Recurring Group Meetings

every Wednesday, 8-9:30pm
location: Nairobi conference room, Graduate Community Center (GCC)

Weekly Topics


Upcoming Events


Past Meetings

Monday, October 10, 2005
location: Kresge Auditorium (Law School) [map]

Admission: $2 students, $5 general

Conversation on "Does God Belong in Science?"
with Austin Dacey (Center for Inquiry)
and Paul Nelson (Biola University and Discovery Institute)
Moderator: The Reverend Scotty McLennan, Dean for Religious Life, Stanford University

Do the methods of science exclude the supernatural in principle? Is "naturalism" in science a mask for materialistic philosophy? What counts as a satisfactory explanation in the sciences? Can the answers to these questions help the public to make sense of the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution and intelligent design theory? Two philosophers—one a theist, the other a naturalist—discuss whether God is underemployed in science.

Austin Dacey is a philosopher and writer who has lectured and published widely on issues at the intersection of science, religion, ethics, and society. He is executive director of the New York City office of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank affiliated with the State University of New York. He serves as director of research and education; executive editor of Philo, an academic journal specializing in philosophical naturalism; and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He is the author (with Lewis Vaughn) of The Case for Humanism: An Introduction. In 2002 he earned a doctorate in philosophy. (

Paul Nelson is a philosopher of biology specializing in the foundations of evolutionary theory, the relationship of science and theology, and the design argument. He has written and lectured extensively on the topic of human origins, biology, and intelligent design. He is a fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute and an Adjunct Professor in the Master of Arts Program in Science and Religion at Biola University in La Mirada, CA. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in Philosophy in 1998.

Partial funding for this event is provided by the Graduate Student Council, the ASSU Speakers Bureau, the Office for Religious Life, and the Center for Inquiry-On Campus program.




Friday, May 27, 2005
location: Hewlett 201 (formerly TCseq) (map)

Advance Screening of Film
"The God Who Wasn't There"

Admission charge: $5 ($3 for students), tickets available at the door
advance ticket sale: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (May 25-27), 12 noon - 1pm in White Plaza


The God Who Wasn't There is a new documentary directed by Brian Flemming. It will come out in commercial theaters on June 6, 2005. Community groups affiliated with American Atheists were given the opportunity to pre-screen the film before its official release date. The world premiere of the film will be on Saturday, May 21 in San Francisco.

This event is brought to you in collaboration with the Atheists of Silicon Valley (

Partial funding for this event is provided by the GSC ( and from the President and Provost of Stanford University through the Dean of Students (


The following is from the movie's webpage at

Bowling for Columbine did it to the gun culture.

Super Size Me did it to fast food.

Now The God Who Wasn't There does it to religion.

Holding modern Christianity up to a merciless spotlight, this bold and hilarious new film asks the questions few dare to ask. And when it finds out how crazy the answers are, it dares to call them crazy.

Your guide through the bizarre world of Christendom is former fundamentalist Brian Flemming, who unflinchingly explores the absurdity of belief and believers. Along the way, you will discover:

  • Jesus Christ is likely a fictional character, a legend never based on a real human.
  • Christian doctrine contradicts itself at every turn, and encourages immorality when it serves the religion.
  • The beliefs of moderate Christians make even less sense than those of extremists.

And God simply isn't there.

The God Who Wasn't There may delight you or anger you. Perhaps it will do both. But you'll never look at Christianity the same again.

Hold on to your faith. It's in for a bumpy ride.




Tuesday, May 24, 2005
location: 260-113 (Pigott Hall) (map)

Richard Carrier (Freelance Writer and Historian)
"Miracles and the Historical Method"

This lecture describes a "tool kit" for examining miracle claims in history. It will summarize how to analyze and weigh historical claims, with entertaining examples and a slide show, concluding that, so far, there is not enough historical evidence to believe any miracles have happened, not even that Jesus rose from the grave.

Richard Carrier is the author of "Sense and Goodness without God" and a contributing author to "The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave".

For more information:

Partial funding for this event is provided by the GSC (




Monday, May 16, 2005
location: 200-107 (History Corner) (map)

Prof. Denis Phillips (Dept. of Philosophy)
"Is Ethics an Experimental Field? An Exploration of Dewey's Thought"

John Dewey regarded the human capacity for thought as having evolved for its survival value -- the ability to foresee consequences of our actions, to test possible solutions to problems, to profit from previous (successful and failed) attempts at problem solving, all obviously confer an evolutionary advantage. And the most effective intellectual tool that humans have developed (apart from language) has been the experimental method of the sciences. Dewey adopted this approach in all areas of human thinking and action, including ethical/moral contexts. He opposed resolving moral problems by appeal to transcendal solutions or a priori principles inherited from the past; instead, he advocated an "experimental" approach. Is all this simply crass "scientism", or is it a viable philosophical position?




Friday, May 06, 2005
location: Building 370, Room 370 (note room change from previous announcement) (map)

Veritas Forum Follow-Up Event:
Presentation and Discussion on Intelligent Design

Dr. Wesley Elsberry & Mr. Nick Matzke
(National Center for Science Education, Oakland, CA;

Format: Short Presentation (approx. 30 min) followed by Discussion Open to All

Most scientists would agree that Intelligent Design (ID) is not a serious contender to the theory of naturalistic evolution. In fact, ID is not considered science by most standards. Proponents of ID subscribe in general to a very specific worldview, and their uniformity greatly influences the explanations that are being put forward. Now, if the scientific case for ID is so shaky, why are we even talking about it? The answer to that may be found in the realization that the questions that ID tries to address have deep consequences for our understanding of our place in nature. The debate over ID is cultural in origin, not scientific. Come hear why this distinction matters, and contribute to the discussion about the relationship between ID, evolution and science.




not related to our group, but of relevance:

May 1 - 5, 2005

Veritas Forum at Stanford

The Veritas Forum is a nationwide Christian Apologetic organization dedicated to advancing their particular worldview. Among others, the Forum will feature Dr. Michael Behe, one of the most prominent proponents of the Intelligent Design (ID) theory at the Discovery Institute.




Tuesday, April 12, 2005
location: 200-219 (History Corner)

Screening of video from debate "Does God Exist?" between Austin Dacey (Center for Inquiry) and William Lane Craig (Talbot School of Theology)

This debate was held at Purdue University in March 2004, and about 4000 people were in attendance. The video was supplied to us through the CFI-On Campus program.




Monday, January 24, 2005
7 - 9pm
location: Bishop Auditorium, Graduate School of Business

Debate between Dr. Michael Shermer and Dr. R. Douglas Geivett:
"Does God Exist?"

Information from Wolfman Productions:

This debate pushes the boundaries of our faith and how we believe. While three of the world's most widespread religions, Islam, Judaism, and Catholicism, sit atop the headlines, there are no clear answers to who's right and who's wrong. Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society squares off against Dr. Doug Geivett, professor of theology at Biola University. They challenge the audience to look directly into the eye of their beliefs and affirm their faith in God or to cast religion aside as an outdated way to explain the unexplainable.

Admittance is free for the Stanford community (faculty, staff and students). We request a $10 payment for non-Stanford attendees to cover part of our expenses.

Event co-hosted by Rational Thought and Mosaic, an interdenominational Christian fellowship at Stanford, with sponsoring by the Office for Religious Life and the Graduate Student Council.




Monday, November 22, 2004
8 - 10pm
location: 200-013 (History Corner)

Talk by DJ Grothe (Center for Inquiry):
"Is Science Based on Faith?"

According to popular understanding, science is different from religion, in that it is based on reason and evidence, while religion is based on faith. Recently, some thinkers and public figures have suggested instead that science relies on faith no less than religion. In this presentation, DJ Grothe distinguishes various meanings of "faith" and argues that in no relevant sense is science based on faith. (It turns out that faith is not based on faith either, for the most part.) Nevertheless, science is based on certain extra-scientific but rational commitments.

About DJ Grothe and the Center for Inquiry: Mr. Grothe serves as a program director for the Center for Inquiry, a secular, pro-science, public-education organization. He has traveled and lectured widely throughout North America, speaking on ethics, religious-political extremism, church-state separation and science advocacy. His writings have been published in newspapers throughout the United States, and he has spoken on numerous radio and television programs.

More information: Center for Inquiry - On Campus




Wednesday, June 2, 2004
8:30 - 10pm
location: 200-217 (History Corner)

Presentation by Fabian Lischka:
"Homeopathy - Principles and Evidence"

Homeopathy is a system of healing founded at the beginning of the 19th century by Samuel Hahnemann, based on the laws of similarity and potentiation. The way it is supposed to work violates basic principles of physics and medicine, and evidence for its effectiveness is tenuous. Nevertheless, homeopathic remedies remain popular. In this talk, the history and principles of homeopathy are reviewed, and some evidence is summarized. This can serve as the basis for a discussion on policy (eg. regulation of practitioners, regulation of production and distribution of remedies, coverage by (voluntary private or government mandated) health insurance).




Wednesday, May 19, 2004
8:30 - 10pm
location: 200-217 (History Corner)

Presentation by Martin Mueller:
"Creationism / Intelligent Design"

On April 15, Ralph Muncaster ( presented a lecture at Stanford entitled "Creation vs. Evolution". In the lecture, he set out to disprove the theory of evolution using scientific evidence and to offer creationism / ID as the only valid alternative. His so-called scientific arguments were as had to be expected: Incorrect, based on wrong assumptions or irrelevant to the issue.

The above is just one example of the ways in which proponents of creationism attempt to sway people's opinion on scientific inquiry into human nature. These attacks are fraudulent and try suppress a crucial human trait: our ability to make informed choices. In this presentation, I will give an introduction to the bones of contention that creationism has with the theory of evolution and the alternatives that Intelligent Design puts forth. I will include an overview of the major players in the debate. The motivation for the fierce stands taken by both sides interests me, and I will attempt to illuminate some of the issues at stake: the science curriculum in public schools, scientism, the place of religion in today's society and critical thinking skills in the general population.



Last updated: 10/22/05