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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Jun 4, 2018

LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms) have shown significant promise as tools to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction, and anxiety. But, according to bestselling writer Michael Pollan, these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life. Pollan—author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma—joined us to reveal firsthand insight on the landscape of the mind with wisdom from his new book 'How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.'

He shared his singular adventure into the experience of various altered states of consciousness, with a deep dive into the latest brain science and the thriving underground community of psychedelic therapists. Pollan met with drug researcher and community engagement worker Ingrid Walker to sift the historical record and separate the truth about these mysterious drugs from the myths that have surrounded them since the 1960s. Together Pollan and Walker outlined a history of the handful of psychedelic evangelists who catalyzed a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research. Join Pollan and Walker for a conversation on the science and psychology of the psychedelic. Engage with the puzzle of human consciousness and explore how, in a world that offers us both struggle and beauty, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives.

Michael Pollan is the author of seven previous books, including Cooked, Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, all of which were New York Times bestsellers. A longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine, he also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2010, TIME magazine named him one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.

Ingrid K. Walker is Associate professor of American Studies at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Her current research projects centers on engaging with drug users about their experiences, and developing a language to talk about drugs outside of the framework of medicalization or criminalization. Her writing has been published in the Journal of Popular Culture, NANO, publications of the Alcohol and Drug History Association, and others. She is the author of High: Drugs, Desire, and a Nation of Users.

Recorded live at Temple De Hirsch Sinai by Town Hall Seattle on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.