ON THE ORIGIN OF BADNESS: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is one of humanity’s most oft-asked questions, but what about the question of why people do bad things? Professor Barbara Oakley works at the forefront of the effort to answer that question, searching for a biological explanation of why some do harm to others. In a talk sponsored by the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara and titled, Why Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend! Oakley will explain the relationship between the brain and bad behavior, from malevolent dictators to the merely irritating. Oakley’s talk starts at 2:30 p.m. in the downtown Santa Barbara Public Library’s Faulkner Gallery (40 E. Anapamu St.) on Saturday, May 16. Call 968-9621 ext. 242 or visit santabarbarahumanists.org for details.
Speaking of bad behavior, Ojai-based writing educator Zoe Murdock‘s Torn by God follows 12-year-old Beth, the daughter of a Mormon family in small-town, late-1950s Utah whose patriarch comes to believe that polygamy wasn’t so bad after all. As her father joins up with a sketchy fundamentalist group and her mother slowly disengages from life altogether, it’s up to Beth to hold things together at home. One part human-scale family drama and one part investigation of mainstream Mormons’ relationship with their faith’s fundamentalist offshoots, Murdock’s new novel certainly doesn’t shy away from controversial topics. The author will her book and sign copies on Saturday, May 23, at the Tecolote Book Shop (1470 E. Valley, Montecito) at 2 p.m. For more information, call 969-4977 or visit zoemurdock.com.
On Tuesday, May 26, at 7 p.m., Carpinteria resident Selden Edwards will appear at Chaucer’s Books to sign copies of his first novel The Little Book, newly released in paperback. The novel is another investigation into morality, touching upon such controversial topics as time travel, incest, and Hitler’s impact on the course of history. The story of Wheeler Burden, a baseball-playing, Harvard-going rock and roll star player suddenly plunged into the colorful and historically resonant milieu of 1897 Vienna, was greeted by its first readers as an uncommonly refined work of fiction. For details, call 682-6787 or visit chaucersbooks.com.