Spring Mix – Hot Topics

This event is offered in-person and livestream
Tuesdays April 23 – May 14th, 1:30 – 3:30

Unlike any other time in history, we are inundated with information from many sources of media. And we are racing to catch up to what is reliable, dependable, and true, especially for topics that are important to us. This 4-part series will provide perspective on some challenging topics in the headlines today: artificial intelligence; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the medical use of cannabis; and disinformation and conspiracy theories.

You will feel more informed about these topics, and learn some critical thinking skills to help discern reliable information in future.

Four expert speakers will join us in person at Grace Church. The series will also be livestreamed and recorded.  Recordings will be available for a month following the end of the series.

Demystifying Artificial Intelligence: Exploring Its Impact on Our Lives

April 23: Ehsan Akhgari, Software Engineer and AI Researcher

ehsan skhgari

This presentation takes you on a journey through the world of AI, aiming to unravel its complexities and shed light on how it influences our daily lives. This presentation dives into how AI works and showcases its applications across various sectors like healthcare, transportation, and entertainment. You’ll discover the potential perks of AI, including improved efficiency, personalized experiences, and better accessibility. At the same time, we’ll address common concerns like privacy issues, job changes, and ethical dilemmas. By the end, you’ll walk away with a clearer understanding of AI’s role in our world, empowering you to navigate this rapidly evolving technology landscape with confidence.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

April 30: Dr. Brian Carwana                

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is one of the most divisive issues in our society. In this talk, we will endeavour to understand the background that has led to this conflict and how the history of each of these two peoples has fostered different perspectives and interpretations, sometimes of the exact same events. We hope this talk will seem fair, balanced and, moreover, help listeners understand each side’s perspective a little better.

An Evidence-based Perspective on Medical Cannabis

May 7: Dr. James MacKillop

Cannabis use for medical purposes is common in Canada, most commonly for pain, sleep, and mental health conditions. But large gaps in knowledge exist in terms of the public understanding of the evidence behind these common uses. Moreover, there are also gaps in knowledge around the potential risks and harms of cannabis, especially in vulnerable populations. This lecture will review fundamentals of the cannabis plant, the evidence supporting medical uses, and potential risks and harms.

Misinformation, Disinformation, Conspiracy Theories

May 14: Dr. Christopher DiCarlo

“Those who can make people believe absurdities, can make people commit atrocities.”      ― Voltaire

Unlike any other time in history, we are inundated with information from many sources of media. And we are racing to catch up to what is reliable, dependable, and true – all the while, feeling deep, emotional, attachments to our personal understanding of important issues while trying to avoid misinformation or worse, disinformation. The use of Critical Thinking skills, guided by patience and persistence, can help us better identify, understand, and call out false information in all its forms.

We now face a future of even far more advanced technologies which will be used harmfully to deliberately spread false information. With powerful Artificial Intelligence developments like Machine Learning and Large Language Models, the use of GPT-4 (Generative Pre-Trained Transformer – 4), DALL-E 2 Image Generations, and DeepFakevideo technologies, it is going to become increasingly difficult to identify and distinguish false information from facts. 

But fear not. As bleak as this picture seems to be painted, we can forearm ourselves with some of the most reliable sources of information available online. In this lecture, we will learn about how we can empower ourselves against the spread of false and misleading information.


April 23, 2024 - May 14, 2024


4 Tuesday Afternoons
1:30 pm - 3:30 pm




Grace United Church & Livestream


  • Dr. Christopher DiCarlo
    Dr. Christopher DiCarlo

    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 agency focusing on AI Risk and Governance.

    Dr. DiCarlo is also the Ethics Chair for the Canadian Mental Health Association and is also 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 and is a past Visiting Research Scholar at Harvard University in 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 Award and Canada’s Humanist of the Year.

    Dr. DiCarlo has been invited to speak at numerous national and international conferences and written many scholarly papers 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 2nd Edition to mark its 10th–year anniversary. His latest book: So You Think You Can Think? Tools for Intelligent Conversations and Getting Along was published by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers and was released in June of 2020. And his current book – to be released in 2024, is tentatively called: Building a God: Thinking Critically about the Ethics of AI.

    Dr. DiCarlo also 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.

  • Ehsan Akhgari
    Ehsan Akhgari

    Ehsan Akhgari, a seasoned software engineer with over 20 years of experience, is currently a researcher in Artificial Intelligence at Playground, where he focuses on developing cutting-edge image editing software. Outside of work, Ehsan enjoys exploring music, gardening, and various cultural activities. Throughout his career, Ehsan has remained dedicated to fostering innovation and sharing knowledge within the tech community.

  • Dr. Brian Carwana
    Dr. Brian Carwana

    Brian Carwana is the Executive Director of Encounter World Religions, a centre that promotes religious literacy and understanding. The centre’s premier program every year is its annual Discovery Week, where attendees learn about 11 religions through classes and site visits. Brian blogs on religions regularly at ReligionsGeek.com.

  • Dr. James MacKillop
    Dr. James MacKillop

    Dr. James MacKillop holds the Peter Boris Chair in Addictions Research and a Canada Research Chair in Translational Addiction Research. He directs both the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research and the DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Dr. MacKillop trained as a clinical psychologist at Binghamton University and Brown University, and has spent his career investigating drug addiction and medical cannabis. Dr. MacKillop has authored more than 400 peer-reviewed publications and other works, and has been recognized by awards from the Research Society on Alcoholism and the American Psychological Association. He is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.