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January 27, 2011

Seven Mini-Roundtables

March 10, 2011:
Should Ethics Be Taught in the Classroom?
J. Mark Ramseyer
Harvard University, Law

March 2, 2011:
Can atheists and theists agree on what constitutes a meaningful life?
Ned Hall
Harvard University, Philosophy
David Ellis
Former Director, Boston Museum of Science

February 24, 2011:
Trauma, Spirituality and Fantasy
Susan Napier
Tufts University, Japanese Culture

February 16, 2011:
What Does Our Experience of Emptiness Mean?
John Peteet
Harvard University, Psychiatry

February 10, 2011:
The Anthropic Principle – a message from religion or science?
Howard Smith
Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, Senior Astrophysicist

February 2, 2011:
Is Nature Enough?
Owen Gingerich
Harvard University, Astronomy (Emeritus)

January 27, 2011:
The Role of Qualia in the Science vs. Religion Debate
George Siscoe
Boston University, Astronomy

This email message sought out and found our presenters:

Dear Roundtable friends,


Every time we have a roundtable, an equal number of those who DO come lament to me that they are already booked and can NOT come. Therefore, we hope to see more people enjoy the roundtable by experimenting with weekly mini-roundtables.


Between Monday Jan. 24 and Friday March 11, let’s go forward with 7 weeks of time to learn and experiment with a mini-roundtable format, all held at the Harvard Faculty Club. I’m writing to just 50 (out of 800) of you for any immediate feedback you might like to offer.


We’ll still do “big event” roundtables, but weekly mini-roundtables could be quiet manageable and a little more affordable because we don’t have to get into the complications of arranging for “outside talent”: instead I’d like to rely on local talent (like you!) who are happy to be the “featured facilitator” without an honorarium. 


“Shrinking” mini-roundtables in size and time, a two-hour event (6-8pm, skipping hors d'oeuvres) demands less time than a three-hour event while presenting a different bandwidth of conversation as we reserve rooms that seat only 20 to 40. If we have to use a waiting list or turn people away because there’s a high demand for a weekly mini-roundtable, then we’ve learned something valuable. 


What would it mean if you were a featured facilitator? Traditionally taking up to fifteen minutes to verbally launch a topic (after providing participants with some reading by yourself or others), we could experiment with what happens next. We could have you begin speaking right after we sit down, or we could eat for 20 minutes and then hear your brief presentation followed by conversation. We could split conversation between table time and a time for the whole group that you lead, or at your discretion and direction, we could skip table time and go right into your leading of discussion as a large group. We could have “test roundtable topics”: trying out a topic for discussion at a mini-roundtable, and then bringing it back for a major roundtable event. 


I’m throwing the door open to invite you to come forward as presenters. Though there are over 800 on our mailing list, there are just 50 of you that I’m sending this to, so over 40 of you can easily say, “No thanks” to presenting at this time. We can still work with co-presenters or co-facilitators, that approach always works especially well for us. I’d like to discuss some Terry Eagleton readings, for example, and I’d be happy to co-present on topics of faith and reason. 


Planning dates isn’t easy because if we always meet on a Thursday, for example, we’d always miss people with standing Thursday commitments. But if we’re never consistent, it might be hard for people to feel any method to our madness. So how does this schedule sound? Please write back to me immediately if this 6-8pm procedure on these dates just doesn’t sound good to you.   


          Thu Jan 27, seats 20

          Wed Feb 2, seats 48

          Thu Feb 10, seats 40

          Wed Feb 16, seats 20

          Thu Feb 24, seats 20

          Wed Mar 2, seats 40

          Thu Mar 10, seats 40



As I wrote earlier, this is only reaching a few of you, so feel free to forward this to any colleagues whom you think should hear about this right away. All 800+ will be invited as soon as we have the beginnings of a schedule. Each night will probably be a “stand-alone” topic, which means you won’t have to feel obligated to participate in any particular sequence of roundtables. We’d never expect to see you at each roundtable: but you’re welcome to try to make any you can!