October 2020 Speaker: LVH Sunday Speaker, David Kyle Johnson, Ph.D., "The Prescience of Black Mirror's The Waldo Moment"
Video of October's speaker is up!
David Kyle Johnson Ph. D. is a Professor of Philosophy at King's College. He is also a returning favorite speaker at LVH. This year he is breaking with tradition and appearing at our October meeting instead of December's. In the past he's discussed such topics as Saturday Night Live's tendency to push the envelope on religion. This year we welcome him to speak on the philosophy of a political episode of the hit Netflix show Black Mirror (just in time for the elections). Even when science fiction is recognized as doing philosophy (instead of being mere escapism) it is often misunderstood. Charlie Brooker, for example, has said he finds it “irritating” when people see his show Black Mirror as “a show warning about the dangers of technology.” But if Black Mirror—a show that depicts slightly advanced technology (like memory “grains,” and “child surveillance” devices) going horribly wrong—isn’t about the dangers of technology, what is it about? By looking at specific episodes, we will see that Black Mirror does not point to (as Brooker has said) “a technological problem” but instead to “a human one.” Indeed, we will conclude by peering directly into the prescient episode The Waldo Moment to see how it points to perhaps the most dangerous human foible in the world today.
You can read a detailed summary of the episode at https://black-mirror.fandom.com/wiki/The_Waldo_Moment or watch clips on youtube.
Link to "Ye Olde Black Mirror" parody video referenced in the talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1aSqZ23ydk
Link to Kyle's book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Black-Mirror-Philosophy-Blackwell-Culture/dp/1119578264/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=kyle+johnson+black+mirror&qid=1602957266&sr=8-1
November 2020 Speaker: Noah Lugeons, "Outbreak: A Crisis of Faith: How Religion Ruined Our Global Pandemic"
Video of November's speaker is up!
Noah Lugeons is a professional podcaster, comedian, actor and author. He is best known for The Scathing Atheist podcast and his irreverent diatribes. Noah is a returning speaker at LVH. This time he will be discussing his new book, "Outbreak: A Crisis of Faith: How Religion Ruined Our Global Pandemic".
Summary of his book from Amazon, "Why did America do so badly?When the COVID-19 crisis reached America, the US had more resources and expertise at its disposal to confront the threat than any nation on the planet, and yet the American response was homicidally inefficient. Why?In this book, I argue that the root of the problem is America’s religiosity. A crisis that only science could meet threatened to expose the impotence of religious claims, and religious leaders and institutions went on the attack. Any hope of a rational, scientifically informed response was crippled by a presidential administration elected by religious zealots, staffed by religious zealots, and beholden to religious zealots. But their malfeasance was not limited to the political arena.From churches ignoring state lockdowns, to televangelists declaring the disease miraculously eradicated, to pastors suing their governors for enforcing public safety measures, religion was at the forefront of virtually every misguided step towards catastrophe that the nation took.When science eventually solves this problem, religions will be quick to thank their gods for the scientist’s labor and forgive themselves their trespasses. We cannot afford to give them such easy absolution. Their disastrous contributions to our national pandemic response are a potent reminder that a nation in the twenty-first century can ill afford to let anyone compete with science in the realm of truth."
September 2020 Speaker: Paul Halpern, Ph.D., "Synchronicity: The Epic Quest to Understand the Quantum Nature of Cause and Effect"
Video of September's speaker is up!
Guest speaker Paul Halpern discussed his new book, Synchronicity: The Epic Quest to Understand the Quantum Nature of Cause and Effect
In Synchronicity, Paul tells the little-known story of the unlikely friendship between Nobel-prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli and the great psychologist Carl Jung. Their long collaboration has been essential to some of the most important physics of the last 100 years.
Along the way, Paul explores the difference between scientific and pseudoscientific connections throughout history, showing how we must be careful to subject any purported link to scientific analysis. With quantum physics, it can be tricky, but possible.
The press release with more details can be found here:
Video of March's speaker is up!
The topic for Bill’s presentation this month comes from a discussion with his daughter on race and privilege. She has seen instances of racisim, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in her school by her classmates. That discussion led to questions. How can people in this day and age not see the error in their own actions? Why don’t they see how privileged they are? Bill used an analogy of height to help explain what he thinks the answers are to those questions.
Bill grew up in the Lehigh Valley and has observed how the area has grown more diverse over that time. He is a divorced dad of two children and enjoys trying to answer those tough questions that children ask and make adults ponder why they haven’t thought about them before.
Bill entered the United States Army after high school where he was trained as a communication systems troubleshooter. He was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Fort Hood Texas and Mannheim Germany. While stationed at Fort Hood, his division was sent to Saudi Arabia and Iraq during the Persian Gulf War.
After serving for 5 years, Bill was honorably discharged from the Army and then served in the Army Reserves while attending college He went to Lehigh Carbon Community College and then transferred to Drexel University to study electrical engineering.
After college he moved back to the Lehigh Valley to work at a local electronics company for the past 19 years.
Video of February's speaker is up!
The topic for Daniell Rowles' presentation this month comes from her interest in viruses from her grad school days. It's that time of year again where we are all coughing and sniffling or worried we are going to catch it from someone else. While infectious disease can also come from bacteria and other microbes, viruses seem to be the most frustrating since there aren’t many magic pills we can take to cure them once they take hold. This talk will explore three common seasonal afflictions: common colds, influenza, and norovirus (aka stomach bugs). What are these things? What’s going on with our immune systems? How can we get better? And how do we even know any of this is true?
Daniell Rowles self describes as being born a scientist and a lifelong learner. Throughout her education and career she has explored many subfields of biology and strives to share it with her community. Daniell attended Lehigh University for a B.S. in Molecular Biology and graduated with Highest Honors in 2008. Her undergraduate research focused on the industrial side of biology, studying the development of algae to aid in the production of non-petroleum based plastics. She also earned a minor in Environmental Science and spent time doing field research in the Rocky Mountains. While at Lehigh she also worked as a research intern at the University of Pennsylvania and as a volunteer teaching science lessons in local middle school classrooms. At Penn she got a taste for the medical side of biology doing her project on cancer drug development.
While in graduate school at Princeton University, Daniell earned a PhD studying virology and focused her research on the infection cycle of human Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV1). This research lead to several publications in 2013 and 2015. She also taught courses on Immunology and Molecular Biology for non-science majors as well as mentoring students in independent laboratory research.
Daniell is currently a Research Scientist at GlaxoSmithKline in Conshohocken, PA working to develop large molecule drug manufacturing.
Video of December's speaker is up!
Professor David Kyle Johnson is an LVH December favorite! In the past he's discussed such topics as whether St. Nicholas even existed as a historical figure and why it's ok for secular humanists to celebrate Christmas. This year we'll welcome him to speak on Saturday Night Live's tendency to push the envelope on religion.
On the October 3 1992 SNL, when Sinéad O’Connor called the Pope “the real enemy” and tore up his picture, the backlash was fierce; the episode effectively ended her career. But, when you think about it, her stunt wasn’t that different from other things that have been done on the show. From George Carlin’s opening monologue on the very first episode (where he essentially calls religion a crutch that can leave you permanently disabled), to sketches like “Djesus Uncrossed,” “God is a Boob Man,” and “The Religetables,” SNL has never been afraid to be blasphemous and sacrilegious. And I haven’t even mentioned The Church Lady, that time Jesus made fun of Tebow in the Bronco’s locker room, and that time Louis C.K. implied God was a serial killer. There was backlash about all these episodes too. So why didn’t they end anyone’s career? In this talk, Professor Johnson will explore these sketches and acts (and the public response to them) to try to get to the bottom of all of this. Ultimately, he'll argue, they didn’t end anyone’s career because they probably make a pretty good point. And with that in mind, he’ll conclude by arguing that…well… we probably all owe Sinéad O’Connor a huge apology.
Dr. David Kyle Johnson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He earned a master’s degree and doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma.
At Oklahoma, he won the coveted Kenneth Merrill Graduate Teaching Award. In 2011, the American Philosophical Association’s committee on public philosophy gave him an award for his ability to make philosophy accessible to the general public. Professor Johnson regularly teaches classes on metaphysics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, and logic, as well as courses on critical thinking and scientific reasoning. He has published papers on human freedom, the problem of natural evil, the multiverse, the existence of souls, and many related topics in such journals as Religious Studies, Sophia, Philo, Philosophy and Literature, and Think. He also maintains two blogs for Psychology Today. Professor Johnson also publishes prolifically on the intersection of pop culture and philosophy. One of his books, Inception and Philosophy: Because It’s Never Just a Dream, inspired an authors@Google talk with more than half-a-million YouTube views. He also has written numerous articles that explore the relationship between philosophical questions and such pop cultural phenomena as The Hobbit, Doctor Who, Batman, South Park, Johnny Cash, Quentin Tarantino, and Christmas.
Video of November's speaker is up!
Stories to Tell... Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges by Putting a Human Face on Atheism is the subject of Nick's talk.
Nick Fish, President of American Atheists, is a seasoned civil rights and civil liberties activist with more than a decade of political, organizing, and leadership experience with many of the nation’s most prominent political organizations and progressive non-profits. A native of Michigan, Nick studied political science at Albion College before working in Raleigh, NC, managing a voter outreach office that registered more than 5,000 new voters and knocked on 25,000 doors in the two months leading up to the 2008 election. After the election, Nick worked in donor outreach, marketing, fundraising, and communications, including with the Secular Coalition for America. Before his appointment as president, Nick served as Development Director and National Program Director for American Atheists.
Since 2015, Nick has represented American Atheists in the media, including appearances on the Fox News programs Spirited Debate, Hannity, and Fox and Friends, and on countless local media outlets. He has been quoted in The Washington Post, CNN, Time Magazine, Newsweek, and The Associated Press. He has created innovative advocacy and visibility campaigns, including AtheistVoter, and has developed messaging and strategy around American Atheists’ legal, public policy, and outreach campaigns.
This survey is for nonreligious and secular people in the United States. It is sponsored by American Atheists, and numerous other national and local secular and nonreligious groups are participating by helping to raise awareness about the survey. The research partner for the survey is Strength in Numbers Consulting Group. The survey is only for adults, so please do not complete it if you are under 18. Your responses are anonymous and confidential. The survey will be used to publish a report about secular and nonreligious people in America, and the data provided will help inform programming and advocacy for American Atheists and other secular and nonreligious organizations.
Video of October's speaker is up!
With each new generation, America is becoming more racially diverse and more secular. Yet the atheist community remains disproportionately white, and has made some conspicuous missteps in our outreach to people of color. What have we gotten wrong in the past, and how can we do better in the future?
Adam Lee is an author and activist living in New York City. He writes the Daylight Atheism blog on Patheos' atheist channel and has published several books, most recently "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City".