Polymath Systems

Past Program Announcements


July 29, 2003 (Online) and July 30, 2003 (In-person)

Animal Intelligence and Its Evolution
David Seaborg

This lecture will be on animal intelligence, including problem solving, ability to learn by observation, comparison of intelligence of different species, and its use in and co-evolution with communication and language, including the use of communication in animals for deceit. Some correlates with brain structure will be included. The evolution of intelligence and its adaptive significance will also be discussed.

David Seaborg is an evolutionary biologist who does scientific research on evolutionary theory. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Davis, and a graduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley, both in zoology. He originated a theory that states that organisms can act as feedback systems with respect to their evolution, and that their morphology and behavior plays approximately as large a role as their environment in shaping their evolution. According to this theory, traits of organisms occasionally become involved in positive feedback loops, leading to very rapid evolutionary change. This idea is a possible mechanism for the important idea of punctuated equilibrium, proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould.

Mr. Seaborg has taught biology ay all levels. He is an active environmental leader who founded and heads the World Rainforest Fund, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to saving tropical rainforests, and the Seaborg open Space Fund, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to preserving open space in the counties bordering and to the east of San Francisco Bay, named after David’s father, physics Nobelist Glenn Seaborg. He lectures to various scientific, environmental, civic, business, and other organizations on evolutionary biology, the philosophical implications of science, and environmental issues. He is an award-winning poet and nature photographer.

August 5, 2003 (Online) and August 6, 2003 (In-person)

Comparative Mythology
John Wilson

What is the meaning and function of mythology? Does myth contain higher wisdom, or is it composed of outdated world views of primitive people? Do ancient myths have any relevance to a modern society, or are they merely a form of idle entertainment? These are a few of the questions to be addressed in this presentation on comparative mythology.

John Wilson will discuss myth, primarily from an Indo-European perspective, as it is the most widespread of all socio-linguistic groups in the world. He will discuss archetypes and their significance to society, as well as their esoteric functions. Myth, being universal, provides a valuable key to understanding humanity. This lecture will approach it from this idea, rather than as just another genre of folklore, or, even worse, literature.

John Wilson is a scholar of mythology and Asian Indian language and religion and a talented musician.

August 19, 2003 (Online) and August 20 & September 17, 2003 (In-person)

Current Developments and Open Questions in Modern Physics
David Woolsey

This will be a brief introduction to a few topics in modern physics. It will be a discussion at a level understandable to readers of popular literature on the subject such as found in Scientific American and similar publications targeting lay audiences.

The discussion will be in four parts as follows

1. The historical context and necessity of the development of the two pillars of modern physical theory, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. We will also discuss some of the irreconcilable differences, both predictive and philosophical, between these theories and the obstacles that must be overcome if the two are to be brought into anything like unification.

2. A brief survey of the scales of the universe--what is known observationally and what we expect from theoretical predictions.

3. A brief discussion of the character of the universe at the extreme ends of the scale. Effects of our attempts at unification between general relativity and quantum mechanics at both large and small scales.

4. We'll finish up by touching on some of the things that are truly "broken" in our understanding of the way the world is. The vacuum energy prediction (the "wrongest answer in physics"), the measurement problem, and the question of how (the heck) matter can be aware of itself.

David Woolsey works at UC Berkeley in the Holzapfel Laboratory for Experimental Cosmology. He has been interested in some of the outstanding questions in physics since he was in high school some 25 years ago. He is two classes short of a degree in physics from UCB. Thus he is somewhat qualified to speak about the subject material presented here--so long as the conversation does not go too much deeper than popular science and "hand waving" explanations.

August 26, 2003 (Online) and August 27, 2003 (In-person)

Human Intelligence: What Is Known and Open Questions
Kevin Langdon

This program will explore the subject of human intelligence, including the following points

1. The various ways that "intelligence" is defined. What separate intelligences have been determined experimentally to exist and be measurable, what definitions are known to be inadequate, and whatremains to be brought within the purview of empirical research.

2. The concept of g, the "general factor" in intelligence, what is included and what is not included in it, and the role that it plays in what is commonly referred to as "intelligence."

3. Intelligence tests as measures of g, their reliability, distribution of test scores, and their use and misuse.

4. Physiological correlates of intelligence test scores and the new field of "chronometric" intelligence testing.

5. The "Flynn effect" population average scores on intelligence tests have been increasing by approximately 3 points per decade for almost a century. This is still incompletely understood.

6. The variation of IQ scores among races and ethnic groups, test bias, and real differences.

7. Public-policy questions related to IQ and its use in education, hiring and promotion, and population planning.

8. Problems in the definition and measurement of intelligence at the extreme high end of the scale.

A number of those on the invitation list for these programs are highly knowledgeable in this field; they are encouraged to participate and fill in some of the gaps in the speaker's knowledge.

Kevin Langdon has studied human psychology from a variety of perspectives for forty years. Hisstudies include Eastern and Western philosophical, psychological, and spiritual systems, computational knowledge representations, and experiments with the production of altered states through a variety of methods. He is the author of Analytical Tracking, a phenomenological model of the human psyche, several high-range IQ tests, and many essays and reviews touching on one or another aspect of this field of study. For a sampling of this material, see




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