Speakers Come to Stevens to Slam Empathy and Sugar and Praise Digital Pioneer

As a science journalist, I try to raise questions about science and technology, which dominate our era. I try to do the same thing as director of the Center for Science Writings, which I started a dozen years ago here at Stevens. The CSW hosts talks by authors who explore the implications of science, technology and medicine. The speakers include scientists, engineers, philosophers, historians and journalists like me.

Below is information on the three speakers coming this fall, the first of whom is coming next week. They are going to talk about research into empathy, an emotion that gets great press but may be overrated; about the ill effects of a inescapable staple of our modern diets, sugar; and, finally, about Claude Shannon, the creator of information theory, who is the most important scientist you (probably) never heard of. These talks are all free and open to the public, so come and bring friends with you. Here are details.

Wednesday, October 4, 4-5 pm. “What’s So Great About Empathy?” Psychologist Paul Bloom of Yale talks about his acclaimed book Against Empathy, which makes the startling case that empathy is an overrated motive for morality; we should be nice to each other for rational rather than emotional reasons. The New York Times calls Bloom’s book an “invigorating, relevant and often very funny re-evaluation of empathy, one of our culture’s most ubiquitous sacred cows.” This talk is in Babbio Auditorium.

Wednesday, October 18, 4-5 pm. “How Sugar Kills.” Science journalist and diet expert Gary Taubes discusses his bestseller The Case Against Sugar. Taubes, co-founder of the non-profit Nutrition Science Initiative and author of the previous bestsellers Why We Get Fat and Good Calories, Bad Calories, argues that sugar “is the tobacco of the new millennium: backed by powerful lobbies, entrenched in our lives, and making us very sick.” This talk is in Burchard Auditorium.

Wednesday, November 8, 4-5 pm. “How the Information Age Was Born.” Journalist Jimmy Soni discusses his new bestseller A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. Co-written with historian Rob Goodman, the book recounts how legendary mathematician/engineer Claude Shannon invented information theory at Bell Laboratories in 1948, laying the foundation for the digital era. Bestselling biographer Walter Isaacson calls Mind at Play “a long overdue, insightful, and humane portrait of this eccentric and towering genius.” Babbio Auditorium.

For more information on the Center for Science Writings, contact me, John Horgan, at jhorgan@stevens.edu, or see our website, https://www.stevens.edu/college-arts-and-letters/research/centers-labs/center-for-science-writings.