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SDARI Event Archives 2002


  • November 24, 2002 -- John Smart, on "Understanding The Technological Singularity: Exploring Meta-Trends In Accelerating Change"
    Accelerating computational change will inevitably yield "the technological singularity," a coming transition point in human technological progress, which will present a dramatically different, perhaps unpredictable, landscape for us. At least that is the contention of many future-oriented scholars. Trying to predict the future through various means is of course a tradition as old as human history. But what if, within a few decades, our ever more self-catalyzing, self-directing technological systems yield autonomous artificial intelligence? Would that mean the end of the human era, or the beginning of a new one for us? John Smart from L.A., is a recognized singularity studies expert. He offered his keen insights and discuss possible answers to these and other fascinating questions. For more information, see his web site, www.singularitywatch.com.

  • October 27, 2002 -- Keith Taylor and Mike Weeks, on the "Israeli Attack on USS LIBERTY"
    A dastardly act by an old friend or a horrible mistake of the worst sort? The question still rages. Was the 1967 attack by the Israelis on USS LIBERTY deliberate? Has a vast conspiracy kept Americans from the truth? What are rational thinkers to believe? Are the claims of a deliberate attack on the so-called spy ship based on fact, or are they urban legends carried for 35 years by folks too close to the truth to see it? Several writers, several TV shows, several internet bulletin boards, and a survivors group all claim our allies intended to not only sink the ship but to kill all on board. The story won't just go away. A best selling book, Body of Secrets, published last year adds more fuel to the fire. SDARI member Keith Taylor and navy veteran Mike Weeks have spent many hours looking at the facts and studying the case. They presented their opinions at the October 27th meeting.

  • September 22, 2002 -- Gretchen Burns Bergman and John Micetich, on "Drug addiction treatment and healing versus incarceration"
    Drug use defies political stereotyping, and, maybe common sense. President Clinton tripled the budget for the war to stamp out illegal drugs, including the one he admitted to having used once himself. His successor, mum on how much he used drugs, is increasing that amount even further. Californians passed the "three strikes" law sending more and more of our citizens to jail. But is this the way to go? Is it working? Are there alternatives? Gretchen Burns Bergman, Director and co-founder of "Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing (PATH) thinks so. She and an impressive list of members have long advocated treatment, not incarceration. Ms. Bergman was State Chairwoman for Proposition 36, which mandates treatment. Mr. Micetich is a member of PATH and a financial consultant.

  • August 25, 2002 -- Attorney Eddie Tabash, on Breaking the Final Taboo: Electing Atheists to Political Office
    Is it true that anybody can be president, or at least be elected to some office or another? Elected public servants now include men, women, smart people, dumb people, outrageous bigots, blacks, gays, homophobes, and more lawyers than you'd want to count. The list crosses Americana from right to left and back again. What would disqualify one in the eyes of the electorate? That's easy, disbelief! Not a single admitted atheist holds any significant elected office in the federal government or any of the state governments. Is this rational? Can anything be done about it? Eddie Tabash, a lawyer and one of Southern California's most outspoken and visible atheists, discussed this and more. Tabash ran for the state legislature twice. He lost (a close second in 2000), but learned a lot from the experience.

  • July 28, 2002 -- Dr. Vincent J. Wacher of Ontogen Corp, on "Discovering New Pharmaceuticals"
    Affordable access to medication has become a key issue in the daily lives of an increasingly long-lived US population. As Congress debates prescription drug changes to Medicare and the media becomes increasingly cluttered with allegations of price-fixing by major pharmaceutical companies it becomes difficult to assess the true costs of drug development. To help provide a concrete background for assessment of these complex issues, Dr. Wacher presented some of the biology, chemistry, experimental methodology, and regulatory processes involved in the discovery and development of new pharmaceuticals. Knowing more about this discovery and development process should enable us to more intelligently participate in the management of our health.

  • June 23, 2002 -- Science teachers Dr. Lynne Miller, Margaret Rance, and Denise Couch.
    We are often told that, although they often proclaim it to be awesome, too many young Americans have scant knowledge of the world they have inherited. Even worse, a recent poll showed California's high school graduates to be among the bottom among Americans in scientific knowledge. Is it all that bad? Our speakers for June discussed this topic in a panel discussion with audience interaction. Margaret Rance is instructor of cultural and physical anthropology at MiraCosta junior college and Lynne Miller, PhD, is her boss as head of the anthropology department. Denise Couch is an instructor of science at two other local colleges.

  • May 26, 2002 -- Don Bauder of the San Diego Union-Tribune presented "Con Games and the Rogues Who Play Them".
    San Diegans ought to be inured to con artists. We've had more than our share, but a new one pops up every few months. Are we alone in this? What are the biggest cons of all? Who are the con artists? How do we avoid them? What can the law do about it? Nobody knows more about such things than May's speaker. He's been writing about con games, for the Copley Press since 1973, and nationally since 1964. Don Bauder is author of Captain Money and the Golden Girl, an expose of J. David Dominelli, Nancy Hoover and the politicians who played games with them. Among his many awards are the Harold Keen Award for journalist of the year and the Press Club Award for Headliner of the Year for both 1982 and 1996. Bauder is a frequent lecturer on economics in the San Diego area. This was his second visit to SDARI.

  • April 21, 2002 -- Dr. Victor Stenger, Has Science Found God?
    In the past few years a number of scientists have claimed that there is credible scientific evidence for the existence of God. In 1998 Newsweek went so far as to proclaim on its cover, "Science Finds God." Is this true? Are scientists close to solving the greatest of all mysteries? Physicist Victor J. Stenger delved into this fascinating question from a skeptical point of view. This talk was based on his latest book, Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe to be on the market in October 2002 (Prometheus Books). See Professor Stenger's web site for more information about him and his writings.

  • March 24, 2002 --SDARI's always entertaining Mark Perakh, PhD.
    Last November Dr. Perakh attended Atlanta's CSICOP conference on religion and science. Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, and proponent of the idea of irreducible complexity, was also invited but did not attend. Some 500 skeptics did attend, and Dr. Perakh discussed ideas tossed around by attendees Massimo Pigliucci, Matt Young, Eugenie Scott, Paul Kurtz, Hector Avalos, Wole Soyinka, and many others. The meeting in Atlanta was important to the future of CSICOP and to skeptics in general.

  • March 3, 2002 -- Judge Bob Coates, a judge in the San Diego Superior Court since 1982.
    Rational thought requires that some people be well informed, even about things some people would rather not think about. Take the homeless we see all about us. What is it like for them? Is a problem out of sight not a problem after all? Judge Bob Coates, who had seen an endless stream of them in his court room, wanted to know. He donned old clothes and spent a night on the streets, homeless. Then he wrote a book about the solutions which have been proven out over the last two decades.

  • January 27, 2002 -- Dr. Ray Ashley, Executive Director and Head Curator for the San Diego Maritime Museum.
    Dr. Ashley discussed how the "rational" or scientific world view many of us hold today is not only a way of looking at the natural world, it is also a product of historical and social processes in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The roots of rationality had an irrational beginning. It also had an unpredictable beginning. For example, science as we know it today had roots in seafaring studies of longitude and scurvy.

Past SDARI Events and Presentations

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