind, cosmos and universe, biology and medicine, science vs. religion, and science and our world.
We can't talk about science's role in our lives without including its effect on morality, philosophy, religion, and human creativity. We've brought together leading religious scholars as well as philosophers, science fiction authors, psychologists, molecular biologists, astronomers and numerous others to participate in the dialogue.
How does Closer to Truth treat the topics explored in the series, and why is this treatment important?
RLK: Our treatment and what also makes us unique is the debate format. When we start the camera rolling we don't know where the conversation will end up and that makes for exciting television. As the host and mediator, I try to test conventional wisdom, and to explain scientific advances in a clear and compelling way so that viewers can appreciate what these new discoveries mean. Each new breakthrough creates a whole new set of questions for the way we lead our lives.
How do you select topics and the guests who will discuss them?
RLK: Whenever and wherever new knowledge challenges accepted principles, we find our topics. Of course scientific discovery in the areas of medicine, molecular biology, astronomy, brain function, and many, many others is happening with accelerating frequency. We choose areas where new discoveries are having an impact on our lives.
We bring together prominent thinkers - research scientists, scholars and artists - to discuss what's happening at the leading edge of science and the humanities. Their opinions are not pie-in-the-sky posturing, but disciplined, informed knowledge based on research, study, and decades of deep personal thought.
Besides a better understanding and greater appreciation for science, does Closer to Truth have other practical benefits?
RLK: I hope the information in the series helps us to become more informed and resourceful. Closer to Truth should improve critical thinking about who we are, why we're here, and where we're going. I'd like to think the series can also help us better understand what it means to be human.
Is there a way for viewers to participate more fully in the debates Closer to Truth introduces?
RLK: We invite viewers to visit our website - www.pbs.org/closertotruth -- where we provide further resources for exploring these topics, including personal information from our guest experts.
What are your plans for the future?
RLK: We'll be back. Our aim is to become the program of record for the meaning of scientific discovery and the critical thinking behind it.