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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 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.

Introducing the 2016-2017 Officer Team

I am very excited to announce this upcoming year’s officer team. I was very impressed with all of the interviews and cannot wait to see all that these wonderful humans bring to the table. Without further ado, I would like to introduce you all to :

Casey McGregor, Director of Public Relations13020221_10207753594391186_181633237_n

Casey will be in his third year at UNI and is thrilled to be a part of an organization that spreads great values to the community. He is a History major who enjoys all things in life especially friends, food and all things Game of Thrones. In addition to UNIFI he will be the Secretary/Treasurer for UNI STARR next year. He can’t wait to get involved as Director of Public Relations and give back to the organization that accepted him with open arms.

Brooke Wiese, Director of Activities


4fd019a7-0283-4e49-896e-f91446919130Brooke
is just finishing her sophomore year at UNI. She’s double majoring in English and Anthropology with a minor in Creative Writing. Outside of UNIFI, she enjoys writing, drawing, puns, D&D, and staring off into the distant horizon. She loves being involved in UNIFI and is unbelievably excited to take on the position of Director of Activities. It’s going to be an amazing year!

Tanner Filip, Director of Finance

11048733_10206676102973606_3139080686800704127_nTanner is a freshman, studying computer science. He is currently serving in NISG as a senator for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Sciences. He also doesn’t like choosing photos of himself, nor writing bios (not to be confused with BIOS)

Nicole Valentine, Director of Membership


8645dd61-999b-4db1-96da-5707a583a5e3
Nicole
is a first year social work major from Dyersville, Iowa. She is looking forward to joining the officer team and working with all members of UNIFI. Outside of UNIFI, she is the Special Events Coordinator for Feminist Action League. She is so excited to take on the role of Director of Membership and work to make the coming year fantastic!

 

Cassie Beadle, Graphic Designer

Cassie is very excited to return to UNIFI as the graphic designer for her last year. Cassie is a graphic design major and has been the graphic design coordinator for UNIFI for the last 2 years. She can’t wait to be involved in UNIFI again and get to know the new members and officers.

Aaron Friel, Alumni Coordinator

05a2844d-3529-45fa-9067-51835face061Aaron Friel is a math and computer science major and past president of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers. He will be spending his last year building alumni connections and working for the new leadership to celebrate the organization’s tenth birthday! Besides UNIFI, he’s involved in progressive causes and working on software projects for UNI and hopes to launch a startup soon after graduating.

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.

You’ll Never Guess How Spirit Science Has Cured Millions (of Their Livelihood)

The page Spirit Science has over eight million likes on Facebook. Each vacuous post of theirs gets thousands of likes, or shares, or both, and is seen by hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions. Many of their YouTube videos obtain hundreds of thousands of views. And some of their content gets me mad as hell.

You might think, “You’re just jealous.” You’re damn right, I am. The nonsense they peddle that amounts to little more than a new age rebranding of The Secret with covered in a thin veneer of word salad. I am jealous of the attraction that this pseudoscience gets! But what gets me from jealousy to anger is this:

Spirit Science headline: YOU’LL NEVER GUESS HOW THIS TREATMENT FOR AUTISM HAS CURED HUNDREDS

Wowing parents of children with Autism with a series of impressive sounding chemical names and processes, the people promoting this solution claim it’s a miracle cure. The fact that it’s a miracle is in the name: Miracle Mineral Solution. But wait, there’s more!

It cures H1N1, it cures hepatitis, it cures AIDS, and it cures cancer. But most of all, it cures that unsatisfying feeling of an intact digestive tract. It does that because this miracle cure is bleach. Drink enough, and you’ll be cured of any disease. It’s a toxic solution that parents make for their kids that causes them to expel parts of their intestines in their stool. And SpiritScience.net, a site which is expressly disinterested in obtaining answers to questions by real, non-spirit science, will happily encourage you to purchase MMS.

I am jealous of the captivating power of new age, spiritual nonsense. The scientific method, and the slow, plodding success of medical science is not very interesting, but there is a reason we have such an exacting standard in our country for medical claims. Unproven medicines have killed and harmed so many people that the bar had to be set very high, and even then, mistakes still occur. They are corrected, slowly, by a system that is anything but exciting.

There are no miracle cures, and bleach doesn’t cure autism. It’s exciting to believe in chakras and higher planes of existence. It would be a wonderful world to live in if it were true that we were on the precipice of a new phase of human existence, free of physical constraint. While that might seem harmless to believe in, it is supported by a fundamental belief in a conspiracy theory: scientists, experts, teachers, and your professors are lying to you about how the world works. That belief undermines trust and encourages the proliferation of miracle cures. Only if you believe that the doctors are keeping real cures like “Miracle Mineral Solution” from you would ideas like this take hold. That it does is deeply disturbing.

I’d sleep better tonight if I knew Spirit Science was peddling literal snake oil. Instead, they’re asking parents to feed their autistic children bleach.

Support real science, not spirit science. Real science is boring and slow, but it eventually finds the right answers, not quick fixes.

One of Us (or is she?): My Atheism in Bible College

Like many other atheists, I grew up with a significant religious indoctrination. Unlike many other atheists, I actively chose to fulfill my freshman year at a Pentecostal university that focuses more on indoctrination, theology, and worship than on any other departments. It was not the wisest decision to attend that university, but it was one that I made while I was still a Christian, thinking that going to a Bible college would dispel my doubts. I was wrong.

I arrived to the university, and on move-in day, I was playing Metallica while I folded and put away my clothes. When someone leaned in my open door, asked if I was “okay, because that music is really, really sad,” and if they could pray for me, I was shocked. Was this really so different? The answer is yes. Conversation about touchy topics is avoided, and I found deep conversation to be difficult to achieve. Aside from this, I had my doubts about the faith; the following six weeks exacerbated those doubts, and I was afraid to talk about my impending realization of my atheism. Surely, I would lose friends (and I did); surely, I would be turned over to the university administration (which had happened to others before me). The warm environment of the Bible College, a little bubble of religious focus in a progressive city, was not so warm. It was suffocating.

I was constantly afraid to talk about the way that I believed when I came to terms with my atheism. I didn’t want to be turned over, which would more than likely warrant my meeting with the Residence Life Coordinator and being put through counseling, maybe writing a paper rebuking my doubt. I’m not sure about the last part, but I understand that the apology essay is part of the process for LGBT* students who come out at the Bible college.

My then-roommate was fantastic about listening to me pour my heart out over feeling trapped and unwelcome, and I never did thank her appropriately. She and I shared a class in which a man, seeking his degree to become a pastor, blatantly proclaimed to the class that non-Christians are unable to feel or understand love because they don’t know God, the deification of love himself. She agreed that Christians often speak poorly of non-Christians when they think they aren’t around, and it was something I had to keep quiet about regardless. It was my own version of being in the closet. If she reads this, I want to thank her for being the great friend that she was and continues to be, and thank her for letting me use our room as the only room in that Bible college where I could be (almost) shamelessly myself.

When I left that university, it was a great burden and a great relief simultaneously. I had a few good friends that sort-of understood why I was leaving, and more people beyond that who probably couldn’t have cared less. I was happy to be reentering the secular world, where I no longer felt constrained, but I was so sad to be leaving the friends that I had made and the city I came to love. I was nervous about the changes to come, but it was time for me to feel free.

Now, I sit here before my laptop, typing out these condensed anecdotes for a blog run by my new university’s only organization aiming to promote solely secular values, science, reason, critical thought, and so on. I am typing this as Heather, Director of Activities for the UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers. I went from feeling unwelcome at a university for my first year away from home to making my new home, surrounded by plenty of wonderful people for whom I do not have to put on a show.

I feel more comfortable now, but sometimes I still feel uncomfortable when people from earlier in my life find out about my abandonment of Christianity. People treat me as if I’m just mistaken, or as if my atheism is “just a phase.” It’s annoying and feels demeaning, but I can’t say that it was unexpected. I understand that it’s the price I have to pay for my honesty.

I am thankful that my experience has been much easier than those of many others, and I can only hope that I add positive memories and connotations for the Christians that I’ve befriended or left behind.

(Get it? Left Behind?)