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SitP: Heina Dadabhoy from Islam to Atheism. [caption id="attachment_2139" align="alignright" width="239"] A ninja warrior welcomes guests to Convergence/Skepchickcon[/caption]Boston Skeptics welcomes our January guest speaker, atheist feminist secular...

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Book Club: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha... [caption id="attachment_2131" align="alignright" width="197"] The Emperor of All Maladies[/caption]This month's book is The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist...

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SitP: David Ropeik and the Risk Perception Gap Update! Thanks to Andrea and Francois, we now have a video of David Ropeik's talk available on our

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SitP: Larry Gilbertson on GMOs and Biotech [caption id="attachment_2117" align="alignright" width="300"] Feeding the world[/caption]The population of the earth will exceed 9 billion people by 2050. Arable land is decreasing, dietary preferences...

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Amanda Marcotte Discussion Thread

Posted on : 27-04-2010 | By : Joshua | In : Blog Post

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So we mostly use this site for announcements, but as an experiment I’d like to try getting a discussion going about last night’s Amanda Marcotte event. Hopefully, it’s something that people like and that we can do for future events as well.

Some topics to kick off the discussion:

  • Amanda argued that science has become a partisan issue, whether scientists and skeptics like it or not. Agree or disagree?
  • Which aspects of the Democratic/liberal platform do you think could most benefit from the active input of skeptics and scientists? Which will be problematic?
  • How do you think Amanda’s assertion that “fighting not to lose” is counterproductive applies to some of the internal debates in the skeptical community?
  • Amanda had a unique response to #boobquake, basically pointing out that making fun of Islam in a predominantly Christian society doesn’t accomplish much, since most people in the West are already skeptical of Islamic religious claims. How would we redesign that event or other similar events (e.g., “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day“) to be less Othering toward Muslims and more targeted toward the flavour of religious fundamentalists who have prominence in this country?

Feel free to discuss anything else about last night’s event, as well. Also, here’s a related question that’s more for my personal curiosity than a discussion topic. Do any of you already participate in political activist groups locally? I mean that to include local branches of national organisations or entirely locally-oriented organisations or just informal gathering events like Drinking Liberally. I’d like to know how many of us are already participating in these things.

Boston Skeptics’ Book Club #6

Posted on : 25-04-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post

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Yesterday, the BSBC met at Borders to discuss Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish. We found that the book is a good read, both for scientists and non-scientists, because it provides a narrative to Evolution and Common Descent.

I appreciated the author’s use of humor and anecdotes to describe the origins of our bodies. Some interesting facts that I didn’t know before reading this book:

  • It took single-celled organisms 40 million years to start to group together and form “bodies” of cells, because even though cell-groupings provided an advantage in the predator-prey environment with regards to size, the Earth’s atmosphere did not have a lot of oxygen and life could not support multi-celled organisms (until the oxygen levels changed).
  • Two of the bones in our inner ear evolved from a common ancestor of reptiles, when the back of the reptile jaw started to shrink and move back towards the ear.
  • If you take a section of a mouse embryo responsible for eye development and you graft it onto a fruit fly embryo, the fly will grow an eye in that spot and it will be a fruit fly eye (although it won’t work exactly the same because not all the nerve endings line up).

This book also illustrates how un-intelligently designed the human body is, so it provides a good rebuttal to anyone who thinks that bananas evolved to point towards our faces

Our next book is The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by Julie Des Jardins. From the Amazon.com description:

Why are the fields of science and technology still considered to be predominantly male professions? The Madame Curie Complex moves beyond the most common explanations—limited access to professional training, lack of resources, exclusion from social networks of men—to give historical context and unexpected revelations about women’s contributions to the sciences. Exploring the lives of Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, Rosalyn Yalow, Barbara McClintock, Rachel Carson, and the women of the Manhattan Project, Julie Des Jardins considers their personal and professional stories in relation to their male counterparts—Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi—to demonstrate how the gendered culture of science molds the methods, structure, and experience of the work. With lively anecdotes and vivid detail, The Madame Curie Complex reveals how women scientists have often asked different questions, used different methods, come up with different explanations for phenomena in the natural world, and how they have forever transformed a scientist’s role.

Our next meeting is at 3 pm on Saturday, May 22, and the location is TBD. Since the weather is so nice, we’re thinking of having the meeting in a park, so if anyone has any park suggestions, please leave them in the comments! I’ll keep everyone posted, and if it looks like it’s going to rain, we’ll meet back in our new location at the Borders on Boylston Ave.

Reminder: Book Club Tomorrow!

Posted on : 23-04-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post

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Just a quick reminder that the Boston Skeptics’ Book Club is meeting tomorrow, Saturday, April 24 at 3 pm at the Borders bookstore on Boylston Ave, up in the cafe on the second floor.

Everyone is welcome, whether or not you’ve read Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish. Come to discuss evolutionary science and eat delicious muffins! Also, if you have any book suggestions, bring those and I’ll add them to the master list.

For anyone who can’t make it, if you really want to come but Saturdays are always bad for you, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to find a date that works for everyone.

See you tomorrow!

Boston Skeptics in the Theater 4/26: Amanda Marcotte!

Posted on : 15-04-2010 | By : Joshua | In : Event, Skeptics in the Pub

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If you were at Kimball Atwood’s March Skeptics in the Pub, then you already know this, but for the rest of you here’s the official notice.

For our April event, we’ll once again be back at the Brattle Theater for a very special presentation. Amanda Marcotte, blogger at Pandagon and author of It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments, will be reading from her new book Get Opinionated: A Progressive’s Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action). While she’s primarily known for her blogging on feminism and liberal politics, Amanda is also an outspoken skeptic who routinely covers anti-vax and climate change denialism as well as atheism, creationism, and other topics familiar to active skeptics. Her talk promises a unique perspective on the intersection of skepticism and politics.

In Get Opinionated: A Progressive’s Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action) (Seal Press/April 2010/$15.95), Amanda Marcotte — author, blogger, and liberal force to be reckoned with — lays out what you need to know to feel confident in your position on various social issues, and she gives advice on how to get politically involved once you know what you’re talking about. Marcotte is an outspoken advocate for the importance of science, rationality, and respect for the facts when it comes to politics.

In Get Opinionated, Marcotte argues passionately that political activists should prioritize evidence-based arguments, and for a progressive movement that puts real sound science at the center of its platform. She also urges readers to fight for a strong separation of church and state and against the trend of anti-intellectualism in American society.

For this event, Marcotte will focus on political issues closest to skeptical hearts: why science should matter in politics, the political aspects of the anti-vaccination movement, and the creation of scientific “controversies” in the media when they don’t exist in science.

Amanda’s reading will begin at 8pm on Monday, April 26th at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square. As with our Richard Wiseman event, admission will be charged either at the door or in advance through the Brattle’s website. In addition, she’ll have copies of her book available for purchase at the event. Tickets are not available for advance purchase just yet, but we’ll be sure to let everyone know as soon as they are.

Boston Skeptics’ Book Club #5

Posted on : 03-04-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post

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It’s a beautiful day out, my cats are sitting around melting away in the sunbeam, and I know you all have one thing on your mind: What happened at last week’s BSBC meeting?

Last Saturday, we met at the cafe in Borders to discuss Jonathan Goldstein’s Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!. I picked it because it was short, funny, and irreverent, and who doesn’t need a bit of a mental break every now and then? The stories of the book were all modern reinterpretations of stories from the Old Testament, and being raised a Lutheran I honestly wasn’t as familiar with the Old Testament mythology, so I enjoyed this book. Goldstein wrote most of the characters in such a way that I felt sympathy for the traditionally evil ones and got irked at the traditionally good ones. God is portrayed as a voice in one’s head, and most of the time he either asks rhetorical questions or is a tad passive-aggressive.

Next BSBC book is: Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin (credit goes to Liz for selecting it). Shubin is a paleontologist who describes how various parts of humans evolved. If you know anyone who says that there is no beauty in evolution, point them to this book. Shubin not only uses the fossil record to show readers how evolution works, but his writing style keeps the reader interested and you don’t have to be an expert to understand his concepts.

Our next meeting is at 3 p.m. at Borders on Saturday, April 24th, at 3 pm at the Borders bookstore on Boylston Ave in Boston (two blocks from the Arlington T-stop on the Green Line). The cafe section is up the escalators on the second floor and the back in the corner near the science books. Be there, or be somewhere else that isn’t nearly as fun!

In the future, since the weather is so great, we may plan a BSBC outing in the park instead. Keep your eyes open and if you have any suggestions, state them in the comments!