Marian Miner Cook
Athenaeum

A distinctive
feature of social and
cultural life at CMC

September, 2020

Wednesday, September 09, 2020 - Evening Program
The Science of Lockdown: What Happens to Our Brains in Isolation?
David Eagleman

Our brain spends years building a model of the outside world—and that’s what allows it to operate so effectively. But what happens when our model breaks down—like when we unable to make good predictions about what tomorrow will bring. Acclaimed neuroscientist David Eagleman answers the questions we are all wondering during self-isolation. Why we are having such a hard time thinking into the distant future? Why is it so difficult to keep track of how much time has actually passed? Eagleman even reveals the surprising ways the pandemic is actually good for our brain plasticity, as well as some practical tips for how to manage these uncertain times from a neuroscience point of view.

Photo credit: Stephanie Berger

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and a bestselling author. He heads the Center for Science and Law, a national non-profit institute, and serves as an adjunct professor at Stanford University. He is best known for his work on sensory substitution, time perception, brain plasticity, synesthesia, and neurolaw.

Scientific advisor on HBO’s Westworld, host of the documentary The Creative Brain, now streaming on Netflix, and host of PBS’ Emmy-nominated series The Brain, Eagleman has published over 100 academic publications and many popular books. His bestselling book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, explores the neuroscience "under the hood" of the conscious mind: all the aspects of neural function to which we have no awareness or access. His work of fiction, SUM, is an international bestseller published in 28 languages and turned into two operas.

Among many accolades, Eagleman is a TED speaker, a Guggenheim Fellow, a winner of the McGovern Award for Excellence in Biomedical Communication, a Next Generation Texas Fellow, vice-chair on the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Neuroscience & Behavior, a research fellow in the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, chief scientific advisor for the Mind Science Foundation, and a board member of The Long Now Foundation. He has served as an academic editor for several scientific journals and was named science educator of the year by the Society for Neuroscience. 

View Dr. Eagleman's video.

Photo credit: Stephanie Berger

Monday, September 14, 2020 - Evening Program
How To Be An Antiracist: A Conversation with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
Ibram X. Kendi

"Like fighting an addiction, being an anti-racist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination,” affirms Ibram X. Kendi, author of the award-winning book How to Be An Antiracist. In conversation with the Athenaeum Fellows, Kendi will lay out his thoughts and ideas on the elements of an antiracist society—how to build it, how to engage with it, and how to live it.

Photo credit: Stephen Voss

Ibram X. Kendi is one of America’s foremost historians and leading antiracist voices. An award winning author, Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributor writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News correspondent. In 2020-2021, he is the Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for the Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Kendi’s book The Black Campus Movement, won the W.E.B. Du Bois Book Prize, and Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2016. At 34 years old, Kendi was the youngest ever winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Kendi is also the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers, How to be An Antiracist, an international bestseller that has been translated in several languages; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, a picture book for children and care-givers, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. How to be An Antiracist made several best books of 2019 lists and was described by the New York Times as “the most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind.”

Kendi has published fourteen academic essays in books and academic journals, including The Journal of African American History, Journal of Social History, Journal of Black Studies, Journal of African American Studies, and The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture. He has published op-eds in numerous periodicals, including The New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, London Review, Time, Salon, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Paris Review, Black Perspectives, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He comments on multiple international, national, and local media outlets, such as CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Al Jazeerah, PBS, BBC, Democracy Now, OWN, and Sirius XM. A sought-after public speaker, Kendi has delivered hundreds of addresses over the years at colleges and universities, bookstores, festivals, conferences, libraries, churches, and other institutions in the United States and abroad.

Recipient of many national awards and international accolades, Kendi has taught at universities around the country. Kendi majored in journalism and African American Studies at Florida A & M University; he earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple University.  

Professor Kendi’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the President’s Leadership Fund.

Photo credit: Stephen Voss

Text adapted from https://www.ibramxkendi.com/about

Thursday, September 17, 2020 - Evening Program
Should we Interpret the Constitution Based on its Original Meaning?
Akhil Amar and Steven Calabresi

The idea that we should interpret the Constitution based on the original understanding of those who ratified it was long championed by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Yet originalism has moved far beyond Justice Scalia, as important a figure as he remains. Originalism has not only become more visible on the Supreme Court and in the federal judiciary, it’s prevalent—pervasive even—in law schools. And originalist approaches to constitutional interpretation are advocated across the political spectrum—including by liberal and progressives, not just by conservatives.

In conversation with CMC's George Thomas, Yale Law School's Akhil Amar and Northwestern Law School's Steven Calabresi, will discuss important remaining and emerging questions about originalism: What are we speaking of when we seek to understand the original meaning? Why should we be bound by original meaning? How concretely or abstractly do we apply original meaning to current issues? What if original meaning is indeterminate? What are the differences between originalism as practiced by judges and originalism as argued for by academics? And if everyone is an originalist today, does originalism have a core meaning?

Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches constitutional law in both Yale College and Yale Law School. After graduating from Yale College, summa cum laude, in 1980 and from Yale Law School in 1984, and clerking for then Judge (now Justice) Stephen Breyer, Amar joined the Yale faculty in 1985 at the age of 26. His work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, and he has been cited by Supreme Court justices across the spectrum in more than three dozen cases. He regularly testifies before Congress at the invitation of both parties and ranks among America’s five most-cited mid-career legal scholars. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the American Bar Foundation’s Outstanding Scholar Award. A frequent contributor to news outlets, both printed and televised, he is the author of dozens of law review articles and several books, including among other award winning books, “America’s Unwritten Constitution” (2012—named one of the year’s 100 best nonfiction books by The Washington Post), “The Law of the Land” (2015), and “The Constitution Today” (2016—named one of the year’s top ten nonfiction books by Time magazine). He is Yale’s only currently active professor to have won the University’s unofficial triple crown—the Sterling Chair for scholarship, the DeVane Medal for teaching, and the Lamar Award for alumni service. (Source: Yale Law School)

Steven G. Calabresi is the Clayton J. & Henry R. Barber Professor of Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.  He is also a Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law School, Fall 2013-2016; a Visiting Professor of Political Theory at Brown University for 2016-2017; and the Chairman since 1986 of the Federalist Society's Board of Directors. Professor worked in the West Wing of President Ronald Reagan’s White House; was a special assistant for Attorney General Edwin Meese III; and clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and for Judges Robert H. Bork and Ralph K. Winter on the federal courts of appeals. Calabresi has written over seventy law review articles and essays.  He is a co-author on three books: “The Unitary Executive: Presidential Power from Washington to Bush;” “The Constitution of the United States” (3rd edition); and “The U.S. Constitution and Comparative Constitutional Law: Texts, Cases and Materials.” Calabresi has taught constitutional law, comparative constitutional law, federal jurisdiction, administrative law, state constitutional law, and the separation of powers. He is a graduate of both Yale College and Yale Law School. (Source: Northwestern Pritzker School of Law)

George Thomas, Wohlford Professor of American Political Institutions at Claremont McKenna College and director of the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World, will moderate the conversation.

Professors Amar and Calabresi's Athenaeum conversation is sponsored by the Salvatori Center’s Lofgren Program in American Constitutionalism.

View the conversation with Akhil Amar and Steven Calabresi

Monday, September 21, 2020 - Evening Program
The How of Happiness During COVID-19 and Beyond: Boosting Well-Being Through Kindness and Connection
Sonja Lyubomirsky

The majority of Sonja Lyubomirsky's research career has been devoted to studying human happiness. During both normal times and challenging circumstances like today, happiness not only feels good; it is good. Fortunately, experiments have shown that people can intentionally increase their happiness. Lyubomirsky, distinguished professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, will introduce a model that explains when and why boosting connection and practicing kindness can promote well-being and other positive outcomes.

Photo credit: Josh Blanchard

Sonja Lyubomirsky is Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair of Psychology at U.C. Riverside and author of “The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness” (published in 36 countries). Lyubomirsky and her research on the science of happiness have been the recipients of many grants and honors, including the Diener Award for Outstanding Midcareer Contributions in Personality Psychology, the Christopher Peterson Gold Medal, and a Positive Psychology Prize.

The majority of her research career has been devoted to studying human happiness. Lyubomirsky asserts that human happiness is an important area of scientific study because most people believe that happiness is meaningful, desirable, and an important, worthy goal; that happiness is one of the most salient and significant dimensions of human experience and emotional life; that happiness yields numerous rewards for the individual; and that happiness makes for a better, healthier, stronger society. Along these lines, her current research addresses three critical questions: 1) What makes people happy? 2) Is happiness a good thing? and 3) How and why can people learn to lead happier and more flourishing lives?

Lyubomirsky is a graduate of Harvard College; she earned her Ph.D. at Stanford University.

Professor Lyubomirsky's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Berger Institute at CMC.

Photo credit: Josh Blanchard

Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - Evening Program
A Conversation with Peter Rice, Chairman of Walt Disney Television
Peter Rice

Peter Rice, chairman of Walt Disney Television, will discuss the television business, trends over time, and his own career path, including nearly 30 years at Fox where he began as an intern before rising to the head of Fox Searchlight and, eventually, to president of 21st Century Fox before joining Disney in 2019 when Disney acquired 21st Century Fox.

Peter Rice, chairman of Walt Disney Television, oversees The ABC Network, Disney Television Studios, the Disney Channel, Freeform, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners and Hulu Originals. During his tenure, Walt Disney Television has produced, “Devs”, “Dave,” “Little Fires Everywhere,” “Mrs. America,” “The Great”, The Owl House,” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” Rice also oversees The Walt Disney Company’s equity interest in A+E Networks.

Prior to his current role, Rice served as president of 21st Century Fox, and chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group (FNG), where he was instrumental in driving the growth of FNG’s television business across linear and digital platforms. During his tenure, FNG’s revenue doubled as its portfolio was reorganized and aligned around four key brands reaching more than 2 billion subscribers worldwide. At FNG, Rice oversaw long-term sports rights deals with the NFL, MLB, the UFC, FIFA, WWE and dozens of professional sports leagues and teams. He was a driving force in the formation of National Geographic Partners and the launch of FS1 and FS2. He was responsible for realigning its international channels business in Europe, Asia and Latin America, and integrating the company’s advertising divisions into a single, data-driven enterprise. He oversaw the launch of its Digital Consumer Group; its participation in Hulu; and the establishment of FoxNext Games. Under Rice’s leadership, FNG was home to shows including “The Simpsons,” “American Idol,” “Glee,” “The Americans,” “Genius,” “Modern Family,” “Homeland,” “This Is Us” and “Empire,” the World Series, the World Cup and the Super Bowl. During his tenure, FNG earned more than 600 Primetime Emmy® nominations, 68 Golden Globe® nominations and more than 200 Sports Emmy nominations.

In 2010, Rice served for two years as chairman, Entertainment, for FNG. He also served as chairman, Entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company, helping to lead FOX to three seasons as the No. 1 network and extend its streak to eight seasons as the top-rated broadcaster. Before transitioning to Fox’s television business, Rice served as president, Fox Searchlight Pictures. During his tenure, Fox Searchlight generated 51 Academy Award® and 42 Golden Globe Award nominations. The films released under his leadership include “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Juno,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Last King of Scotland” and “Sideways.” Prior to leading Fox Searchlight, Rice was executive vice president of Production for Twentieth Century Fox, where he worked with director Baz Luhrmann in the development and production of Oscar® Best Picture nominee “Moulin Rouge” and “William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.” He also served as the supervising creative executive on “X-Men.”

Rice serves on the board of directors for National Geographic Partners and Southern California Public Radio. He also sits on the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Board of Governors.

Rice began his career in the marketing department at Twentieth Century Fox in 1989 after graduating from the University of Nottingham.

Source: The Walt Disney Company

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 - Evening Program
The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Cupcakes to Anxiety to Smartphones, the Mechanisms Underlying How Mindfulness Helps Change Habits
Jud Brewer

We are creatures of habit. Driven by biological processes set up to help us survive, our minds are constantly craving experiences and substances—from smartphones to romance to alcohol—and this craving leads to habit formation. Using examples from his clinical experience and laboratory research, Jud Brewer, associate professor at Brown University's Mindfulness Center will explore the behavioral and mental processes that foster craving and consequent habit formation, the impact these have on individual and societal health, and how we can “hack” our own neurobiological reward circuitry using practices such as mindfulness, to foster greater health and wellbeing.

Jud Brewer, M.D. Ph.D., is an associate professor and the director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University’s Schools of Medicine and Public Health; he also serves as a research affiliate at MIT.

A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed clinically proven app-based mindfulness trainings including to help people quit smoking, stop overeating, and reduce anxiety. He is the author of “The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love–Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits.”

Brewer is a thought leader in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery,” having combined over 20 years of experience with mindfulness training with his own scientific research therein. He has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments for smoking, emotional eating, and anxiety. He has also studied the underlying neural mechanisms of mindfulness using standard and real-time fMRI and EEG neurofeedback. He has trained U.S. Olympic athletes and coaches, foreign government ministers, and his work has been featured on 60 Minutes, TED, the New York Times, Time magazine, Forbes, BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, Businessweek and others. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, among others.

Dr. Brewer founded MindSciences to move his discoveries of clinical evidence behind mindfulness for anxiety, eating, smoking and other behavior change into the hands of consumers.

View Dr. Brewer's video.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - Evening Program
Why It's OK Not To Vote
Katherine Mangu-Ward

Voting is widely thought to be one of the most important things a person can do. But Katherine Mangu-Ward, Editor in Chief of Reason magazine, will argue that the reasons people give for why they vote (and why everyone else should too) are flawed, unconvincing, and sometimes even dangerous. Conceding that there are some good reasons for some people to vote some of the time, Mangu-Ward contends that there are many more bad reasons to vote, and the bad ones are more popular.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is Editor in Chief of Reason, the magazine of “free minds and free markets.” She started as Reason intern in 2000 and has worked at The Weekly Standard and The New York Times. Mangu-Ward is a graduate of Yale University, where she received a B.A. in philosophy and political science.

At Reason, she leads a publication that covers issues important to libertarian values. Her writing has included commentary on the ethics of (non-)voting, job automation, and plastic bag bans. She is a co-host of “The Reason Roundtable” podcast.

Mangu-Ward’s writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and numerous other publications. She is a frequent commentator on radio and television networks such as National Public Radio, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. She is a Future Tense Fellow at New America.

Ms. Mangu-Ward's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored with funding from the Open Academy at CMC.

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