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Risky Business: The Evolution of Dangerous Behavior

Friday, May 31, 2019
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm EST

“Because it’s there” was George Mallory’s famous explanation for why he risked (and lost) his life trying to become the first person to summit Everest. We don’t all want to climb Everest, but we all, to some degree, take risks. Why does this behavior survive natural selection? What’s going on in our brains when we put ourselves in danger? Is there a line between courageous and crazy? In search of answers, we bring together extreme risk takers and the scientists who study them. What can we learn from people who BASE jump from buildings, climb cliffs without ropes, or leap into danger to save a stranger? Join us for an exhilarating adventure—all from the safety of your seat.

The Big Ideas Series is supported in part by the John Templeton Foundation.


Bill WeirJournalist

Bill Weir is an award-winning broadcast journalist, anchor and special correspondent for CNN. With a focus on our connected planet, he created and hosted The Wonder List with Bill Weir.

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Chad LindseyTheater Artist

When he isn’t saving strangers from certain death, Chad Lindsey is an actor, director, and artist based in New York. He is the co-artistic director of Hook & Eye Theater, helms The Mark O’Donnell Theater at The Actors Fund Arts Center in downtown Brooklyn–a modern black-box theater, dance, film and rehearsal space. 

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Abigail MarshNeuroscientist

Abigail Marsh is an associate professor of psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science at Georgetown University. She received her PhD from Harvard University and conducted her post-doctoral research at the National Institute of Mental Health.

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Omer Mei-DanOrthopedic Surgeon, BASE Jumper

Dr. Omer Mei-Dan is an Orthopedic Sports and Trauma Surgeon. Originally from Israel, he has also trained and practiced medicine in Spain, New Zealand, and Australia, prior to establishing the Hip Preservation Service with the University of Colorado School of Medicine. 

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Cynthia ThomsonHigh-risk Sport Researcher

Cynthia Thomson completed her PhD in Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia. Her graduate research centered on gaining a better understanding of high-risk sport participation, a topic largely inspired by time spent between degrees living in the Canadian Rockies.

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David Sloan WilsonEvolutionary Biologist

David Sloan Wilson is one of the world’s foremost evolutionary thinkers and a gifted communicator about evolution to the general public. He is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University in New York and President of the Evolution Institute.

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