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Past Lectures at CFI-West
October-December 2009

Ed Buckner - In Freedom We Trust: This is a Free Country, not a Christian Nation!
Prof. Randy Cerveny - Weather's Greatest Mysteries Solved!
Al Seckel - Your Mind's Eye: The World's Most Powerful Illusions and What They Tell Us About How We Think and Perceive
Angela Hawken - Is Corruption Measurable?

James Fallon - The Brain of a Criminal: Genes, Brain Imaging, and Free Will
Humanlight and Solstice Party

Ed Buckner
In Freedom We Trust: This is a Free Country, not a Christian Nation!

Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009

     The founders of the United States debated long and hard over the U.S. Constitution. By 1789 they had created a revolutionary document that provided the structure for a secular government. So why do people in 2009 think we live in a Christian nation? Is there a difference between a country with a Christian-based government and a country that contains a Christian majority? Ed Buckner will explain why we live in a free, not Christian, country.

     Buckner, who has been the President of American Atheists for the past year, has been a professor, a technical school administrator, and Executive Director of Council for Secular Humanism (2001-2003). He earned his doctorate at Georgia State University. Buckner and his wife, Lois Diane Bright, have edited several books and published Oliver Halle's Taking the Harder Right (2006). He has debated and spoken across the U.S., often about the Treaty of Tripoli and "This Is a Free Country, Not a Christian Nation." His “No More Lies!" talk was featured at the Godless Americans March on Washington in 2002. Buckner also serves on several national advisory boards and committees.

$8, or free for Friends of the Center.

Prof. Randy Cerveny
Weather’s Greatest Mysteries Solved!

Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009
11 a.m. in Hollywood; 4:30 p.m. in
Costa Mesa

     Why was human life nearly wiped out 73,000 years ago? Did the Red Sea part as described in the Bible? Why did the T-Rex become extinct? Arizona State University Professor Randy Cerveny is a history detective who brings past weather to light in a new book, Weather’s Greatest Mysteries Solved!, that shows how it played a major role in key turning points in history. Cerveny will give a lively, fascinating tour of some of the world’s most perplexing and provocative climate mysteries, past and present. They range from the causes for widespread calamities, such the disappearance of the Mayan civilization and the rise of the American Dust Bowl, to smaller scale weather phenomena, such as intense microbursts that can down an airplane.

     Cerveny, a professor who specializes in weather and climate at ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences, was named in 2005 as one of three inaugural “President’s Professors” at the university. With a doctorate in geography at the University of Nebraska in 1987, he has studied weather on all seven continents. His work, including a book, Freaks of the Storms: The World’s Strangest Weather Stories, and nearly 100 science articles, has ranged from studying the weather associated with prison escapes to computing the weather of the next 10,000 years. Cerveny has been interviewed by the BBC, CNN, ABC News, NPR, and has appeared live on the NBC Today show and on the CBS Morning Show. He is an editor of the popular-based weather magazine Weatherwise. Currently he is working with the World Meteorological Organization to develop a global database of extreme weather records (now online at

$8, or free for Friends of the Center.

Al Seckel
Your Mind's Eye:The World's Most Powerful Illusions and What they Tell Us About How We Think and Perceive

Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009
11 a.m.

     Come see, experience, and take delight in some of the world's most powerful visual and other sensory illusions presented by illusion expert Al Seckel. He will take us on an interactive journey through our inner minds. Many of the dynamic illusions presented in this lecture, including visual and auditory ones, are not available anywhere else, including his books, and cover many different aspects of perception. Illusions can reveal the hidden rules of the human perceptual system in a way that normal perceptual processes do not.

     Seckel is internationally recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on visual and other types of sensory illusions. He has authored more than 18 books on the subject, including several best-sellers. Two have won national book awards. Seckel has lectured extensively at many of the world's prestigious universities, including Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Cornell University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, UCLA, UCSD, Berkeley, University of Rome, University of Utrecht, University of Lund, and Singularity University. He also has lectured at many conferences and venues, including twice at TED.

$8, or free for Friends of the Center.

Angela Hawken
Is Corruption Measurable?

Sunday, Nov 15, 2009

11 a.m. in Hollywood; 4:30 p.m. in
Costa Mesa

     Measures of corruption have become increasingly important drivers of American policy decisions, influencing flows of foreign assistance and investment. But existing measurement systems are not sufficiently accurate or valid. Angela Hawken of Pepperdine University will not only explain the problem of measuring corruption but also briefly examine its impact on society, from individual scams perpetrated by schemers such as Bernie Madoff to governmental graft and corruption. The arbitrariness of the U.S. allocation of international aid, for instance, is demonstrated through an analysis of "eligible country" determination within the Millennium Challenge Account, a bilateral development fund created by the Bush Administration. Measurement is more than an academic exercise; seemingly small details have large impacts.

     Hawken is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Policy Analysis at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy. She is originally from South Africa, where she taught economics before moving to the United States in 1998 to complete her doctorate in policy analysis at the RAND Graduate School. Hawken teaches graduate classes in research methods, statistics, applied methods for policy analysis, crime, and social policy, and her research interests are primarily in illicit drugs, crime, and corruption. She develops measurement instruments to study corruption and gender issues in Afghanistan, where she has lived, for the UN Development Program and the Asia-Pacific region for the UN regional office.

$8, or free for Friends of the Center.

James Fallon
The Brain of a Criminal: Genes, Brain Imaging, and Free Will

Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009
11 a.m.

     The new field of imaging genetics has provided unique insights into the causes of diseases such as schizophrenia and depression, as well as a greater understanding of a range of elusive concepts such as creativity, free will, and the brain of the psychopathic killer. In this talk, Dr. James H. Fallon of the University of California, Irvine, discusses the interactive contributions of genetics, environmental stressors, brain damage and gene modification, and how the mix of these factors form a basis of the study of complex adaptive behaviors and psychiatric disorders, including some skeletons in the speaker's own closet.

     Fallon, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, is a prominent, pioneering brain researcher who was the first to show how to mobilize significant numbers of adult stem cells and progenitors in the injured brain. He has written extensively on neurodegenerative disorders and has a particular interest in examining psychopathic criminal behavior. Fallon is presently principal investigator on an adult stem cell grant and working on several other imaging and genetics grants. He is on numerous scientific, biotech, and art/humanities boards.

$8, or free for Friends of the Center.



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