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Origins & The Big Questions: Conference 2008. Part 1
Introduction: The Big Questions
Dr. Michael Shermer
Dr. Michael Shermer introduced the conference by presenting the big questions: Is there divine action in the world and if so can science detect it?, Does science make belief in God obsolete?, and Does God exist?
Dr. Michael Shermer is cofounder of the Skeptics Society, the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Society Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of many books including Why People Believe Weird Things, How We Believe, The Science of Good and Evil, The Borderlands of Science, Science Friction, Why Darwin Matters, and The Mind of the Market.
The Origin of Life, Complex Life and Consciousness
Dr. Donald Prothero
Dr. Donald Prothero’s fast-paced fact-filled lecture presented the latest research on the origins of life and complex life, on how the simplest building blocks of life could have been born out of the primordial earth, how simple amino acids build into long protein chains, how RNA could have formed out of the pre-RNA world of the primordial soup, how DNA might have evolved out of RNA, and how complex cells most likely evolved out of simple cells through symbiogenesis: the coalition of simple prokaryotic cells into the complex eukaryotic cells that make up complex life forms like us today.
Dr. Donald Prothero is Professor of Geology at Occidental College and Lecturer in Geobiology at Caltech. He is the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 21 books and almost 200 scientific papers, including five leading geology textbooks and three trade books. He has served as an associate or technical editor for Geology, Paleobiology, and Journal of Paleontology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London. His latest book is Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters.
Dr. Christof Koch
Dr. Christof Koch delivered one of the most entertaining and laugh-filled lectures of the day, while simultaneously bringing the audience up to speed on the cutting edge research on the origins of consciousness through a bottom-up approach of analyzing how single neurons process stimulation and information, and then convert that into visual images in the visual cortex, and how this process somehow results in conscious thought, emotions, reason, and aesthetic appreciation. Koch presents the case that our consciousness may be unique in the universe.
Dr. Christof Koch obtained his Ph.D. in (bio)-physics with a minor in Philosophy. He is the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology at the California Institute of Technology. His laboratory focuses on experimental and computational research pertaining to neuronal correlates of selective visual attention and consciousness in the mammalian brain, a topic he worked on for nearly two decades with Francis Crick. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach.
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