Copyright 2001-2012, California Science Center
Science Matters

Science Matters is a free, public, adult education series, held at the California Science Center, where we explore critical and often controversial science issues at the forefront of public concern.

Each program begins with a presentation that illuminates the science behind the issue. A panel of nationally renowned experts from diverse perspectives then discuss its societal implications and respond to questions from the audience.

Past Programs

Fracking: Energy Solution or Environmental Problem? — June 8, 2013

How does “fracking” work and what are its potential impacts on our communities? Do the economic benefits of this practice outweigh its health and environmental risks?

Medical Marijuana: Helpful or Harmful? — March 30, 2013

Does marijuana provide an effective alternative treatment for the symptoms of various medical conditions, as its advocates argue, or is it a dangerous substance with no proven medicinal value, as its opponents maintain, and thus should remain illegal?

Autism: An Epidemic or a Matter of Definition? — May 5, 2012

Is the increase in autism cases real or just due to over diagnosis? And what are the ethical, social, and policy implications of how this disorder is defined, diagnosed, and treated in different communities?

Sharing the Ocean:
Protecting Fish and Fishing
— May 1, 2010

Is a marine life protection plan compatible with a viable fishing industry? A panel of experts presents different sustainable fishing strategies within the context of marine science and fishery management.

Your Medical Records Online:
The Promises and Pitfalls
— February 20, 2010

Who will benefit? Who will pay? And what are the dangers inherent in the digitalization of health records?

The Medicalization of Race — November 21, 2009

How valid is the concept of race from the biological standpoint? Should race matter or should medicine be colorblind? How much should doctors and researchers place on the role of race in health issues?

Eyewitness Testimony:
Perception and Memory on Trial
— April 18, 2009

What is the science of perception and memory that lie at the core of eyewitness testimony? Is the practice scientifically sound or inherently flawed?

Prescription Drugs:
Good Medicine—Bad Behavior
— Feb. 7, 2009

Seven of the top ten illegal drugs used in the United States are prescription medications. What is the science of such addiction and treatment, and how should we respond? Does the best solution lie with more prescription drug legislation to further restrict the drug supply, or through more intense public education to decrease demand?

Your Genes: Choice or Chance? — October 25, 2008

Scientific research on the human genome has pitted the hopes for progress toward the eradication of disease against ethical concerns about manipulating the human genome and worries over public access to private data. Do the prospects for improved health and productivity outweigh other concerns?

The Science and Policy of Obesity — May 17, 2008

Speakers present the current science of obesity and discuss the ethics of different approaches to the obesity epidemic. Are we a society that controls what people eat?

Nuclear Energy — Timely Alternative or Time Bomb? — February 23, 2008

Nuclear fission reactors have long been controversial. Yet, considering the current concern over global climate change, pollution, and energy shortages worldwide, is their role changing?

The Science and Ethics of Fear — October 27, 2007

Fear is a universal emotion, yet poorly understood by the general public. In presenting both the science and ethics of fear, the speakers illuminated the arresting power of fear and the ethical implications of its use and abuse.

Global Climate Change and the Human Response — April 21, 2007

A science presentation explained the current science of global warming and the means by which scientists evaluate the effects of human activities and predict the impact of future climate change. In this light, panelists discussed the range of human responses to global warming and the potential roles played by government, business and private citizens.

Nanotechnology: Small world-Big issues — January 27, 2007

How will society deal with the impact of this powerful yet infinitesimally small technology? Who will benefit from the fruits of nanoscience and who will monitor its effect?

Religion on the Brain — November 4, 2006

In our first Science Matters program of the year, a neurologist presented the latest findings in brain research about the neural processing of religious thought and experience. In light of this research, panelists discussed how we reconcile these different aspects of our brain in our understanding of the world. Are humans genetically hard-wired for critical thinking and religious spirituality, and what are the implications for the compatibility of science and faith in the human experience? Can we believe in science and still have faith?

Reproductive Cloning — April 15, 2006

Popular news magazines report that for $30,000 you can clone your cat, and soon you will be able to clone your dog. Scientists and ethicists explained the current science of cloning and what's possible in the near future. In this light, a panel of experts discussed the responsibilities, obligations, and implications associated with reproductive cloning.

Defining Life and Death — January 21, 2006

How do we ascertain when life ends? In this program, scientists, physicians and ethicists reviewed various ways of measuring life, and discussed related legal, ethical, and cultural aspects of this question.

Promise and Pitfalls of Stem Cell Research — September 24, 2005

The first in this program series looked at the Promise and Pitfalls of Stem Cell Research.