Speaker Bios and Blurbs available HERE

Friday, Oct 5- First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall (1111 Harvard Ave. at Seneca, very near Seattle U)

6 -7 pm Drink punch with the EBF family and the speakers

7 pm Sit down dinner (Special table reserved for dining with Sheldon – call Neil at 206-232-2994 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to check on availability).

8-8:30pm pm Guest speakers and admirers roast and toast Neil Elgee, President of the Ernest Becker Foundation. Program moderated by Deborah Jacobs, M.A., EBF board member.

8:30-9 pm EBF celebrity speaker Sheldon Solomon on Death at the Polling Booth in 2012: The Politics of Mortal Terror, followed by Q&A.

"Death at the Polling Booth in 2012: The Politics of Mortal Terror" by Sheldon Solomon, Ph.D., Skidmore College, NY

Sheldon will describe how political preferences are altered when existential concerns are aroused, and explore how this may influence the upcoming 2012 presidential election. According to Ernest Becker, the uniquely human awareness of death engenders potentially debilitating terror that is managed through devotion to cultural worldviews that give individuals a sense that they are persons of value in a world of meaning. In accord with this view, research shows that reminders of death increases adherence to cherished cultural values and instigates efforts to bolster self-esteem. Sheldon will present research demonstrating that death reminders increase support for charismatic leaders who share one’s cherished beliefs and aggression against those who hold rival beliefs -- and show how subtle alternations in psychological conditions influenced political inclinations and voting preferences in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, and how manipulating existential concerns for political advantage may influence the outcome of the upcoming election

Saturday Oct 6- Seattle University Student Center, Room 160

Welcome to Seattle U. - Steen Halling Ph.D., Seattle University

Morning Moderator Deborah Jacobs, M.A.

9 am Keynote "Back to the Future: Ernest Becker's Lost Science of Man" by Sheldon Solomon, Ph.D., Skidmore College, NY

An overview of Ernest Becker's monumental interdisciplinary synthesis delineating the pervasive role of death-denial in human affairs, followed by a summary of how Becker's project to juxtapose reason, critical thinking, and faith in order to, as Becker put it in The Lost Science of Man, keep the "world somewhat in balance, to ‘save it from itself’ and its own inherent forces of destruction" has been advanced by people working under the auspices of the Ernest Becker Foundation, concluding with some musings about the future of the foundation and continuing Becker's legacy.

10 am Break

10:15 am A Beckerian Look at the Personhood of Corporations in Criminal Court: Policing the Nation through the Politics of Citizens United by Kirby Farrell and Discussant John Wynn

By empowering corporations to influence the electoral process with unlimited money, politicized Supreme Court justices have projected an aggressive fantasy that compensates for an anxious vision of the United States in a time of radical change and mounting global stress.

11:15 am Teaching Becker in Secondary School and Beyond; Where do we Stand?

Bill Bornschein (St. Xavier High School, Louisville, KY), Dave Whitson (Catlin Gabel School, Portland, OR), Sue Hoffman and John Kornichuk (Confederation College, Thunder Bay, ON), Patrick Shen (Pasadena, CA)

12 noon Lunch

Saturday afternoon Moderator Merlyn Mowrey, Ph.D., Central Michigan University

1 pm Climate Change Denial by Philip Hansten Ph.D., Emeritus Faculty, University of Washington

Non-climatologists have strong opinions on the subject, even though they are unencumbered by true scientific understanding — a classic case of “Premature Factulation.” Philosopher and historian of science Hansten will explain and make recommendations for Beckerian applications.

Discussants - Jeremy Sherman & Sheldon Solomon

2 pm Partialization: Synthesizing Rank, Becker, and New Origins of Life Research by Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D.

Sherman walks us through Emergent Dynamics Theory’s hot new model of the physical emergence of life and mind, showing how domestication gives us a new way of thinking about life’s range of immortality campaigns, from the primordial to those illuminated by Becker.

Discussants - Philip Hansten & Sheldon Solomon

3 pm Break

3:15 pm From Becker’s Belief in God to Disarming Fundamentalism

…”laughter… is really a reflection of a very advanced stage of faith and grace.” -Ernest Becker 1968.

Scaring the bejesus into people: The effects of mortality salience on explicit and implicit religious belief. Jonathan Jong 2012.

“Becker’s religion is pragmatic.” Rabbi David Wolpe

Discussants - Neil Elgee, M.D., Sheldon Solomon, Herbert Anderson, Ph.D. (Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary), Bill Bornschein, Dan Liechty, Ph.D. (Illinois State University) and others.

4:00 pm Status Reports

Patrick Shen on his documentary film, Flight From Death

Jack Martin, Ph.D., Simon Fraser University, on Becker’s years at SFU, ’68-‘74

Jim Swift, Ph.D. and Susan Kucera, Documentary Filmmaker, on their Becker-inspired documentary film

5 pm Adjourn


Sunday morning Oct 7 Moderator TBA – Seattle University Casey Commons, Room 500

9 am TMT and the Relationship between Humans and Other Animals by Lori Marino, Ph.D., Emory University and Michael Mountain

Two mysteries: How, as a species, do we get beyond our terror of death? And why has the animal protection movement been such a failure – except in one area? Marino and Mountain explore how the two questions may be linked – and how each of them may provide an answer to the other.

10 am Becker and the Death Denying Function of Play by Jason Hawreliak

Although it is often associated with juvenility, play in fact serves a vital psychological function. Drawing on Becker’s concept of heroism, this talk will examine how play provides a safe and accessible
arena in which individuals can quantifiably demonstrate excellence, self-worth, and superiority over others.

11 am Conference wrap-up and round table discussion


Speaker Bios and Blurbs available HERE

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Becker on Otto Rank

"Rank goes so far as to say that the 'need for a truly religious ideology is inherent in human nature and its fulfillment is basic to any kind of social life.' Only in this way, says Rank, only by surrendering to the bigness of nature on the highest, least-fetishized level, can man conquer death. In other words, the true heroic validation or one's life, lies beyond sex, beyond the other, beyond the private religion-all these are makeshifts that pull man down or that hem him in, leaving him torn with ambiguity."

-From Denial of Death, Chapter 8

more on Otto Rank here