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Of Science and Sins: New Event Series Explores 'Science and the Seven Deadly Sins'

Join Science & the City at the New York Academy of Sciences to explore the darker side of contemporary science.

Published October 03, 2012

NEW YORK, October 3, 2012—Starting this month, join Science & the City, the public gateway to the New York Academy of Sciences, for a truly unique event series focused on Science and the Seven Deadly Sins. The events, one for each sin, will explore how common moral failings manifest themselves in contemporary science. The series will bring together top scientists, authors, urban planners, and many others to examine everything from interpersonal clashes in the lab, to viruses and animals doing what comes naturally, to how your city and your body's design make you more likely to succumb to sin.

If science and sinning seem worlds apart, consider the value of looking at science through a moral and cultural lens. "Culture provides context to findings in science. It tells us why something matters and what to do about it," says neuroeconomist Paul Zak, who will be part of the "Greed: Willing to Do Anything" event in December. Zak notes that greed is an important sin to explore as it has a destructive impact on our lives—"the neuroscience we've done on this shows why."

If all this talk of sinning has you feeling guilty, take heart: "Humans are innately moral. As social creatures we have to be," says Zak. "This doesn't mean that every person is moral in every situation (and the science of why we are immoral—the point of this series—is fascinating). But, it does mean humans are much a better and kinder species than we often give ourselves credit for."

With that in mind, delve into our schedule of sinful fare. All events will feature indulgent receptions afterwards, as well as opportunities to interact with the speakers and one another.

On Wednesday, October 17, join noted virologist W. Ian Lipkin (Columbia University), public health expert Daniel B. Jernigan (Centers for Disease Control), and award-winning journalists David Quammen and Maryn McKenna at Wrath Goes Viral. Panelists will discuss popular media portrayals of infectious diseases and pandemics, examining just how accurate these threats really are, as well as the science behind evil-sounding viruses like swine flu, SARS, and Ebola.

On Wednesday, November 28, join editor George Musser (Scientific American), expert in theology and science Christiana Peppard (Fordham University), physicist Gregory Benford (University of California), and biologist and author Stuart Firestein (Columbia University) at Pride: Flying Cars and Other Broken Promises, where they will explore the ethical side of unfulfilled scientific promises.

On Tuesday, December 11, join neuroeconomist Paul Zak (Claremont Graduate University) at Greed: Willing to Do Anything to learn how our chemistry, specifically the chemical messenger oxytocin, plays a role in morality.

On Tuesday, February 12, join journalist Brian Switek, animal behaviorist Danielle Lee (Oklahoma State University), endangered species expert Joshua Ginsberg (Wildlife Conservation Society), cognitive neuroscientist Stephanie Cacioppo (University of Chicago), and primate zoologist Marina Cords (Columbia University) for Lust and Love in the Animal Kingdom. After learning about the love lives of creatures ranging from dinosaurs to bonobos, you'll be able to decide if you really want to call yourself an animal in bed.

On Wednesday, March 13, join author Tom Vanderbilt, youth fitness advocate Hunter Reed (FASTNYC), sustainable planning and development expert Kaid Benefield (Natural Resource Defense Council), and urban design researcher Mariela Alfonzo (Polytechnic Institute at New York University) at Sloth: Is Your City Making You Fat? for a talk on how designing and building better cities and towns may make us a healthier—and leaner—nation.

On Tuesday, April 30, join editor Mariette DiChristina (Scientific American), editor and head of Retraction Watch Ivan Oransky (Reuters Health), physicist and advisor to the National Research Council Harold Garner (Virginia Tech), and radiologist and author Morton Meyers (SUNY Stony Brook) at Envy: The Cutthroat Side of Science to explore whether the competitive culture of science has gone too far.

On Thursday, May 23, join author Steve Ettlinger, photographer Dwight Eschliman, and a special culinary guest (TBA) for Gluttony: Deconstructing Dinner to learn where your favorite snacks come from and how combining certain elements can lead to either a food fantasy or fatal fare!

For more information on the series, visit Media must RSVP to Diana Friedman (; 212.298.8645).

About Science & the City
Science & the City is the public gateway to the New York Academy of Sciences. Its programming helps fulfill an important piece of the Academy's mission: to connect people to science in New York City and beyond, and increase science literacy. Science & the City publishes a comprehensive calendar of public science events in New York City, hosts events featuring top scientists in their fields, and produces a weekly email newsletter on local science events, as well as podcasts on cutting-edge science topics. Visit

About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at