Our 2023 Annual Conference took place May 5-7, 2023 in Denver, CO. Watch this space for updated information about our 2024 Annual Conference.
Dr. Michael E. Mann, 2023 Humanist of the Year
Dr. Michael E. Mann is Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania, with a secondary appointment in the Annenberg School for Communication. He is director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability, and the Media (PCSSM).
Dr. Mann received his undergraduate degrees in Physics and Applied Math from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.S. degree in Physics from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in Geology & Geophysics from Yale University. His research interests include the study of Earth’s climate system and the science, impacts and policy implications of human-caused climate change.
Dr. Mann was a Lead Author on the Observed Climate Variability and Change chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report in 2001 and was organizing committee chair for the National Academy of Sciences Frontiers of Science in 2003. He has received a number of honors and awards including NOAA’s outstanding publication award in 2002 and selection by Scientific American as one of the fifty leading visionaries in science and technology in 2002. He contributed, with other IPCC authors, to the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union in 2012 and was awarded the National Conservation Achievement Award for science by the National Wildlife Federation in 2013. He made Bloomberg News’ list of fifty most influential people in 2013. In 2014, he was named Highly Cited Researcher by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) and received the Friend of the Planet Award from the National Center for Science Education. He received the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication from Climate One in 2017, the Award for Public Engagement with Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018 and the Climate Communication Prize from the American Geophysical Union in 2018. In 2019 he received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and in 2020 he received the World Sustainability Award of the MDPI Sustainability Foundation. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2020. He received the Leo Szilard Award of the American Physical Society in 2021. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the Geological Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is also a co-founder of the award-winning science website RealClimate.org.
Dr. Mann is author of more than 200 peer-reviewed and edited publications, numerous op-eds and commentaries, and five books including Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy, The Tantrum that Saved the World and The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.
Dr. Stephon Alexander, Isaac Asimov Science Award
Dr. Stephon Alexander is a Professor of Physics at Brown University and former President of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP). Dr. Alexander has had previous appointments at Stanford University, Imperial College, Penn State, Dartmouth College, and Haverford College. He received his BSc (1993) from Haverford College and his Ph.D. (2000) from Brown University.
He is a specialist in the field of string cosmology, where the physics of superstrings are applied to address longstanding questions in cosmology. In 2001, Dr. Alexander co-invented the model of inflation based on higher dimensional hypersurfaces in string theory called D-Branes. In such models, the early universe emerged from the destruction of a higher dimensional D-brane which ignites a period of rapid expansion of space often referred to as cosmic inflation. He also co-pioneered a modified theory of general relativity based on Chern-Simons theory. This Chern-Simons general relativity has applications in gravitational wave physics, cosmology and astrophysics.
Dr. Alexander also explores interconnections between music, physics, mathematics, and technology though recordings, performance, teaching and public lectures. He has performed and collaborated with Will Calhoun, Brian Eno, Marc Cary, Vernon Reid, Ronnie Burrage, and Jaron Lanier on these intersections.
Dr. Alexander is the author of two books, The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe and Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics. In The Jazz of Physics, he revisits the ancient interconnection between music and the evolution of astrophysics and the laws of motion. He explores new ways music, in particular jazz, mirrors modern physics, such as quantum mechanics, general relativity and the physics of the early universe. He also discusses ways that innovations in physics have been and can be inspired from “improvisational logic” exemplified in jazz performance and practice. Fear of a Black Universe is an important guide to science and society, arguing that physics must embrace the excluded, listen to the unheard, and be unafraid of being wrong. Alexander shows that great physics requires us to think outside the mainstream—to improvise and rely on intuition. Alexander explores some of physics’ greatest mysteries, from what happened before the big bang to how the universe makes consciousness possible. Drawing on his experience as a Black physicist, he makes a powerful case for diversifying our scientific communities.
A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Alexander grew up in the Bronx, New York.
Photo by Heather Goodell
Dr. David Breeden, Humanist Distinguished Service Award
Rev. Dr. David Breeden is Senior Minister at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis (FUS). As a congregational humanist community, FUS fosters a free search for knowledge and meaning, strives for justice, and serves each other, the Twin Cities, and beyond.
Dr. Breeden was born on a family farm in southern Illinois. Most of his childhood was spent on the road, with his parents moving from job to job in the South. Farming, growing up in mobile home parks, and attending Pentecostal congregations deeply informs his sense of justice and his belief in the inherent worth and dignity of each person.
Dr. Breeden has an MFA from The Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa, a Ph.D. from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, with additional study at Breadloaf and in writing and Buddhism at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He also has a Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.
He is a published poet and author. He is committed to asserting the historic role of humanism within the Unitarian Universalist tradition and getting the good news of humanism out to the world. His many books are available online. His podcasts and videos are available on the FUS website and the Din of Conversation.
He is Chair of the Education Committee of the American Humanist Association.