Upcoming Events: San Francisco

Wed 12/7

Mind over Genes: Heredity Is not Destiny—The Science of Epigenetics

Date: Wed, December 07, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Learning about epigenetics

Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., Stem Cell Biology Pioneer; Best-selling Author, The Biology of Belief

A renaissance in science is creating a revolution in thought and understanding—and in our physical bodies—that is changing the world and our health. Epigenetics reveals that we are not victims of our genes. Cancer, depression and diseases were once believed to be preprogrammed in our genes. In fact, the nervous system can send different signals to cells, reprogramming their genetic activity and behavior. Dr. Lipton says that this provides for miraculous spontaneous remissions from cancer or other diseases.

Cell biologist and bestselling author Bruce H. Lipton will take you on a fast-paced journey from the microcosm of the cell to the macrocosm of the mind. This informative and self-empowering presentation on the mechanics of the mind-body interaction explores his views of how our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs create the conditions of our body and our place in the world. He has designed this presentation to inspire your spirit, engage your mind and empower you to become the master of your fate rather than the "victim" of your heredity.

Thu 12/8

Image - Steven Machtinger

Lamentation and the Limits of Philosophy

Date: Thu, December 08, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Mozart and grief

Steven Machtinger, Attorney; Violist; Independent Mozart Scholar

Mozart and Homer both understood that philosophical perspectives can be of limited utility in providing comfort to the bereaved. In commemoration of the 225th anniversary of Mozart’s death, we will listen to the extraordinarily moving lamentation section of his String Quintet in G minor performed by the London Quintet. After examining how Mozart uses musical devices to achieve emotional effects, we will compare his musical evocation of grief with passages in The Iliad lamenting the death of heroes.

Image - Max Stier

Max Stier: How to Ensure a Smooth Presidential Transition

Date: Thu, December 08, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Making the peaceful transfer of power a smooth one

Max Stier, Founding President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service 
In conversation with Lenny Mendonca, McKinsey & Company Director Emeritus; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors.

The peaceful transition of power has been a hallmark of our democracy, but new presidents consistently fail to get their new administrations up and running quickly and effectively. Max Stier has been leading a comprehensive initiative to reform the system and advise both the outgoing administration and the incoming transition teams. He will give a candid, insider’s perspective on the most complex takeover in the world and a case study on changing how Washington works.

Under Max Stier’s leadership, the Partnership for Public Service has been widely praised as a first-class nonprofit organization and thought leader on federal government management issues. In 2015, the Partnership launched the Center for Presidential Transition, a first-of-its-kind effort to ensure the smoothest transition of power yet by working with campaign teams, federal agencies and the outgoing administration.  

Mr. Stier has worked previously in all three branches of the federal government, having served on the personal staff of U.S. Representative Jim Leach, clerked for Chief Judge James Oakes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and clerked for Justice David Souter of the United States Supreme Court. Most recently, he was deputy general counsel in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Stier is a graduate of Yale College and Stanford Law School.

Mon 12/12

Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn

Date: Mon, December 12, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
The story of Israel

Daniel Gordis, Author; Israel Analyst; Commentator

Dr. Gordis, a former Conservative rabbi, award-winning author of several books on Jewish thought and Israeli currents, and columnist for the Jerusalem Post, will discuss the topic of his latest book, which has been described as a luminous history shedding light on Israel's culture, politics and economy, so people can understand her future.

Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles before moving to Jerusalem, where he helped to found Israel's first liberal arts college. Presently, he is senior vice president and Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem.

Image - Tom Toles

Is Climate Denial Destroying Our Planet?

Date: Mon, December 12, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
It's undenable — or is it?

Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology, Penn State University; Co-author, The Madhouse Effect
Cristine Russell, Freelance Science Journalist
Tom Toles, Political Cartoonist; Co-author, The Madhouse Effect

The majority of Americans agree climate disruption is a major concern. The Paris Climate Agreement has been ratified by 61 countries and counting, which so far represents 47.81 percent of the world’s emissions. So we all agree, climate change is the biggest problem humankind has ever faced? Not so fast.

Here in the United States, denial and confusion about the science is rampant, and we may be the only developed nation where it is written into a major political party’s platform. Climate scientist Michael Mann and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Tom Toles take a satirical look at how this lack of consensus came to be. Cristine Russell is a veteran science journalist with deep knowledge about conveying complex scientific issues to a broad public. How deep does climate doubt run, and how can communication help us move on to solutions?

Join us for a fun and informative look at manufactured doubt and genuine skepticism.

Tue 12/13

Image - Mae Jemison

Astronaut Mae Jemison: Launching Women into Science and Tech

Date: Tue, December 13, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Getting Americans excited about science

Mae Jemison, M.D., Astronaut; Physician
Kimberly Bryant, Electrical Engineer; Founder and Executive Director, Black Girls Code—Moderator

Physician and astronaut Dr. Mae C. Jemison is a science literacy advocate and the lead ambassador of the Making Science Make Sense program. The goal of the initiative is to provide 1 million hands-on science experiences to children by 2020. Dr. Jemison is particularly devoted to getting more girls, young women and minorities into careers in science, tech, engineering and math (STEM). 

Join Dr. Jemison for an inspiring call-to-action on how to get Americans psyched about science!

Wed 12/14

Image - Dava Sobel

Dava Sobel: The Women Who Rocked the Cosmos

Date: Wed, December 14, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Meet the women who changed the way we see the universe

Dava Sobel, Former Science Reporter, The New York Times; Author, The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars
Becky Worley, Tech Contributor, "Good Morning America"—Moderator

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Dava Sobel argues that in the 19th century, it was women and not male astronomers who actually made some of the great discoveries of the universe. In the mid-19th century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations made via telescope by their male counterparts each night. At the outset, this group included the wives, sisters and daughters of the resident astronomers, but by the 1880s the female corps included graduates of the new women's colleges—Vassar, Wellesley and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates. The “glass universe” of a half-million plates that Harvard amassed in this period—thanks in part to the early financial support of another woman, Anna Draper, whose late husband pioneered the technique of stellar photography—enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim.

Come hear this captivating, little-known true story of a group of women whose remarkable contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe. Sobel is a noted author, and in addition to her work for The New York Times she has been a longtime science contributor to Harvard MagazineAudubonDiscoverLifeOmni, and The New Yorker.

Thu 12/15

Image - Dr. Naomi Oreskes

Dr. Naomi Oreskes: The 2016 Stephen Schneider Award

Date: Thu, December 15, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
6th annual Stephen Schneider Award winner

Naomi Oreskes, Ph.D., Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University 

Climate One presents Naomi Oreskes the 6th Annual Stephen Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication. According to Schneider Award juror Ben Santer, “Her 2004 Science paper helped to quantify, for the first time, the broad scientific consensus on climate change. Her recent research unmasked the forces behind denial of human effects on climate and improved our chances of having a responsible, science-based discussion of climate change solutions.”

Dr. Oreskes’ work first became well known when her paper “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” was featured in Al Gore’s seminal documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Later, she co-authored the influential book Merchants of Doubt, which explores the public-relations tactics used by the tobacco industry to obfuscate the health risks of smoking, and draws a parallel to the similar tactics used by the oil industry to forestall government action on climate change. This widely read book inspired a successful documentary of the same name.

The award was established in honor of Stephen Henry Schneider, one of the founding fathers of climatology, who died suddenly in 2010. Internationally recognized for research, policy analysis and outreach in climate change, Dr. Schneider focused on climate change science, integrated assessment of ecological and economic impacts of human-induced climate change, and identifying viable climate policies and technological solutions. He also consulted with federal agencies and/or White House staff in the Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. His work is chronicled at climatechange.net.

This special evening will include a conversation with Dr. Oreskes and other special guests in addition to a reception.

Mon 12/19

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, December 19, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Mon 1/9

Image - Lauren Leader-Chivee

Crossing the Thinnest Line

Date: Mon, January 09, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The case for embracing greater diversity

Lauren Leader-Chivee, Founder and CEO, All In Together; Author, Crossing the Thinnest Line

Monday Night Philosophy explores the social advantages of diversity. Crossing the Thinnest Line argues passionately and persuasively for the possibility, power, purpose and payoff of embracing difference. Already 89 percent of the world’s educated population is either female or minority. In less than a generation, the U.S. will become minority majority. The world economy is global and interconnected, and Leader-Chivee says that embracing diversity has never been more imperative.

With compelling data and powerful, personal stories, Leader-Chivee looks at challenges and solutions to immigration, education, business, media and politics and inspires Americans to rise to the challenge.

Mon 2/6

When Mental Health Meets Social Justice

Date: Mon, February 06, 2017
Time: 5:15 PM
The community's role

Christine Stoner-Mertz, Licensed Clinical Social Worker; President and CEO, Lincoln Child Center in Oakland

The link between mental health and social justice issues is increasingly apparent among the impoverished. As president and CEO of the 130-year-old Lincoln Child Center, the first integrated orphanage in Oakland, Stoner-Mertz believes that it is the responsibility of the greater community to understand, address and combat these issues. She reveals steps to transform a traditional, institution-based child-serving organization into an innovative, community-responsive venture.

Tue 2/7

Image - Lauren Leader-Chivee

Crossing the Thinnest Line

Date: Tue, February 07, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The new world of diversity

Lauren Leader-Chivee, Founder and CEO, All In Together; Author, Crossing the Thinnest Line

Monday Night Philosophy explores the social advantages of diversity. Crossing the Thinnest Line argues passionately and persuasively for the possibility, power, purpose and payoff of embracing difference. Already 89 percent of the world’s educated population is either female or minority. In less than a generation, the United States will become minority majority. The world economy is global and interconnected, and Leader-Chivee says that embracing diversity has never been more imperative.

With compelling data and powerful, personal stories, Leader-Chivee looks at challenges and solutions to immigration, education, business, media and politics and inspires Americans to rise to the challenge.

Mon 2/13

Image - Elizabeth Cobbs

The Hamilton Affair

Date: Mon, February 13, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The love story behind the controversial Revolutionary-era leader

Elizabeth Cobbs, Professor and Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History, Texas A&M University; Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Author, The Hamilton Affair

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Monday Night Philosophy celebrates the imminent arrival of the musical Hamilton with a discussion of a new novel about this intriguing founding father. The Hamilton Affair tells the true story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from passionate and tender beginnings to his fateful duel.

Hamilton was a bastard and orphan, raised in the Caribbean and desperate for legitimacy, who became one of the Revolution’s most dashing—and improbable—heroes. Admired by Washington, scorned by Jefferson, Hamilton was the most controversial leader of the new nation. Elizabeth was the wealthy, beautiful, adventurous daughter of the respectable Schuyler clan—and a pioneering advocate for women. Together, the unlikely couple braved the dangers of war, the anguish of infidelity, and the scourge of partisanship that menaced their family and the country itself.

Tue 2/21

Image - Akil Palanisamy

The Paleovedic Diet: Early Human Diets and Ayurvedic Medicine

Date: Tue, February 21, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Boosting well-being and vitality

Akil Palanisamy, M.D., Author, The Paleovedic Diet: A Complete Program to Burn Fat, Increase Energy, and Reverse Disease

In this lecture, Dr. Akil Palanisamy will describe the outlines of a comprehensive roadmap to optimal health, one that combines the most effective aspects of the “paleo” diet (so-called because it seeks to emulate the diet of early humans), cutting-edge nutritional science, and the time-tested philosophy and techniques of ancient Ayurvedic medicine. He will share practical tips on what to eat in order to boost well-being and vitality, and he will have detailed and practical information about implementing these concepts in daily living.

Dr. Palanisamy is a Harvard-trained physician who practices integrative medicine, incorporating the best of conventional medicine and alternative therapies. A holistic doctor, he completed his premedical training in biochemistry at Harvard University, received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and completed his residency in family medicine at Stanford University. He also completed a Fellowship in Integrative Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona, and is certified by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine at Georgetown University. Dr. Akil practices at The Institute for Health and Healing in San Francisco, one of the oldest centers for integrative medicine in the United States.

Thu 2/23

Image - Linda Rugg

The End of the Vikings

Date: Thu, February 23, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The journey from paganism to Christianity to secularism

Linda Rugg, Professor of Swedish Studies, Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of California Berkeley

In the year 1000 AD, at the annual Althing (national assembly) in Iceland, a decision was made to make Christianity the official religion of the island. The road from paganism to Christianity was not, however, completely smooth, nor did the conversion process happen as abruptly as the political decision implied. A key text describing the declaration at the Althing appears in Njal’s Saga, and it will form the basis for this lecture, along with two medieval Icelandic short stories that illustrate how Christianization began to take shape in the North. The continued presence of the pagan past in modern Scandinavia can be traced in literature, artifacts and enduring cultural practices, indicating that while the Scandinavians eventually embraced Christianity and then secularism, they did not leave their Viking identity behind.

Mon 3/20

Life After Hate

Date: Mon, March 20, 2017
Time: 5:15 PM
Lessons from a former extremist

Antony McAleer, Executive Director, Life After Hate

A former organizer for the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), Tony McAleer served as a skinhead recruiter, proprietor of Canadian Liberty Net (a computer-operated voice messaging center used to disseminate messages of hatred), and manager of the racist rock band, Odin’s Law. It was love for his children that finally led Tony on a spiritual journey of personal transformation. Today he is the executive director of Life After Hate and shares his practice of compassion as an inspirational speaker.

Tue 3/28

Image - Marty Brounstein

The Courage and Compassion to Do the Right Thing

Date: Tue, March 28, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM

Marty Brounstein, Author, Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Come hear a true interfaith story of courage, compassion and rescue during the Holocaust. A Catholic couple in the Netherlands, despite great risk and danger, helped save the lives of at least two dozen Jews from certain death during World War II. Brounstein will also explain the meaningful personal connection that inspires him to tell and retell the story of their heroic actions.