The End of Enlightenment? 

A free, one-day conference to explore the role of science in the public debate and how science itself is shaped by societal forces

The USC Center for Economic and Social Research’s 10th anniversary conference

When: Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 8:30 am – 5:15 pm followed by a reception for attendees
Where: USC'S Town and Gown, 665 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90089


During the conference, speakers will investigate the quality of the scientific debate, with special attention to the social and behavioral sciences and the extent that it is hampered by ideology, prejudice, or political taboos. We will assess the importance of scientific findings in political debate and explore which factors facilitate or hamper an open fact-based discussion.

At least since the ancient Greeks, there has been tension between free speech and scientific pursuit on the one hand and societal acceptance on the other hand. This friction between new ideas and existing doctrine occurs equally within the scientific enterprise where academics who challenge the status quo risk being censored.

The conference explores the tension between free speech and the scientific pursuit both in public discourse and against the backdrop of academia’s conformist tendencies. Four keynote speakers will address each of these aspects. Each keynote address will be followed by a discussion led by a panel of experts.

Uniquely, after the presentations and discussions, we will present results of a survey of the general public that probes many of the issues discussed during the day.

Recordings of the conference can be viewed here. See full program


This conference is for scholars, students, civic and political leaders, and all who are concerned about the nature and quality of the scientific debate.

Speakers include:

  • Arie Kapteyn, Executive Director Center for Economic and Social Research, and Professor of Economics, University of Southern California
  • Amber D. Miller, Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair and 22nd Dean of the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University
  • C. Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Philosophy at The University of Utah
  • Dietram Scheufele, Taylor-Bascom Chair in Science Communication and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Gad Saad, Professor of Marketing and Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption (2008 -2018)
  • Jill Darling, Survey Director, Understanding America Study

See here for more information on the speakers.

Panelists include:

  • Joanne Yoong, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Research for Impact Pte Ltd
  • Néstor de Buen, Writer
  • Paul Smaldino, Associate Professor of Cognitive and Information Sciences, University of California, Merced
  • Ishwar Puri, Senior Vice President, Research and Innovation, University of Southern California 
  • Matthew Nisbet, Professor of Communication, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University
  • Norbert Schwarz, Provost Professor of Psychology and Marketing, University of Southern California

See here for more information on the panelists.

Breakfast, lunch, and refreshments will be provided.
Parking is available at the McCarthy Way Parking Structure (see map).
Parking structure address (to put into GPS): 699 USC McCarthy Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089. Parking is $20. Please note that the garage is cashless; credit cards are accepted.
The USC campus can easily be reached by train on the Expo Blue (E) Line. The E Line exit is Expo Park/USC which stops right across the street. Please see map.

Register here
When: Wednesday March 15th, 9am-5pm
Where: USC's Town and Gown venue, 665 Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90089.

Online, click here to register to attend our event virtually:

The event will also be streamed on Facebook live.