Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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Upcoming Lectures

All events begin on a Sunday at 2pm in Baxter Lecture Hall on the Caltech campus, unless otherwise stated (such as when lectures take place in Beckman Auditorium). Lecture events usually feature a Q&A period after the talk, and a book signing by the author. Also, lecture-goers are invited to meet and talk to the speaker and socialize with fellow skeptics over dinner and libations at Burger Continental in Pasadena. Missed a lecture? Most can be ordered on DVD.


Undeniable Evolution and the Science of Creation

Bill Nye

SPARKED BY A CONTROVERSIAL DEBATE in February 2014, Bill Nye has set off on an energetic campaign to spread awareness of evolution and the powerful way it shapes our lives. In Undeniable Evolution and the Science of Creation, he explains why race does not really exist; evaluates the true promise and peril of genetically modified food; reveals how new species are born, in a dog kennel and in a London subway; takes a stroll through 4.5 billion years of time; and explores the new search for alien life, including aliens right here on Earth. With infectious enthusiasm, Bill Nye shows that evolution is much more than a rebuttal to creationism; it is an essential way to understand how nature works—and to change the world. Don’t miss this enlightening “In Conversation” with Bill Nye, hosted by Michael Shermer.


The Moral Arc: How Science Leads Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom

Michael Shermer (credit: Jeremy Danger)

Credit: Jeremy Danger

WE ARE LIVING in the most moral period of our species’ history. Ever since the Enlightenment, thinkers have consciously applied the methods of science to solve social and moral problems, and in the process created the modern world of liberal democracies, civil rights, equal justice, open political and economic borders, and prosperity the likes of which no human society in history has ever enjoyed. More people in more places have greater rights, freedoms, liberties, literacy, education, and prosperity—the likes of which no human society in history has ever enjoyed. In this provocative and compelling talk—that includes brief histories of freedom rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and animal rights, along with considerations of the nature of evil and moral regress—Shermer explains how scientific ways of thinking have moved us ever closer to a more just world.

A book signing will follow the lecture. We will have copies of the book, The Moral Arc: How Science Leads Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, available for purchase. Can’t attend the lecture? Order The Moral Arc online.


The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter

Dr. Susan Pinker (photo by Susie Lowe)

Credit: Susie Lowe

IN THIS ENTERTAINING AND PERSUASIVE LECTURE based on her new book, psychologist Susan Pinker shows how face-to-face contact is crucial for learning, happiness, resilience, and longevity. From birth to death, human beings are hardwired to connect to other human beings. Face-to-face contact matters: tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help children learn, extend our lives, and make us happy. Looser in-person bonds matter, too, combining with our close relationships to form a personal “village” around us. Not just any social networks will do: we need the real, in-the-flesh encounters that tie human families, groups of friends, and communities together. Marrying the findings of the new field of social neuroscience with gripping human stories, Susan Pinker explores the impact of face-to-face contact from cradle to grave, from city to Sardinian mountain village, from classroom to workplace, from love to marriage to divorce. Creating our own “village effect” makes us happier. It can also save our lives.

A book signing will follow the lecture. We will have copies of the book, The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter , available for purchase. Can’t attend the lecture? Order The Village Effect online.


Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions

Dr. Phil Zuckerman

OVER THE LAST 25 YEARS, “no religion” has become the fastest-growing religion in America. Around the world, hundreds of millions of people have turned away from the traditional faiths of the past and embraced a moral yet nonreligious—or secular—life, generating societies vastly less religious than at any other time in human history. Drawing on innovative sociological research, Dr. Zuckerman—a Pitzer College professor who founded a Department of Secular Studies, the first of its kind—illuminates this demographic shift with the moral convictions that govern secular individuals, offering crucial information for the religious and nonreligious alike. Living the Secular Life reveals that, despite opinions to the contrary, nonreligious Americans possess a unique moral code that allows them to effectively navigate the complexities of modern life. Zuckerman discovered that despite the entrenched negative beliefs about nonreligious people, American secular culture is grounded in deep morality and proactive citizenship—indeed, some of the very best that the country has to offer.

A book signing will follow the lecture. We will have copies of the book, Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions, available for purchase. Can’t attend the lecture? Order Living the Secular Life online.


How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

Dr. Beth Shapiro (photo by Kris Krug)

Credit: Kris Krüg

COULD EXTINCT SPECIES, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? According to evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro, the science says yes. From deciding which species should be restored, to sequencing their genomes, to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, Shapiro vividly explores the extraordinary cutting-edge science that is being used to resurrect the past. Journeying to far-flung Siberian locales in search of ice age bones and delving into her own research and that of others, Shapiro considers de-extinction’s practical benefits and ethical challenges. Would de-extinction change the way we live? Is this really cloning? What are the costs and risks? And what is the ultimate goal?

A book signing will follow the lecture. We will have copies of the book, How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction, available for purchase. Can’t attend the lecture? Order How to Clone a Mammoth online.


The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos

Leonard Mlodinow

From the best-selling author of The Drunkard’s Walk and Subliminal, and coauthor of The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking): an account of scientific discovery from the invention of stone tools to theories of quantum physics. In this fascinating and illuminating work, Leonard Mlodinow guides us through the critical eras and events in the development of science, all of which were propelled forward by humankind’s collective struggle to know. From the birth of reasoning and culture to the formation of the studies of physics, chemistry, biology, and modern-day quantum physics, we come to see that much of our progress can be attributed to simple questions—why? how?—bravely asked. Mlodinow shows that just as science has played a key role in shaping the patterns of human thought, human subjectivity has played a key role in the evolution of science. At once authoritative and accessible, and infused with the author’s trademark wit, this deeply insightful book is a stunning tribute to humanity's intellectual curiosity.

A book signing will follow the lecture. We will have copies of the book, The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos, available for purchase. Can’t attend the lecture? Order The Upright Thinkers online.


Admission Policy for Baxter Hall

Due to security concerns, Baxter Hall will be locked and the audience will be admitted only through the doors on the South side of the building by the lily ponds. If, for medical reasons, you cannot climb the stairs to the hall on the 2nd floor, someone at the main entrance (located in the middle of the West side of the building) will escort you to the elevator. Get directions to the Caltech Campus, Baxter Hall and Beckman Auditorium.

Pricing

Unless otherwise stated, ticket prices for Baxter Hall are $10 for Skeptics Society members/Caltech/JPL community; $15 for nonmembers; and ticket prices for Beckman Auditorium are $15 for Skeptics Society members/Caltech/JPL community; $20 everyone else. Tickets for all Baxter Lecture Hall events are sold on a first come, first served basis at the door. Seating is limited. Your admission fee is a donation that pays for our lecture expenses. For Beckman Auditorium, tickets may be purchased in advance through the Caltech ticket office in 101 Winnett (MAP) at 626-395-4652, or at the door. Ordering tickets ahead of time is strongly recommended. Do not leave a message; call between 9am–4pm Monday through Friday.

Service Charge for Beckman Auditorium Tickets

For all tickets purchased by phone or fax for Beckman Auditorium lectures, Caltech will add an $8 service charge per ticket order (no matter how many tickets are ordered). No service charge will be added to tickets purchased at the door on the day of the event or purchased in person at the Caltech ticket office in advance.

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