MEET THE THURSDAY SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017

You’ve seen the schedule; now learn more about our daily speakers! Each day of Darwin Week 2017, there will be special presentations by people from the UNI community. All speeches will occur in the University Room, which is located on the bottom floor of Maucker Union.

12:30

Our 12:30 Thursday Speaker is Dr. Reza Lahroodi, an associate professor of philosophy here at the University of Northern Iowa. Dr. Lahroodi did his undergrad and master’s at Tehran University in Iran and began to study philosophy as a result of the Iranian Revolution and the explosion of freedom of speech it brought. He now teaches classes on epistemology, medieval philosophy, virtue theory, and philosophical psychology. He is currently working on a paper on the virtue of open-mindedness and its normative and psychological aspects.

Dr. Lahroodi’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Are We Responsible for What We Believe?

2:00

Our 2:00 Thursday speaker is Dr. Evan Renfro. Dr. Renfro is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa. He received his masters from the University of Texas and his Doctorate in Political Science from the University of Nebraska. His research interests include international security, Middle Eastern affairs, counterintelligence, guerilla warfare, and critical realism. He teaches classes on international relations, international security and the Middle East.

Dr. Renfro’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “The Paradox of Skepticism: Fake News and the Politics of Credulity

3:30

Our 3:30 Thursday speaker is Dr. Edgar Boedeker, an associate professor of philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and World Religions. He is currently working on a new translation of Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, which is regarded as one of the most important philosophical works in European philosophy of the 20th century. He is also working on a book entitled Wittgenstein’s Basic Demant, and has several other published works on phenomenology and Heidegger. He teaches classes on the philosophy of language, German philosophy, logic, and humanities.

Dr. Boedeker’s Darwin Week 2017 Presentation is entitled “Is God “Dead”? Friedrich Nietzsche on Nihilism”.

7:00

Our keynote speaker that evening is NASA aerospace engineer Kathryn CroweKathryn Crowe works as a propulsion systems engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She received NASA’s Space Flight Awareness Trailblazer Award for her innovative thinking in support of human spaceflight. She works on evaluating design options and deciding on solutions to make the second configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) as flexible and adaptable as possible. The work Kathryn does will help make the rocket more powerful and open up new mission possibilities, opening the door to the first crewed mission to venture into lunar orbit since Apollo.

Her talk is entitled “Skepticism, Objectivity, and the Journey to Mars”.

 

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

MEET THE WEDNESDAY SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017

You’ve seen the schedule; now learn more about our daily speakers! Each day of Darwin Week 2017, there will be special presentations by people from the UNI community. All speeches will occur in the University Room, which is located on the bottom floor of Maucker Union.

2:00

Our 2:00 Wednesday Speaker is Dr. Jeremy Schraffenberger. J.D. Schraffenberger is the associate editor of the North American Review and an associate professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa. He is the author of the book of poems Saint Joe’s Passion, and his other work has appeared in Best Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Mid-American Review, Natural Bridge, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere.

Dr. Schraffenberger’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “The Necessary Poetics of Atheism

4:00

Our 4:00 Wednesday speaker is Dr. Scott Peters, an associate professor of political science here at the University of Northern Iowa and a prelaw advisor to the Daniel Webster Law Society. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1998 and is interested in the effectiveness of various ethical restrictions that states place on judicial candidates. He teaches classes on constitutional law, analyzing politics, and civil rights and liberties.

Dr. Peters’ Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Alternative Facts Are Stubborn Things

7:30

 

Our keynote speaker that evening is author and professor of religious studies Dr. Hector Avalos! He is the author or editor of ten books, including The End of Biblical Studies and The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics.

 

Dr. Avalos’ Darwin Week 2017 Presentation is entitled “Can Science Prove Prayer Works?” Check here for more info!

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

MEET THE TUESDAY SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017

You’ve seen the schedule; now learn more about our daily speakers! Each day of Darwin Week 2017, there will be special presentations by people from the UNI community. All speeches will occur in the University Room, which is located on the bottom floor of Maucker Union.

12:30

Our 12:30 Tuesday speaker is Dr. Jim Demastes, a professor from the department of biology.  Originally from Georgia, Dr. Demastes received his bachelor degree from Auburn University in science education in 1982.  After teaching middle and high school science for 4 years he attended Louisiana State University where he received his M.S and PhD degrees studying evolutionary biology.  After 2 years in a post-doc position, he and his wife, Dr. Theresa Spradling came to UNI in 1998 where they both teach and are currently collaborating on their federally funded research and the raising of two boys.

Dr. Demastes’ Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Uncommon Sense and Testing the Obvious: Lessons from Biology.

2:00

Our 2:00 Tuesday speaker is Dr. Carolyn Hildebrandt, a Professor of Psychology. She did her Ph.D. and Postdoctoral Fellowship at University of California, Berkeley.  Her areas of expertise are social and cognitive development, musical development, and constructivist approaches to teaching and learning.

Dr. Hildebrandt’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Superstition: Abnormal, Irrational, Pathological, or Adaptive?

3:30

Our 3:30 Tuesday speaker is Dr. John Burnight from the Philosophy and World Religions Department. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and World Religions. His research focuses on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), with a particular interest in the Book of Job. His regular course offerings at UNI include Religions of the World, Old Testament, New Testament, and Judaism and Islam.

Dr. Burnight’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation’s topic is entitled “Biblical Skepticism: The Book of Job as Subversive Literature“.

7:00

Our keynote speaker that night at 7 p.m. is writer, editor, activist, and translator Hiba Krisht! She is a volunteer activist with The Ex-Muslims of North America, and has spoken about Islam, the Middle East, and women’s rights at secular humanist conferences all over the country w6aed7f. Her talk is entitled “Veils, Virginity, and (In)Visibility: On Being a Woman in Hezbollah Culture”.

Check here for more info!

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

MEET THE MONDAY SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017

You’ve seen the schedule; now learn more about our daily speakers! Each day of Darwin Week 2017, there will be special presentations by people from the UNI community. All speeches will occur in the University Room, which is located on the bottom floor of Maucker Union.

 

2:00

Our 2:00 Monday speaker is Dr. Tyler O’Brien, a Professor of Anthropology here at the University of Northern Iowa. He teaches several courses on the subject of physical anthropology, including human origins, forensic anthropology, and human biological variation. His research interests include Human Osteology, Forensic Anthropology, Cranial Modification, and Bioarchaeology.

Dr. O’Brien’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Bones, Beetles and Birds: Darwin’s Contributions to Physical Anthropology.

 

3:00

Our 3:00 Monday speaker is Dr. Helen Harton, a Professor of Psychology as well as the graduate coordinator in psychology and the associate director of the center for academic ethics. She does research on academic ethics as well as on social influence, prejudice, and relationships. She is excited about the changes that scientists are beginning to make in response to the replication crisis she will address today and looks forward to the beneficial effects that increased methodological and statistical rigor will have on psychology, medicine, and other sciences.

Dr. Harton’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “The Reproducibility Crisis in Science.”

 

4:00

Our 4:00 Monday speaker is Dr. Justin Holmes from the Political Science department. He is currently a professor of political science here at the University of Northern Iowa and teaches several courses related to political psychology, voter behavior, and public opinion. His research interests include presidential rhetoric, political communication, and American politics.

 

Dr. Holmes’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation’s topic is TBA.

7:00

Our keynote speaker that night at 7 p.m. is author and activist Kavin Senapathy! She’s the co-founder and director of international pro-science, pro-biotech movement March Against Myths, and co-author of “The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari’s Glass House”.

Her talk is entitled “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in Your Grocery Cart”.
Check here for more info!

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

MEET THE SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017: HIBA KRISHT

This year’s Darwin Week will be held February 13th-16th of 2017. We are so excited to host our fantastic speakers and enjoy their company and knowledge with the UNI community!

 

Today our keynote spotlight will feature Hiba Krisht who comes to us from Columbus, Ohio. She will be holding a lecture entitled “Veils, Virginity, and (In)visibility: On Being a Woman in Hezbollah Culture.” She will share her first person account of the realities of being an ex-Muslim woman from Hezbollah Lebanon. Come see her at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in the University Room in the basement of Maucker Union.

 

Hiba Krisht is a writer, editor and translator who comes from Beirut, Lebanon. She has written for The Kenyon Review, Blackbird, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Mizza, and other journals. She has received many awards for her writing such as the 2016 Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University, the 2013 JoAnn Athanas Memorial Award in literature from the National Society of Arts and Letters, and the 2012 Jane Foulkes Malone Fellowship from Indiana University. She has worked from many years as a volunteer activist with The Ex-Muslims of North America. She is a seasoned speaker who speaks about Islam, the Middle East and women’s rights.

 

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page!

MEET THE SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017: DR. HECTOR AVALOS

We are so excited to have our 10th Darwin Week this year, which will be happening from February 13-16th, 2017.

Today’s keynote spotlight will be on Dr. Hector Avalos, a philosophy professor from Iowa State University. He will be giving a lecture titled “Can Science Prove that Prayer Works?” This lecture will tackle the assumed separation between science and religion as well as experiments in the past that looked to prove that. He will be speaking February 15th at 7:30 PM

Dr. Hector Avalos is Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, where he was named Professor of the Year in 1996, and a Master Teacher in 2003-04. A former fundamentalist preacher and faith healer, Dr. Avalos is now one of the few openly atheist biblical scholars in academia. Born in Mexico, Avalos received a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1982, and a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School in 1985. In 1991, he became the first Mexican American to earn a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern Studies at Harvard. He is the author or editor of ten books, including The End of Biblical Studies (2007). His most recent book is The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (2015).

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

Get Excited for Darwin Week 2017!

If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you’re probably already aware that Darwin Week 2017 is in a few short weeks on February 13-16. We are incredibly excited as it is our 10th annual Darwin Week!

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page. 

Last but not least, darwinweek.com is up and running! Thanks to the gorgeous web design of former UNIFI Presidents Michael Dippold and Aaron Friel, and our wonderful graphic designer Cassie Beadle, you have a clear list of all the talks and sponsors in one place (and it’s mobile!)

Stay tuned to Facebook and unifreethought.com for more updates on Darwin Week 2017 speakers, sponsors, and important announcements. We sincerely appreciate all the support we continuously receive for putting on an event that allows so many students to be exposed to skepticism, scientific thought, and critical inquiry.

Announcing UNIFI’s 2016-2017 Vice President

I would like to start this post off by thanking Aaron Friel for appointing me as the next president of UNIFI. I have learned so much by working with him and he has left behind a clear definition of what a good leader truly is. I am looking forward to contributing my vision to UNIFI this year, and I cannot wait to see all that UNIFI becomes with our officer team.

That said, I would like to announce the Vice President for UNIFI’s 2015-2016 term: Oliverio Covarrubius. I went to high school with Oliverio and have had the privilege to watch him grow and mature through his time at UNI. Time and time again, Oliverio has impressed me with his intelligence and skeptical criticism of other people’s (often worrisome) ideas, even if we won’t always show to others how smart he truly is. I admire his quick wit, his determination, and his passion. He is incredibly dedicated to things that matter to him, and for which I respect him greatly for.

As Director of Finance last year, Oliverio surprised me time and time again with his dedication, professionalism and the way he handled his responsibilities. He contributed fresh ideas to the team and went above and beyond for what it means to be a director. One moment that strongly sticks out to me why Oliverio will be a great Vice President is his ability to combine his perspective on diversity with the vision of UNIFI. This is something he promised to bring to the officer team during interviews last year, and a promise he came true on. Back in the fall when the Ethnic Student Promoters and Black Student Union lead a boycott of the Panther Open House, Oliverio was the first person to suggest that UNIFI take a stance of solidarity and emphasize the importance of an inclusive environment for all students, and in particular multicultural students.

These are all things that he accomplished so far in the role of a director, and I look forward to seeing what he can accomplish as Vice President. I am so impressed already with all that he has done, both for UNIFI and the university itself. I know Oliverio is somebody that holds the utmost respect and dedication for UNIFI, which combined for his passion for freethought makes it a really easy decision for me to make. So congratulations Oliverio, looking forward to a great year working alongside you.

Keep an eye out for officer applications, which will be posted within the next two weeks.

Announcing the 2016-2017 UNIFI President

It’s with great pleasure that I announce today the next President of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers, Natalie Kaufman. On April 15th, she will take office with a new officer team appointed by her for the next year. As well, Natalie will announce her appointee for Vice President and the opening of applications for officer positions soon. That said, let me explain why she is the natural successor for leadership in this group.

I’ve been fortunate to know Natalie since she came to UNI and she attended her first event within weeks of coming to campus. Even in the first event she attended, she demonstrated a willingness to discuss, critically analyze, and deconstruct the arguments she was presented with. She examines the ideas of others with a critical eye, even if she won’t always admit it, and is careful to form her own response. These are aspects I’d consider valuable for any leader, and so vital for a group that values skepticism as highly as ours.

In her time in UNIFI, she has demonstrated compassion toward her fellow members, dedication to the tasks at hand, and a willingness to go above and beyond. As Director of Public Relations last year, she went above and beyond and created a process for advertising events and coordinating Darwin Week that was much needed. This year, she proved to be an invaluable support through thick and thin as the Vice President.

But most of all, I have always appreciated her resilience in the face of opposition, her willingness to challenge me – respectfully – and ensure the organization was being run well free project management app. This is something I’ve greatly missed as she spends the current semester studying in Italy, and I sincerely hope she’s able to find an officer team that will contribute as much to her success as she has to my own.

Thank you, Natalie, and best wishes for the year to come. You have my respect and my support, and I know as the next President, you will earn the same from each member.

A moderate opinion on mass shootings in the U.S.

The mass shooting issue in the United States, from the outside, probably seems easily solvable. First of all, the United States has mass shootings regularly and with a much higher frequency than other western democracies. Additionally, the United States also has the most guns (a little more than one gun per citizen). At this point it would be hard for anyone, understandably, to stop themselves from drawing the lines of causation. But, we should not be so hasty. Before we get excited about gun violence and dream up some legislation, perhaps there is a more nuanced approach to understanding mass shootings in America. Such an approach would have to weigh the already known facts about the issue: How is gun regulation handled already? Which guns are legal? Which guns are used most often in mass shootings? What is the mental health situation of the shooters? What is the commonality between all of these shooters?

The article that I am sharing provides some answers to these questions. It is, so far, the most interesting perspective I have heard on this issue. Far too often we hear people either demonize mass shooters as reactionary machines of hate carrying out the unspoken will of the far right, or people dismiss them completely as being mentally ill. I have, admittedly, tended towards the dismissive side. I would often think, “You can’t be right in the head to wake up one day and decide to follow through with something like that.” While I still maintain this, the statement is different from “the shooter was mentally ill.” Indeed my statement, thanks to the article I am sharing, has been refined. I now will say, “the shooter has been socially neglected.”

I imagine that this narrative won’t be well received. There are those who hold that “making the shooter a victim subtracts from the justice of the victims.” Frankly, I don’t give a damn. Part of my lack of sympathy with people who hold this opinion is due to my stance on the “justice system” as a whole: it should not be about justice, but rather rehabilitation. Society does not benefit from prisons as they have been, criminals should be given a chance to start over and improve themselves so that they can one day rejoin the people and share their gifts. Secondly, on my lack of sympathy, the view that holds shooters as a victim (in some light) is optimistic; perhaps there are attitudes and practices that we can implement from day to day life that can prevent this behavior.