Spell-binding lecture on life and death

Andrew Torrance and Eric Priest with Professor John Wyatt.
Andrew Torrance and Eric Priest with Professor John Wyatt.

Professor John Wyatt delivered a James Gregory public lecture entitled ‘What is a Person? Insights from Neuroscience and Christianity’ to a rapt audience of over 300 in St Andrews.

His humanity and empathy with those in pain or suffering shone through his talk, as they grapple with complex issues both at the beginning and at the end of life.

Earlier in the day, he had a talk and lively question and answer session with 150 pupils from Madras College, St Leonards School and Bell Baxter High School.

John Wyatt is professor of ethics and perinatology at University College London, where he has worked on the mechanisms, consequences and prevention of brain injury in critically ill newborn infants for more than 20 years.

He asked: “What do we mean by a person? A definition popular with some moral philosophers such as Peter Singer is ‘a being with a capacity of self-awareness and choice’, but this is unsatisfactory, since it does not include new-born babies and does include chimpanzees and some computers.”

John Wyatt’s view was that we should treat with respect and dignity all people, no matter whether they are struggling at the beginning of life or are suffering dementia near the end. God made all humans in his image, as a map of his own character, so that instead of saying “I think, therefore I am” we can say “You love me, therefore I am”.

He concluded with the words: “It’s good that you exist, that you’re in the world.”

Andrew Torrance and Eric Priest are pictured with John Wyatt, whose visit and lecture they had organised.