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.
STRIKING A BALANCE: It’s not often that one’s town gets paid a visit by a “Hero for the Planet,” but that’s what Time magazine has named architect William McDonough, who appears at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Wednesday, May 20, at 8 p.m. In a free lecture, “Cradle to Cradle Design: Creating an Environmentally and Economically Intelligent Future,” he’ll share his thoughts on how to balance building and manufacturing processes with the needs of the natural environment. McDonough’s appearance is part of the UCSB Arts & Lectures Global Warming, Food Security and Our Energy Future event series. For more information, call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.
Over at the Victoria Hall Theater (33 W. Victoria), The Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life will offer a theological perspective on an issue long-debated in political circles: the ideal balance, if one exists, between individualism and collectivism. The Center brings Reverend Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, professor of theology at the Chicago seminary and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, to discuss what religion can add to the conversation about this basic conflict in public policy. The talk happens on Sunday, May 24, at 3 p.m. Visit cappscenter.ucsb.edu for more information.