Monthly Lectures

Monthly lectures are held on the third Saturday of each month (except in the summer and December).

Unless otherwise noted below, all meetings are held at 2:00 PM at the Community College of Philadelphia's Main campus in Center City Philadelphia, PA.
We usually use one of these meeting rooms:
  • Room S2-3 on the second floor of the Winnet Student Life building. This building is on 17th Street, just south of Spring Garden Street. It is between the parking garage on 17th street and the West Building on the corner where we have met in the past. Go up one flight of stairs and turn around to face down the hall where we will meet.
  • The C2-28 Lecture Room in the Center for Business and Industry at the corner of 18th and Callowhill streets. After you enter the building, take the stairs to the right to the second floor. When you get to the second floor, the lecture room is in front of you on the right. There is also a nice lounge area to the right of the lecture room.
The September, October, and November, 2014, meetings will be in room C2-28.

Click here for a campus map.
Click here for a street map of the area.

Free parking is available in the college parking lot on 17th St, across the street from the parking garage. The lot is open from 1 to 6 PM.

PhACT thanks Dr. David Cattell and the Philadelphia Community College for providing us with an excellent meeting space.

The general public is more than welcome to attend our lectures. You do not need to be a PhACT member to attend.
For information, contact Bob Glickman at president@phact.org

Executive Meetings

Executive meetings are held prior to the monthly lectures, at 1:00 p.m. Any member may attend.

Upcoming Meetings

Saturday, September 20, 2014 - "Back off, man -- Iím a scientist"

Paul Brewer will speak on the effects of media messages on public perceptions of paranormal research and phenomena.

Public opinion surveys show that many Americans report believing in paranormal phenomena such as ghosts, haunted houses, and ESP. The mass media, which frequently present messages about the paranormal, may contribute to such beliefs. With the help of student researchers, Dr. Brewer conducted two randomized experiments testing the effects of media messages on perceptions of paranormal researchers and paranormal phenomena. The first study tested whether media messages about a ghost hunter shaped beliefs about whether paranormal investigators are scientific and whether ghosts and haunted houses exist. The second study tested whether media messages about a university professorís ESP research influenced beliefs about whether ESP researchers are scientific and whether ESP is real. The results suggest that media messages can either bolster or undermine beliefs in the paranormal, depending on whether the message reinforces or challenges the scientific authority of paranormal research.

Paul Brewer is a professor in the Department of Communication and the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware. He received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His research on science communication and public perceptions of science has appeared in such publication as Skeptical Inquirer, Science Communication, and Public Understanding of Science. He saw the movie Ghostbusters at an impressionable age.

Saturday, October 18, 2014 - Doomsday Scenarios

Doomsday scenarios. They proliferate in our culture, from economics to ecology, theology to technology, biology to cosmology, James Bond to Slavov Zizek, Plato's Atlantis to Lars von Trier's Melancholia. With creativity and critical insight, Barry Vacker shows why apocalyptic memes replicate and have built-in survival advantages. He also explains how the doomsdays reveal the deeper challenges facing human existence --- the "philosophical apocalypse" effected by our lack of cosmic meaning in the vast universe. Have we really embraced our true existence on Spaceship Earth floating in the cosmos of the new millennium? Our calendars say we have passed the year 2000, but have we really entered the new millennium?

Barry Vacker is a theorist who creatively and critically explores the intersection of art, media, science, technology, and contemporary culture. As an author, professor, and speaker, Vacker brings an uncompromisingly broad and existentialist perspective to many of the deepest issues presently shaping human destiny in the still very new millennium. Vacker teaches media and cultural studies at Temple University (Philadelphia), where he is an associate professor and the faculty teaching mentor for the School of Media and Communication. He received his PhD from The University of Texas at Austin in 1995.

Saturday, November 15, 2014 - Neuroethics: the Perils and Potential of Brain Science

Ted Schick, Professor of Philosophy at Muhlenberg College, will discuss Neuroethics: the Perils and Potential of Brain Science.

Advances in neuroscience, biochemistry, and genetics have brought a new set of ethical questions to the fore. We now have the ability to not only monitor brain functioning in real time (through such devices as PET scanners and MRIs) but also to alter the structure of the brain (through drugs, surgery, implants, genetic engineering, etc.). But the brain is the seat of the mind; it directly affects how we think, feel, and act. Any change in brain structure can have a profound effect on the self. So what constitutes ethical uses of these technologies? For example: If we could identify people with brain structures that are highly correlated with criminal behavior, should we give people with those structures reduced sentences? Should we force them to undergo treatment? If we could use brain scans to reliably tell whether someone witnessed a crime or is lying, should we be able to force them to be scanned? Would that be like forcing someone to testify against themselves or like forcing them to give a DNA sample? If brain-altering procedures existed to erase memories, make people less shy or more intelligent, etc., should they be made available on the open market?

Dr. Ted Schick is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Muhlenberg Scholars Program at Muhlenberg College. Born in Davenport, Iowa, he received his B.A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Brown University. He has received the Lindback award for Distinguished Teaching as well as a Hoffman Research Fellowship. In addition to creating the Muhlenberg Scholars Program, he also created and directed Muhlenbergís First Year Seminar Program and served as the Director of Academic Computing. He has authored three texts: How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age (with Lewis Vaughn), Doing Philosophy: An Introduction Through Thought Experiments (with Lewis Vaughn), and Readings in the Philosophy of Science: from Positivism to Postmodernism. He serves on the editorial board of Philo and has published numerous articles on the nature of knowledge, reality, and value. His work also appears in a number of volumes of Open Courtís Philosophy and Popular Culture series including: Seinfeld and Philosophy, The Matrix and Philosophy, The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy , More Matrix and Philosophy, Star Trek and Philosophy, Led Zeppelin and Philosophy as well as Blackwellís Beer and Philosophy. His articles have been reprinted in a number of publications including: Toward a New Political Humanism, edited by Barry Seidman and Neil Murphy; God edited by Timothy Robinson; The Improbability of God, edited by Michael Martin, Science, Religion, and Society: an Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Controversy, edited by Arri Eisen and Gary Laderman, The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience edited by Michael Shermer; Culture Wars, edited by Mary E. Williams, Philosophy and Contemporary Issues, edited by Burr and Goldinger, and Introduction to Philosophy: Knowledge, God, Mind, Morality, edited by David Ohreen. His current teaching interests include philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, and biomedical ethics.

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