December 2013

December 2013

16th December 2013: The Good Friday Agreement fifteen years on - plateau or platform for consolidating peace in the European Union?

Mary McAleese HonFRSE, Former President of Ireland, delivered this year's MacCormick European Lecture.

Read the summary report of the 2013 MacCormick lecture by Mary McAleese

The MacCormick European Lecture is named in honour of the late Professor Sir Neil MacCormick FBA FRSE in recognition of his contribution to Scottish and European politics and his international work for the RSE. 

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 set the scene for the resolution of one of the oldest conflicts in Europe but some now argue has it created a plateau of an acceptable level of uneasy mutuality which may never be capable of generating the momentum for fully facing down the hard questions which provoked the conflict in the first place. Have we just created a congenial parking lot for problems or have we built a bridge to a "farther shore" where the building of a new shared future is genuinely happening?

Neil MacCormick argued convincingly that people need to be asked to buy into concepts which are not abstract but which have chapter and verse spelt out clearly in advance. Fifteen years on from the Good Friday Agreement is it clear to the individual citizen and political leaders what their responsibilities and avenues of action are, in terms of moving the Good Friday Agreement beyond simply eliminating paramilitary violence towards generating an embedded culture of peace based on parity of esteem? Is enough being done to keep the peace process on track? Can the pace be forced? What more could or should be done? The European Union's  self-ideation as a world centre of gravity in peace is to some extent tied up in the answer to these questions.

9th December 2013: The Royal Society of Edinburgh Christmas Lecture 2013

Read the summary report of Professor Caroline Wilkinson's lecture on Your Face and Your Identity

What does your face reveal about your identity? What details in the face tell us whether the person is male or female, old or young, White European or Middle Eastern, and how accurate will this assessment be? This interactive lecture looked at the details of the face that reveal identity using famous faces and faces from the past to illustrate those features.

Is it possible to predict the face of an individual from the skull? Can we identify a face just from the bones and will such a facial reconstruction be accurate? The lecture looked at the facial depictions of Richard III, Mary, Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, Rameses II and St Nicolas to describe the techniques used to help identify bodies in forensic investigations and bring faces from the past alive.

2nd December 2013: Energy, Entropy and the Human Enterprise

Read the summary report of the 2013 Lord Kelvin lecture by Professor Colin McInnes FRSE - Energy, Entropy and the Human Enterprise

The growing availability of energy dense fuels since the industrial revolution has been an overwhelmingly civilising and liberating influence. By replacing carbohydrate-fuelled human labour with hydrocarbon-fuelled machines, many of us have been freed from the land to think, innovate and create. This lecture explored how energy has enabled us to re-arrange matter into organised structures, imprinting our ideas on the physical world. Contrary to contemporary limit-setting views, it was argued that our ideas and enterprise can deliver a shared prosperity which can flourish into the deep future.


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