Winter Lectures

Winter Series  2024

Olivier Courteaux

Critically Thinking About Important Issues

Presented by Dr. Christopher DiCarlo
Tuesdays, 9 January to 27 February 2024
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon

To be offered virtually.

Registration will begin on Friday, 24 November 2023 at 10:00 AM and tickets will be on sale until Friday, 5 January 2024 at 11:50 PM. After Friday, 5 January 2024it will not be possible to register for individual lectures or a partial lecture series. Please note that you need buy only one ticket at $40 per household.

In this lecture series, Dr. Christopher DiCarlo – a philosopher, author and educator – will examine and discuss a wide variety of topics dealing with some of the most important issues that face us today. These will be examined through the lens of Critical Thinking and range from concepts of ethics and love to the social and political issues of abortion and euthanasia. Other topics will include the God of Spinoza and Einstein, evolution versus creationism, and how to deal with misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories.

January 9: The ABCs of Critical Thinking: An Introduction

Throughout history, philosophers, mathematicians, logicians, scientists, writers and many others have developed the Critical Thinking skills that require all of us to make distinctions regarding the value of information. I have taken these skills and distilled them into six easy-to-remember steps. It is not by accident that the tools of the Critical Thinking skill set correspond to the first six letters of the English alphabet.
Step 1 – A is for Argument
Step 2 – B is for Bias
Step 3 – C is for Context
Step 4 – D is for Diagram
Step 5 – E is for Evidence
Step 6 – F is for Fallacies
Remember the letters and you can more easily remember and apply the most basic steps for becoming a better thinker. Combined, these steps form a skill set that will allow anyone greater capacity to have more meaningful discussions about all issues, from the simple to the sublime. These skills quickly teach people how to think. What you think is up to you. But there are specific rules that govern better and worse ways to approach how we think.

January 16: Good versus Evil – How Should I Behave?

In this talk we will examine some of the foundational concepts in the branch of Philosophy called Ethics. We will consider some thought experiments or “What would you do?” scenarios that pose some ethical dilemmas and challenge us to carefully consider how we might act. We will also look at the ethical theories of various philosophers throughout history to see how their theories apply to such dilemmas. And finally, we will see to what extent other animal species practise ethical codes of conduct.

January 23: Abortion

In this lecture, we will consider the contentious issue that separates the so-called Pro-Choice advocates from Pro-Lifers. We will examine the positions and difficulties of three different schools of thought: Conservative, Legalist/Feminist and Gradualist. And we will look at comparisons between Canada and the United States, which overturned Roe v. Wade, and both their histories of abortion.

January 30: Love through the Ages

This talk will examine the concept of love and how it has been defined, used and celebrated throughout recorded time. Approaching the festive season of St. Valentine’s when “love is in the air,” it would seem apropos to consider the nature of this most perplexing yet wondrous of human emotions. The Ancient Greeks defined love in at least six different ways: Eros: sexual passion, Philia: deep friendship, Ludus: playful or teasing love (flirtatious), Agape: love for all/love from and for God, Pragma: enduring love, and Philautia: self-love. We will examine each of these types of love in some detail, as well as the science of love with anthropologist Helen Fisher’s The Drive to Love: The Neural Mechanism for Mate Selection. And we will take a brief look at some of the more iconic depictions of love in the arts.

February 6: Evolution versus Creation

Since the time of Charles Darwin, there have been debates centred on the topic of evolution versus creationist views of the universe, humankind and our place in it. Are we material beings? Are we spiritual beings? Did a God create the universe and us in it? Or are we simply the product of millions of years of random acts of a blind universe? We will take a careful look at both sides of the debate and carry on the grand tradition of civil discussion regarding such an interesting and important topic.

February 13: Critically Thinking about Artificial Intelligence

What is artificial intelligence or AI? How will it affect and change our lives? What are its benefits and, more importantly, what are the risks associated with its inevitable developments? In this lecture, we will consider some of the main advances of AI that will change our lives forever. We will also look at some of the potential obstacles and pitfalls that may become apparent as we move into the future. From naysayers to doomsdayers, we will consider all perspectives as these new forms of technology inevitably change our lives.

February 20: Misinformation, Disinformation and Conspiracy Theories

Why is there so much misinformation and worse, disinformation, circulating in popular media? What has led to the rise of such untrustworthy information? And why do there seem to be so many conspiracy theories? In this lecture, we will reflect on the factors that have led to our current state of confusion and distrust. In order to find out what goes into the making of conspiracy theorists, we must look at all the relevant influences that have contributed to their particular states of mind. In so doing, we become better able to understand both the physical and cultural constraints that bias their particular points of view. But what are biases? And how do they contribute to the making of a conspiracy theorist? We will consider the psychological profiles of conspiracy theorists as social psychologists attempt to identify specific “predictors of belief” that give rise to their conspiracy theories. We will also look at the simultaneous demise of newsprint journalism and the rise of social media as factors contributing to the proliferation of such information. And finally, we will consider some of the ways in which we might be able to engage with those in our lives who subscribe to such views.

February 27: Euthanasia

From the Greek eu, meaning “well” or “good” and Thanatos, meaning “death,” the term euthanasia literally means “to have a good death.” But what does that mean? And who should decide? And why? In this final lecture, we will consider the history of mercy killing and its evolution and development as Medical Assistance in Dying (or MAiD) in Canada.

Dr. Christopher DiCarlo is a philosopher, educator and author. He is the Principal and Founder of Critical Thinking Solutions, a consulting business for individuals, corporations and not-for-profits in both the private and public sectors. He currently holds the position of Senior Researcher and Ethicist at Convergence Analysis – a UK-based think tank focusing on AI risk and governance.

He is the Ethics Chair for the Canadian Mental Health Association, a lifetime member of Humanist Canada and an Expert Advisor for the Centre for Inquiry Canada. He often teaches in the Department of Biology at the University of Toronto (Mississauga) and at the Life Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University. He is a past Visiting Research Scholar at Harvard University in the Department of Anthropology and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Dr. DiCarlo has won several awards, including TV Ontario’s Big Ideas Best Lecturer in Ontario and Canada’s Humanist of the Year.

Dr. DiCarlo has been invited to speak at numerous national and international conferences and has written many scholarly papers on topics ranging from bioethics to cognitive evolution. He is the author of several books, and his best-seller, How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Asking the Right Questions, was released as a second edition to mark its ten-year anniversary. His latest book, So You Think You Can Think? Tools for Intelligent Conversations and Getting Along, was published in June of 2020. And his current book, to be released soon, is tentatively called Building a God: Thinking Critically about the Ethics of AI.

Dr. DiCarlo hosts a new podcast called All Thinks Considered in which he engages in free and open discussion about current, important issues with world thought leaders, politicians and entertainers through the lens of critical thinking and ethical reasoning.


National Geographic’s Genographic DNA Ancestry Project:  stopped selling the Geno kits May 31, 2019

Debates you might find interesting:

Creationism Vs Evolution Debate:  Ken Ham and Bill Nye:  The Two Way   NPR

The Huxley=Wilberforce Debate- aka 1860 Oxford Evolutionm Debate:  7 part PBS series Evolution, the Huxley=Wilberforce Debate (2:17-End)

Lawrence Krauss:  Teaching Creationism is Child Abuse/ Big Think

Does God Exist?  William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens – Full Debate

Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox/ The God Delusion Debate

Richard Dawkins vs Islam

Christopher Hitchens vs. Rabbi David Wolpe:  The Great God Debate

Has Science Made God Irrelevant?  John Lennox and Christopher DiCarlo

Two Christians vs. Matt Dillahunty & Chris DiCarlo:

Christopher DiCarlo vs William Lane Craig  Does God Matter:

Does God Exist Debate 2009 – Joe Boot vs Christopher DiCarlo:

Empowering Yourself Against Misinformation:

Reliable sources of information available online include sites such as:

  1. Snopes:
  2. Pressbooks – Web Literacy:
  3. Politifact:
  5. SciCheck:
  6. Washington Post Fact Checker:
  7. NPR Fact-Check:
  8. Lie Detectors:
  9. Hoax Slayer:
  10. Climate Feedback:
  11. Quote Investigator:
  12. The Hound (Mexico):
  13. Guardian Reality Check (UK):
  14. BBC Reality Check (UK):
  15. Full Fact (UK):
  16. The Logical Indian:
  17. Altnews:
  18. Bellingcat: Home of Online Investigations:
  19. The Centre for Information Resilience:
  20. Disinfowatch (Canada):
  21. Media Bias/Fact Check:
  22. FlackCheck:
  23. International Fact-Checking Network:
  24. New Literacy Project:
  25. Mediawise:
  26. National Association for Media Literacy Education:
  27. New York Times – Fact Checks:
  28. Media Smarts: Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy:
  29. News Literacy Network:

Registration opens Friday, 24 November 2023 at 10:00 a.m.

Mike Daley

Great Modern Architects

Presented by Marta O’Brien
Thursdays, January 11 to February 29, 2024
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon

To be offered virtually.

Registration will begin on Friday, 24 November 2023 at 10:00 AM and tickets will be on sale until Friday, 5 January 2024 at 11:50 PM. After Friday, 5 January 2024 it will not be possible to register for individual lectures or a partial lecture series. Please note that you need buy only one ticket at $40 per household.

Learn about the lives and works of eight of the West’s most innovative architects of the past 100 years, concentrating on the post‑1960 era. We’ll examine the unique buildings of Spain’s Gaudì, the humanistic works of Finland’s Aalto, the creativity of Canada’s Erickson, the futuristic designs of Britain’s Hadid, and more. You’ll learn about architects not well known outside the design community, including Swiss partners Herzog and de Meuron. While viewing hundreds of images, see if you agree with the accolades these remarkable architects have received.

January 11: Antoni Gaudì

This architect’s work reflects his deep love for nature. His buildings incorporate curved elements and colour through materials such as ceramic tiles, fancifully forged metal, and stained glass.

January 18: Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Mackintosh was inspired by the vernacular buildings of his native Scotland. He and his artist wife Margaret also exhibited Arts and Crafts and touches of Art Nouveau in their designs.

January 25: Alvar Aalto

Aalto’s buildings were Modern, yet with materials and traditions of Finland. He’s renowned for his attention to how people would use his spaces.  Architect Aino Aalto was his wife and partner.

February 1: Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

This married couple were pioneers in Postmodern architecture. Their publications and teaching were also very influential. Scott Brown has been a prominent voice for women in architecture.

February 8: Arthur Erickson

Considered Canada’s greatest architect, Erickson gave primary consideration to context, space and light at a time when these were not always thought to be essential in all buildings.

February 15: Frank Gehry

Gehry has designed distinctive public and private buildings all over the world. He is concerned that people exist comfortably in spaces he creates, and he addresses local context and culture.

February 22: Zaha Hadid

Known as “Queen of the Curves,” Zaha (as she is always known) incorporated very unusual forms into her designs. Many countries have examples of her innovative buildings.

February 29: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron

These Swiss architects are known for their original forms and use of various building materials. They design all types of buildings, including residences, schools, museums and concert halls.

Marta O’Brien has been an architectural historian for more than 30 years. She earned her architecture degree with honours and her master’s degree researching the urban environment. Marta presents illustrated talks and courses for groups including historical societies and seniors’ learning organizations. She has taught architectural history courses at several institutions, including the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies – where she recently received an Excellence in Teaching Award.

In 2021, Marta was elected an Honorary Member of the Ontario Association of Architects.

Click here for a link to the Lecture 1 lecture notes and glossary.

Click here for a link to the Lecture 2 lecture notes and glossary.

Click here for a link to the Lecture 3 lecture notes and glossary.

Click here for a link to the Lecture 4 lecture notes and glossary.

Click here for a link to the Lecture 5 lecture notes and glossary.

Click here for a link to the Lecture 6 lecture notes and glossary

Click here for a link to the Lecture 7 lecture notes and glossary

Registration opens Friday, 24 November 2023 at 10:00 a.m.