With a few exceptions, Sunday morning adult education takes place at Bedford Middle School, 88 North Avenue, Westport. These sessions always bring together a lively group of congregants ready for learning and great conversation, along with bagels and coffee. For the most up-to-date scheduled events, see Upcoming Events or the current newsletter. The general schedule is:
9:30-10:00 Coffee and bagels
At Adult Ed on October 25, Dave Shafer presented a slide show about Immanuel Velikovsky (1895 –1979), a fascinating iconoclast who single-handedly shook up the worlds of geology, ancient history, Egyptology, biblical chronology, and most of all astronomy.
Trained as a psychiatrist by one of Freud’s first pupils, he was a friend of Einstein and often discussed his theories with him. Velikovsky catapulted to world fame with his 1952 best seller “Worlds in Collision”, which freaked out professional astronomers everywhere.He was dismissed as a complete crackpot and his theories were usually misrepresented in the press. Prominent astronomers tried to suppress the publication of Velikovsky’s book. Velikovsky, an atheist, used biblical texts and world mythology to construct an extremely radical new history of the solar system and Earth. With the start of the space age he used his theories to make many predictions about what space probes to the planets and men on the moon would find. Over the years almost all of these many predictions have turned out to be true, and they explain a host of surprises that have completely baffled professional astronomers to this day. But his name is anathema and he has been denied the credit some think he is due. Leading the attack against Velikovsky, in what may be considered a personal vendetta, was SHJ’s Humanist Role Model of the Year: Carl Sagan.
At Adult Ed Oct 4 we watched a moving documentary film about Rosalind Franklin, who was basically cheated out of sharing the Nobel Prize with Watson
and Frick for discovering the double-helix shape of DNA. This intensely dedicated scientist produced the key X-ray diffraction photograph (known as photo 51) in her lab that resulted in Watson and Frick proposing the double helix pattern. She was born into a prominent Jewish family in England and was a natural scientist. She died of cancer at the age of 37. The shameful way she was denied credit for her seminal work on DNA is the subject of a play that just opened in London, starring Nicole Kidman. Thanks to Dave Shafer for this program.
In honor of Carl Sagan, selected by the Society for Humanistic Judaism as its 2015 – 2016 Humanistic Jewish role model, Mike Retsky gave a presentation on the scientist’s life and teachings at Sunday’s adult ed September 20.