A Letter from the QM Forum President

Dear Friends:

The Board Members of the Forum for Questioning Minds has some sad news to share with our members and lecture attendees. Michael (Mike) Angelastro, one of our founding members and a devoted and much-depended-upon colleague recently died of injuries sustained in a fall. His loss has been a blow to the board and a loss felt personally by each one of its members. We know many of you knew and will miss him as well. We offer our condolences and support to his widow and our dear friend, Lynda Angelastro. She is on our minds and in our hearts.

 Mike was a vibrant, gifted, generous man, with oodles of spit and spirit, passion and purpose—a humble hero to his wife and family and a faithful and committed companion to our Board Members and Questioning Minds family. We will miss his deliberately-chosen comments, pointed and insightful questions, generous good-will and friendship, and—especially–the twinkle in his eye. Mike was the sort of behind-the-scenes fellow who receives too-little credit for doing ever-so-much. He was our Webmeister and the person behind the emails that kept everyone on our list up-to-date on our forthcoming lectures.

 Although we cannot fill his place in our hearts, our small board is working together to fill the gap in our duties left empty by Mike’s absence. During this transition, we will be suspending the two lectures scheduled for February, as we gather the information and experience we need to carry on sharing our lectures and providing timely information on them to you. Please bear with us, as we manage this transition.

Our Annual Board Meeting is tentatively set for Sunday, May 17th, in the Downtown Salt Lake City Public Library. Anyone who has been a member for at least 60 days is invited to attend and vote on the selection or retention of Board Members and decisions on the issues we discuss. Additional information on this, as well as updates on possible March lectures, will be provided in upcoming emails.

 Thank you for your support through the years and on-going interest in our Forum and the lectures we sponsor. We will share updates on our progress and information on possible March lectures as we move forward.

Rebecca Richard, President

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Grassroots Movements Against Sexual Violence

Date:   January 24, 2015
Speaker:   Dr. Kristjane Nordmeyer, Westminster College

Kristjane Nordmeyer is an associate professor of sociology and chair of gender studies at Westminster College. Her teaching focuses on gender and sexuality and draws on critical and historical frameworks. Kristjane is a member of the American Sociological Association and regularly presents on topics related to gender at national conferences and as part of her work around gender and sexuality in the local community.

“This presentation provides a very broad overview of grassroots movements against sexual violence in the United States over the last century and a half with an emphasis on the role that college students have played in bringing attention to this important issue in recent decades. We will discuss strategies used by social activists today to bring attention to sexual violence on college and university campuses. Finally, we will explore a common historical theme among survivors – the importance of sharing our stories.”

References and Resources:
End Rape on Campus: http://endrapeoncampus.org/
Know Your IX: http://knowyourix.org/
Project Unbreakable: http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/
Surviving in Numbers: http://www.survivinginnumbers.org/

Criminal Justice Reform: Why and How, a Restorative Justice Approach

Date:  January 11, 2015
Speaker:  Sim Gill, District Attorney, Salt Lake County

Sim Gill was first elected as Salt Lake County District Attorney in 2010 and recently re-elected to second term. As a veteran prosecutor, Sim has been a champion on issues of therapeutic justice, criminal prosecution and alternatives to prosecution. He has long been an advocate of taking a systems approach to the issues of criminal and social justice, focusing on collaborative and community oriented approaches to problem solving.

Sim has collaborated on the creation and implementation of various therapeutic justice programs including Mental Health Court, Salt Lake City Domestic Violence Court, Misdemeanor Drug Court and the Salt Lake Area Family Justice Center and the Early Case Resolution program. These alternatives seek to transition those offenders out of the criminal justice system who can most benefit from other programs—giving them a much greater chance to not re-offend.

Sim graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. degree in History and Philosophy. He received his J. D. degree and certificate of specialization in Environmental and Natural Resources Law from Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Presentation Synopsis

“The American Criminal Justice system is broken. Jail overcrowding is rampant and fiscal costs overwhelming. Is there anything that can be done? How did we get here and how do we get to better outcomes?”

The Prehistory of Europe: New Findings from Genetics and Archeology

Date:  November 23, 2014
Speaker:  Henry Harpending, University of Utah, Anthropology

Henry Harpending obtained a doctorate in Anthropology from Harvard in 1972 and has taught at Yale, New Mexico, Penn State, and the University of Utah. His research career has had two themes: one with focus on family organization and demography, especially of foragers and pastoralists of the Kalahari Desert, the other with focus on human population genetics, molecular evolution, and modern human origins.

“The Human Genome project has brought dramatic progress to unraveling the history and movements of ancient human populations. The peoples of Europe are descended from three ancestral populations. The earliest, the hunter-gatherers, appeared in Europe about 45,000 years ago and brought art, sculpture, personal adornment, and projectile weapons. About 12,000 years ago farming entered Europe from the Middle East via Anatolia, gradually displacing many of the hunter-gatherers. Finally about 5,000 years ago with much violence and disruption a new group of farmers and herders with origins in northern Eurasia and with genome features shared with American Indians, speaking Indo-European languages, created the third component of European Ancestry.”

Speaker Suggested Resources:
Books
The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending.
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the EurasianSteppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony.
The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 BC by D. W. Anthony and J. Chi.

Growing Smart Networks

Date:  November 9, 2014
Speaker:  Dr. Peter R. Conwell

Dr. Peter R. Conwell has been teaching for the last 14 years at Westminster College. Previously he was a consultant for Fonix—a local company located in Draper doing automated speech recognition, a research professor in Electrical Engineering at the University of Utah, and a computational physicist at Unisys. He graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Utah in 1986 and has been studying the physics of complex networks since 1985. Until now, he has focused on the dynamics of totally connected recurrent networks—what kind of computations can they perform? Lately, he has been examining the computational properties that arise from their topology, or connectivity.

“This talk is a meander through graph theory, neurobiology, artificial intelligence, theoretical computer science, and physics exploring certain attributes of neural networks, artificial and real, that promote intelligence. It will focus on a special type of symmetry called scale invariance. Scale invariance is an extremely important property of smart complex systems. We will discuss the possibility that certain types of mathematical models of complex networks have computational abilities that exceed the Turing limit, a computational limit imposed on all known digital computers.”

Speaker Suggested Resources:
Publications
Kenneth G. Wilson received the Nobel Prize in 1982 for his, “New Theory of Phase Transitions.” For a very readable presentation of this work see, Problems in Physics with Many Scales of Length, Scientific American, August 1979.
Self-Organized Criticality, Per Bak and Kan Chen, Scientific American, January 1991.
Emergence of Scaling in Random Networks, Albert-Lánszló Barabási and Réka Albert, Science, October 15, 1999.
Scale-Free Networks, Scientific American, Barabasi and Bonabeau, May 2003.
Turing’s oracle: The computer that goes beyond logic, New Scientists, Michael Brooks, July 16, 2014, Issue 2978.

Two Events that Changed History: the British in 18th Century Iraq & the CIA in Iran

Date:  October 26, 2014
Speaker:  Rick Alvarez, Ph.D.

Rick Alvarez, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, earned a PhD in Middle East History at the University of Utah. He served as a US Navy fighter pilot flying the F-4 and F-14 in the 1970s and as a F-14 instructor for Grumman Aerospace in Isfahan, Iran until the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. He taught World History and Latin American History at the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College.

History surveys often focus on larger than life personalities and events immortalized by multiple re-tellings, while seemingly unimportant or under-reported events, as well as nameless or long forgotten characters, have affected world history significantly. This presentation will discuss two incidents that have received little historical attention in recent times, yet both have helped influence the world in which we live today. The “Great Game” played out for control in central Asia in the early 18th century, and CIA involvement in Iran in the 1950s, have generally been under-reported and will undoubtedly help shed some light on current world politics.

Speaker Suggested Resources:
Hopkirk, Peter, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia, Kodansha, NY, 1992.
Barry, John M., The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, Penguin, NY, 2004.
Abrahamian, Ervand, The Coup: 1953, The CIA, and The Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations, The New Press, NY, 2013.
Headrick, Daniel R., The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications and International Politics, 1851-1945, Oxford, NY, 1991.

A Community and Space for Social and Environment

Date:  October 12, 2014
Speaker:  Soren Simonsen, President, Impact Hub Salt Lake

Soren Simonsen is an urban designer, architect, educator and community builder. He received a Master of Arts in Community Leadership at Westminster College, with a focus on public policy and community organizing. He previously earned a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin, with an emphasis in environmental and urban design. Cities and towns were once places where people came together. Social interaction led to invention and innovation. Today, many aspects of large cities isolate us, from the way we travel to the places we work. Our early learning is social in nature. Learning is experienced in group settings. Collaboration builds social capital. Social capital is a key to innovation. With big challenges we face today, we need social innovation more than ever. Bill McKibben, in Deep Economy, explores the social engagement we often lack in consumer environments. In “big box” retail stores, like Wal-mart, we experience very little social engagement and stimulation. Farmer’s markets and public markets, on the other hand, are places for high social engagement.

Impact Hub Salt Lake is a work space oriented toward productivity, casual individual and group interaction, inspiring events, and development and promotion of best practices. Even for those who don’t use the space as a work place, it also function as event space to promote community, environmental and cultural causes, and celebrate accomplishments.

Speaker Suggested Resources:
Websites
Impact Hub – www.impacthub.net
Salt Lake Impact Hub – http://saltlake.impacthub.net
Books:
Deep Economy by Bill McKibben • Learning as a Way of Leading by Stephan Preskill Stephen Brookfield
The Soul of a Citizen by Paul Rogat Loeb

A Genetic Predisposition to Violence? – Not So Fast

Date:  Sunday, September 14, 2014
Speaker:  James Tabery

James Tabery is a philosopher at the University of Utah. His research explores how the science of genetics shapes the way humans think about themselves and others on issues ranging from disease and disability to free will and responsibility. His research has been reported nationally and internationally in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, National Public Radio, Reuters, The Daily Mail, and China Newsweek.

Recent research reportedly identified a “genetic predisposition to violence”. In response, ethical and legal commentators on the study imagined all sorts of ways that this genetic information could be used to prevent violence, such as screening all newborns for the gene or screening embryos for the gene. Drawing on research from my new book, Beyond Versus: The Struggle to Understand the Interaction of Nature and Nurture, I’ll show how the very idea of a “genetic predisposition to violence” misrepresents the research in question, and how it has subsequently corrupted the ethical and legal discussions of using that genetic information to curb violence.

Speaker Suggested References and Resources:
Lisa Aspinwall, Teneille Brown, and James Tabery (2012), “The Double-Edged Sword: Does Biomechanism Increase or Decrease Judges’ Sentencing of Psychopaths?”, Science 337: 846-849.
Jessica Brooks-Crozier, (2011), “The Nature and Nurture of Violence”, Connecticut Law Review 44: 531-573.
Caspi, Avshalom, et al. (2002), “Role of Genotype in the Cycle of Violence in Maltreated Children”, Science 297: 851-854.
Savulescu, Julian (2001), “Why Genetic Testing for Genes for Criminality is Morally Required”, Princeton Journal of Bioethics 4: 79-97.
Tabery, James (2014), Beyond Versus: The Struggle to Understand the Interaction of Nature and Nurture. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.
Wasserman, David (2004), “Is There Value in Identifying Individual Genetic Predispositions to Violence?”, Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 32: 24-33.

Genetic Predisposition to Violence? Not So Fast!

Date:  September 14, 2014
Speaker:  James Tabery

James Tabery is a philosopher at the University of Utah. His research explores how the science of genetics shapes the way humans think about themselves and others on issues ranging from disease and disability to free will and responsibility. His research has been reported nationally and internationally in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, National Public Radio, Reuters, The Daily Mail, and China Newsweek.

Recent research reportedly identified a “genetic predisposition to violence”. In response, ethical and legal commentators on the study imagined all sorts of ways that this genetic information could be used to prevent violence, such as screening all newborns for the gene or screening embryos for the gene. Drawing on research from my new book, Beyond Versus: The Struggle to Understand the Interaction of Nature and Nurture, I’ll show how the very idea of a “genetic predisposition to violence” misrepresents the research in question, and how it has subsequently corrupted the ethical and legal discussions of using that genetic information to curb violence.

Wild Utah – Protecting Utah’s Redrock Canyon County

Date:  Sunday, April 27, 2014
Speaker:   Terri Martin, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Terri Martin is the Western Regional Organizer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Formerly, she worked with the National Parks and Conservation Association for 15 years as their Rocky Mountain Regional Director. Terri has a BA from the University of California at Berkeley in Environmental Design and a Masters in Communication and Conflict Studies from the University of Utah. She is also a mother, which has taught her as much about life and relationships as her academic studies. Terri moved to Utah after discovering the red rock desert of southern Utah in 1973 when she traveled from Berkeley, California to work as a lifeguard at Lake Powell for the summer—and realized she had found her spiritual home in the canyon country.

The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans. For 30 years, SUWA has been a leading voice for protecting Utah’s red rock by its persistent and sophisticated advocacy for wilderness preservation. SUWA utilizes a host of actions: education, advocacy, litigation, research. It promotes both administrative and legislative initiatives to preserve wild lands on the Colorado Plateau.

“History studies often focus on infamous personalities and well-known events that are immortalized by multiple retellings over long periods; histories often supported by evidence well-removed from the actual events and lives of the participants and witnesses. This presentation will include little-known facts concerning well-known people, including Charles Lindberg, the famous aviator, and Ernest Shackleton, Antarctic explorer. In addition, a possible answer to a mystery that remained unsolved for over 130 years, as well as a little-known material that helped the British establish an empire “over which the sun never set.” The goal of this presentation is to encourage individuals to explore history with an open and inquiring mind.”

Speaker Suggested References and Resources:
http://www.suwa.org, https://www.facebook.com/SouthernUtahWildernessAlliance, https://www.facebook.com/GreaterCanyonlands