Lectures start promptly at 7:30PM and are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month September through May

1-8 2019  Environmental History of Dharmic Communities

Pankaj Jain, Ph.D., University of North Texas

The traditional grass-roots rural communities such as Bishnois, Bhils, and Swadhyaya continue to live the dharmic way of life in the sense that for them their traditions are part of their daily way of life and thus there is no such thing as “religion” in their lives as there is no separation of sacred from profane. Therefore, there is no such thing as environmentalism distinct and separate in their lives. Their environmentalism reflects in their dharmic practices even though they may not be conscious about it. If Bishnois are saving animals and trees from invaders, they are simply living their traditions, not “protecting the environment” per se. If Swadhyayis are building Vkśamandiras (tree temples) and Nirmal Nīrs (water harvesting sites), they are simply expressing their devotion and reverence for all creation according to the teachings of Gitā, not “restoring the environment”. If Bhils continue to practice their rituals in their Sacred Groves, it is their ancient tradition, not “saving the bio-diversity”. The traditional, comparatively much less modernized, groups do not see religion, ecology, and ethics as separate entities. In line with the etymological definition of dharma, their duty, virtue, cosmic ecological order, and spiritual aspects of their lives are all intertwined just as dharma in its various definitions and meanings includes duty, virtue, cosmic ecological order and spiritual aspects of lives.

Audio of talk: Pankaj Jain 1-8-2019

Presentation:  Environmental History of Dharmic Communities

1-22-2019  Confronting Death

Katherine Davies, Ph.D., UTD

The concept “death” makes the absent present, paradoxically inviting us to confront what is un-confrontable. No one can die for us. Yet we can also never survive, and thus be present for, our own death. When our death has arrived, we have departed. Instead, we confront the inevitability of our approaching death and grapple with the events of the deaths of those around us. Public intellectual Cornel West has argued that philosophy as a pursuit is only possible when our infinite desire confronts the reality of its finitude in death. We will explore a number of ways in which philosophizing has emerged from and responded to death. We will consider various definitions of death, the role of fear in dying, and whether death is a primarily individual or social phenomenon. This presentation will consist primarily in the group discussion of a selection of quotes from philosophers of death across the history of philosophy.

Audio of talk Katherine Davies 1-22-2019:

Presentation: Confronting Death

2-12-2019  The Philosophy Of Research: How Does One Approach Documenting Truth?

Bryan Rigg, Ph.D.

How does one find truth?  How does one understand the world?  This lecture addresses the philosophy of history, exploring how evidence is gathered, analyzed, and ultimately presented to the public.  

A historian's job is to look through evidence that explores events that eventually, when written down, tell a story of what happened in the past.  How one understands what he is learning makes all the difference in exploring a subject matter. 

Exploring how one gains information, organizes it and then presents it to the public.  The modus operandi of using oral history and combining it with primary research in the archives.

Audio of talk: Bryan Rigg 2-12-2019

Presentation: Rescued From The Reich

Presentation: Hitler's Jewish Soldiers

2-26-2019  The Truth About Belief, And How It Can All Go So Terribly Wrong

Jeffrey Levine

Denialism is an outgrowth of the well-characterized psychological phenomenon of denial. Rather than applying to an individual, however, denialism is manifested at the scale of extended social communities comprising thousands to tens of millions of members, whose shared values and goals have led them to reject (or deny) the reality of well-documented, widely accepted conclusions about the world. Most of my examples will relate to the denialism of Anthropogenic Global Warming held by members of four different, albeit overlapping, communities: social conservatives, libertarians, evangelical Christians, and people having connections to the fossil energy industries. Each group has its own motivations for denial, and all four have collaborated—principally­ via the internet—in developing a set of arguments intended to justify their rejection of AGW.

Unlike most members of the population at large, petroleum geologists and engineers are capable of doing high quality, empirically rigorous, objective science when they have the motivation to do so, which typically occurs in the exploration and production of oil and gas. In a situation where they do not have an incentive for objectivity, however, many of them have no compunctions about throwing scientific method, scientific colleagues, and the entire infrastructure of science "under the bus" in their eagerness to indulge "identity protective cognition" and "tribal epistemology". Rather than applying sound methods of reasoning, these scientists commonly apply their knowledge and experience in scientific method to develop "rationalizations" (the one-word oxymoron) to justify their preferred beliefs. Some of these arguments are so far-fetched, they seem absurd to an outsider, yet by means a process that is very similar in many respects to scientific method, the most successful and persuasive denialist arguments develop rhetorical "legs", and persist despite contradicting evidence.

My talk will identify a range of strategies and tactics that are typically employed when pursuing motivated reasoning to achieve a particular desired conclusion. Owing to "bias blindness", those who are most susceptible to bias are generally unaware of the degree to which their capacity for rational cognition has been corrupted.

Although these examples refer to one specific example of denialism, my observations have broad application to many other issues facing society at large, as the same flaws in human reasoning that have led to AGW Denialism can be exploited by political leaders, economic interests, and media pundits in an effort to achieve desired political outcomes.

Audio of talk: Jeff Levine 2-26-2019

3-12-2019  Compassion: The Value Of The 21st Century

Charlie Barker, M.D.

"The value of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical, and spiritual traditions."  Since this statement was expressed in the Charter for Compassion in 2009, over 250,000 individuals, thousands of organizational partners, and over 400 cities around the world have intentionally embraced the value of compassion as core value with the golden rule as guiding principle.  This talk will address what we mean by compassion, the science of compassion, the relationship between kindness, empathy, and compassion, and a more in-depth description of the "golden rule," which is found in every religious and non-religious faith tradition.  The movement of compassion as core value with the golden rule as operating principle is liking to become the centerpiece of human relations in the 21st century.  Only with love and compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration can there be true peace and healing. Our evolutionary survival as a living species depends on it.  

Audio of talk: Charlie Barker 3-12-2019

Presentation: Compassion for the 21st Century

3-26-2019  Free Will v Determinism

David Pruessner, J.D.

To what extent do we freely make choices in life?  Or, to what extent are our choices pre-determined by our DNA, our past, our environment, or by fate itself?  This philosophical debate on free will/determinism has puzzled mankind since the ancient Greeks, but new scientific evidence about the workings of the human mind may offer is new insights. 

Audio of talk: David Pruessner, J.D. 3-26-2019

Presentation: Free Will vs Determinism

4-9-2019  The Fragility Of Life And The Meaninglessness Of Existence

Daniel Simon, Jr.

The Universe is a dangerous and violent place. We are in the path of asteroids, comets and random space bodies. We can be wiped out in a second by a solar flare or absorbed by a black hole or vaporized by a quasar. The threats from the surface of the planet are no less menacing than space. We have rogue nations with nuclear weapons, terrorists searching the world for loose nuclear arms or biological weapons and the near future risk of uncontrollable AI. Your body can also turn against you through diseases, viruses, or bacteria. The human body is a weak and fragile vessel. Just surviving the first trimester in the womb is a major milestone. Our existence as able physical and mental bodies is a miracle of biology. The complexity of the human creature and its development stage are a marvel of improbability. Our existence in this corner of the cosmos, living and striving is an amazing feat of reality. Enjoy every day for you are the winner of the lottery many times over. So many things must have gone right for you and everything around you to be.

Audio of talk: Daniel Simon, Jr. 4-9-2019

Presentation: The Fragility of Life

4-23-2019  Mystic Voices: Religious Beauty And The City

Joshua Whitfield

What's the role of a religious community in a city of multiple faiths and none? What role does beauty play? And how might we reimagine the religious today--in a world riven by ideologies of all sorts?

Audio of talk: Joshua Whitfield 4-23-2019

5-14-2019  Philosophy Of Energy

Adam Briggle, Ph.D., UNT

Few topics are as important to the future of our civilization as energy. Just consider, for example, questions about climate change and environmental sustainability and questions about development and security...and how energy cuts across all these issues and more. Discussions about energy are dominated by science, technology, engineering, and business. The humanities are hardly anywhere to be found. Indeed, the philosophy of energy doesn't really exist as a field. A google search for "philosophy of energy" turns up only 1,240 hits. By comparison "philosophy of technology" turns up nearly 15 million and "philosophy of science" turns up 182 million. This is unfortunate, because philosophical questions of ethics and values are unavoidably tangled up with all the technical dimensions of energy. So, what would a philosophy of energy look like and what good could it do in the world? In this talk, I'll lay out some ideas for thinking philosophically about energy.

Audio of talk: Adam Briggle 5-14-2019

Presentation: Philosophy Of Energy