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New! Boston Skeptics Slack Chat Room We're taking Boston Skeptics to the next level by introducing a Slack chat room for Boston Skeptics to keep and touch, share ideas, and be skeptical in near-real time with each other! Don't have...

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New! Boston Skeptics Slack Chat Room We're taking Boston Skeptics to the next level by introducing a Slack chat room for Boston Skeptics to keep and touch, share ideas, and be skeptical in near-real time with each other! Don't have...

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Boston Skeptics in the Theater & Pub | Bill Nye: Science... Come join the Boston Skeptics at the Brattle Theatre on December 3, where we’ll be attending a screening of a new film about Bill Nye, aptly named “Bill Nye: Science Guy.” We’ll go somewhere nearby...

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October 2017 Organizational Meeting Updates Thanks again to everyone who attended our October 2017 organizational meeting. There were a few items we had drafted and captured more ideas around that we would love to open up for comment and feedback...

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October 2017 Organizational Meeting Updates

Posted on : Nov-19-2017 | By : Justin | In : Blog Post


Thanks again to everyone who attended our October 2017 organizational meeting. There were a few items we had drafted and captured more ideas around that we would love to open up for comment and feedback from folks who weren’t able to attend. Specifically, we started drafting a charter, roles & responsibilities document, and a brainstorm of topics/activities of interests.

Please take a look at them below and let us know what you think via comments in each Google Doc! For roles & responsibilities, we’re more than happy to have folks volunteer to take on different ones if they’re interested :)

Boston Skeptics Organizational Meeting

Posted on : Oct-22-2017 | By : Justin | In : Blog Post


When: Monday, October 30 @ 7 PM

Where: Cambridge Public Library Community Room

RSVP here

Attention Boston Skeptics members, old and new! We’re holding an organizational meeting for all of us to regroup and brainstorm ideas for the future of Boston Skeptics. This meeting is open to anyone who is interested in Boston Skeptics, whether or not you’ve been to past meetups. Here’s draft the agenda for the meeting, but bring your ideas for events and locations!

We’ll be meeting at the Cambridge Public Library Community Room, which is located on the library’s L2 second floor underground (as shown below). The Cambridge Public Library is a ~9 minute walk from the Harvard Square T station.

Since we’re allowed to have refreshments in the Community Room, we’re encouraging anyone who attends to bring along a snack or (non-alcoholic) drink to share (anything Halloween-themed is a plus!).

Cambridge Public Library Community Room map

Cambridge Public Library Community Room map



Food EvolutionFilm Screening and Panel Discussion

Posted on : Sep-07-2017 | By : Dave Thomas | In : Event, movie



Food Evolution is a new documentary film about the science of, and controversies around, genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The film is narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and follows scientists and opponents of GMOs as they confront policy issues and each other. Farmers explain their experiences with the technology, and with lack of technology. 

With only 37% of U.S. adults believing GMOs are safe compared to 88% of scientists, there is clearly a misinformation problem. But who is misinformed and why? [Pew Survey]. Food Evolution seeks to explore this topic by challenging popular beliefs about GMOs, and asking viewers to think about how they evaluate the information and the sources they rely on.

This is the first Boston-area theater viewing opportunity. A post-film discussion panel, moderated by Christopher Lydon of WBUR’s Open Source program, will allow attendees to further discuss the issues of science, the role of filmmaking and media in shaping beliefs, and more, with local scientists and food activists.
Tickets: $14 general / $10 Coolidge members. 

They can be pre-ordered online or purchased in advance at the box office. http://www.coolidge.org/films/food-evolution 

This Food Evolution screening and discussion panel is co-sponsored by MIT Technology Review, Boston Skeptics, The Long Now Boston group, and the Coolidge Corner Theater

SitP: Dr. Clay Jones on Folklore in Modern Pediatric Medicine

Posted on : Jul-23-2017 | By : Justin | In : Blog Post


Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician practicing at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, MA, and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine (SBM) blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students.

Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones can be found on Twitter as @skepticpedi and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with SBM contributor Grant Ritchey.

Come join us from 7-9pm on Monday, August 21st at the Sunset Cantina at 916 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 as Dr. Jones presents his speech from the 2017 Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism about the role of ancient folklore in modern beliefs about health and medicine, especially in pediatrics.

How to RSVP

On Facebook


On Meetup


Gauging interest in “Food Evolution” screening in Boston area

Posted on : Jul-15-2017 | By : Justin | In : Blog Post


Food Evolution is a new documentary that explores the science around GMOs as well as the public debate/perception about them. Boston Skeptics is looking to setup a screening of the film in the Boston area (Cambridge/Somerville/Boston), but we need at least 50 people with confirmed attendance to do so.

If you’re interested, please fill out this survey so we can get a rough headcount of people who would like attend (also share with anyone you think would also be interested!):


SitP: Heina Dadabhoy from Islam to Atheism.

Posted on : Jan-14-2016 | By : John | In : Event, local, Skeptics in the Pub

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Heina Dadabhoy

A ninja warrior welcomes guests to Convergence/Skepchickcon

Boston Skeptics welcomes our January guest speaker, atheist feminist secular humanist (and many other positive adjectives) blogger Heina Dadabhoy.

Heina will be speaking about her path from Islam to atheism. She is currently writing a book called A Skeptic’s Guide to Islam, which will be published in March and is available for preorder on Amazon.

Book Cover

A Skeptic’s Guide to Islam

Location: We will be meeting at 7PM on Monday, January 25, 2016 on the third floor of The Hong Kong Restaurant, 1238 Mass Ave in Harvard Square, Cambridge. Please come a little early if possible to order dinner, a snack or drinks and chat with your fellow Skeptics.

RSVP if that’s your thing on our Facebook event page. (It’s not required, but does give us some idea how many people are planning to attend.)

Photo courtesy Jamie Bernstein.

Book Club: “The Emperor of All Maladies” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Posted on : Jul-17-2015 | By : John | In : Book Club

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The Emperor of All Maladies

The Emperor of All Maladies

This month’s book is The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist at the CU/NYU Presbytarian Hospital and a wonderful writer. He is also assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University A former Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford (where he received a PhD studying cancer-causing viruses) and from Harvard Medical School.[*]

This is quite a long and deep book, as it must be for such a vast subject. Cancer is not one disease, but hundreds of related diseases, with disparate causes, and the story of how it afflicts humanity and the long search for prevention, treatment and cures requires in depth discussion. Fortunately, we’ve had two months to read it, but if you’re just starting it now, you’re really going to have to cram for the examdiscussion! Still more fortunately, Dr. Mukherjee is a wonderful writer, able to explain complicated scientific concepts with great facility, explore history without getting bogged down in tedious lists of names and dates, and always keeping his deep sympathy for the doctors and researchers struggling to treat a disease that was once invariably fatal, and most especially their and his patients and their families.

SitP: Larry Gilbertson on GMOs and Biotech

Posted on : Jun-04-2015 | By : John | In : Skeptics in the Pub

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a field of growing grain

Feeding the world

The population of the earth will exceed 9 billion people by 2050. Arable land is decreasing, dietary preferences are shifting in the emerging economies of the world, and climate change will present further challenges to food production. Meeting the needs of the growing, changing planet will require new approaches and technologies. Biotechnology is an important approach to improve agricultural productivity that, combined with other practices, has the potential to solve some of these challenges. The commercialization of genetically modified plants began in the mid-1990s with launch of herbicide tolerant and insect protected crops, which were widely adopted by farmers in the US and other countries. More varieties with new and improved traits have been released since then, with a robust pipeline for the future.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Not so fast, say some. There is currently an ongoing, robust debate involving many sectors of society, include skeptics, over how agriculture and food production should work, the role of new and emerging technologies, including the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and the role of multi-national corporations in agriculture.

Dr. Gilbertson in his lab

Dr. Larry Gilbertson

At this meeting of the Boston Skeptics, Dr. Larry Gilbertson will talk about the science of GMOs and the research at Monsanto Company. He will also answer questions collected from skeptics via social media, facilitated by Mary Mangan, a member of Boston Skeptics, as well as from the audience in the room.

Dr. Gilbertson is a Monsanto scientist in the company’s Biotechnology organization. He fell in love with basic research while taking biology courses as a pre-med major, and quickly changed plans to attend graduate school instead. He became so infatuated with lab work that he courted his girlfriend (now wife) with heart shaped pink and white Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) designs in petri plates.

Dr. Gilbertson joined Monsanto in 1995 as a post-doctoral researcher out of curiosity (and a bit of skepticism) about industrial career paths, and was won over within a week by the shared passion for science that he saw among his colleagues. He has worked on and led a variety of teams performing original research in plant transformation, gene expression, vector technology, and insect control, leading to 26 patents and breakthroughs that have enabled the advancement of the Biotechnology pipeline. He currently leads a Monsanto protein engineering team in Cambridge MA.

Dr. Gilbertson has been a Monsanto Science Fellow since 2004, and was recently recognized with the 2014 Monsanto Science and Technology Career Award.

Dr. Gilbertson is from the heart of the corn belt, Iowa, but rarely came close to corn plants until he joined Monsanto. He received a B.S degree in Biology from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Oregon. He has taught graduate courses plant biology and genomics at the University of Missouri – St. Louis and at Washington University in St. Louis.

Location: We will be meeting at 7PM on Monday, June 22, 2015 in the third floor of The Hong Kong Restaurant, 1238 Mass Ave in Harvard Square, Cambridge.

RSVP or leave questions for Dr. Gilbertson on our Facebook event page. You can also leave questions for Dr. Gilbertson on our Meetup page, at reddit/r/skeptic, or on the SGU forums, or tweet them to Mary (@mem_somerville).

SitP: David Ropeik and the Risk Perception Gap

Posted on : May-20-2015 | By : John | In : Blog Post, Event, Skeptics in the Pub

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Update! Thanks to Andrea and Francois, we now have a video of David Ropeik’s talk available on our Vimeo channel.

This month's speaker, Davic Ropeik

David Ropeik will be speaking on the gap between risk and risk perception

Our guest this month is David Ropeik, a writer, teacher, investigative journalist and consultant. Formerly a reporter for WCVB-TV, Channel 5 in Boston, he has taught journalism and the psychology of risk perception, communication and management for many years.

Mr. Ropeik is an Instructor at Harvard University, author, and consultant on the psychology of risk perception, risk communication, and risk management. He is author of How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match The Facts and co-author of RISK: A Practical Guide for Deciding What’s Really Safe and What’s Really Dangerous in the World Around You.

He is a widely cited expert on risk perception in the general press and he blogs for BigThink.com, Psychology Today, Nature, Scientific American, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, and The Huffington Post.

Mr. Ropeik was a television reporter in Boston from 1978 – 2000, where he twice won the DuPont Columbia Award, often referred to as the Pulitzer Prize of broadcast journalism, along many other awards. He wrote a science column for The Boston Globe 1998-2000. He was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT 1994-95.

He is creator and director of the program “Improving Media Coverage of Risk”, a training program for journalists.

He has taught journalism at Boston University, Tufts University, MIT, and Northwestern University.

Risk perception is a topic close to many skeptics, as we see our friends, neighbors, families and, despite our best intentions, ourselves, make poor self-destructive choices about vaccinations, health care, the environment, diet, consumer purchases, politics and many other avenues of life. David Ropeik has written and talked extensively on how to communicate an accurate assessment of risk to people, helping them better understand why their instincts and fears and doubts might be doing them more harm than good.


Why we worry too much about some things, not enough about others, the danger that poses, and what we can do about it.

As scientifically as many risks have been studied, so have the cognitive processes of risk perception. Research has revealed that risk perception is a fascinating, complex, and ultimately subjective system influenced more by instinct and feeling than intellect and fact. As a result it produces perceptions that sometimes fly in the face of the evidence and lead to judgments and behaviors that may feel right, but actually create risks all by themselves.

This presentation will summarize how subjective risk perception works and why the Risk Perception Gap occurs, which is the first step toward minimizing the risks our risk MISperceptions can cause.

New Location: We will be meeting at 7PM on Monday, May 25, 2015 in the third floor of The Hong Kong Restaurant, 1238 Mass Ave in Harvard Square, Cambridge. RSVP on our Facebook event page. This is our first meeting at the Hong Kong, so it is important that people register in advance so the restaurant will know what to expect and will have adequate staffing. Also, it would be good to arrive a little early if you possibly can to allow time for ordering dinner and/or drinks before the talk begins.

Note: links to Amazon are for informational purposes only. Please feel free to patronize your local library or bricks-and-mortar book store!

Book Club: “Bright-sided” by Barbara Ehrenreich

Posted on : May-06-2015 | By : John | In : Book Club

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book cover

Our next book

Our book for May is Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich.

The first chapter describes Ehrenreich’s experience with breast cancer and all the useless, belittling advice she received from well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) people about how she could overcome it with a positive attitude and strength of character. Implicit in this advice is an enormous dose of victim-blaming. It’s her fault if she has cancer because she wasn’t positive enough, and if she doesn’t get on the program (of magical thinking with no, zero, nada, zip evidence of efficacy), it will be her fault if she doesn’t recover. This sounds to me like a perfect Republican health care plan: blame the victims and quickly get rid of all those annoying, expensive sick people. But that’s just me…

The second chapter describes her visit to a national convention of motivational speakers. Reminiscent of a Jon Ronson exploration, she finds the ultimate goal of becoming a motivational speaker is to motivate our people to become motivational speakers in some gigantic multilevel marketing scheme. Ever since the dawn of the self-help and positive thinking movements (which are deeply intertwined) in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), other people “are there only to nourish, praise and affirm”. (Sounds like a recipe for sociopathy, or at very least, libertarianism.) The whole edifice is built on a foundation of pseudoscientific principles, such as “The Law of Attraction”, pre-scientific understandings of magnets and gravity, and profound misunderstanding of simple oscillators (“vibrations”), and quantum. Its crowning achievements are The Secret and other forms of magical thinking.

If the rest of the book is as interesting (if disheartening) and as readable as the first two chapters, it will be well worth reading and discussing.

Please join us to discuss this book on Saturday, May 16 at 3 PM in our usual meeting place, Harvard’s Northwest Science Building, 52 Oxford Street, Cambridge. Bring your appetite and, if you wish, a snack to share. Also optional, you can RSVP on our Facebook event page. Remember, the first gratuitous Star Trek reference always receives a complimentary phaser blast. (Warning: I did remember to put new batteries in my phaser.)

Mary will be leading an online discussion of the book the next day (May 17) at the Skepchick Book Club. Drop by and make all those insightful comments you forgot to make at the meeting, or if you live too far away to attend in person. (But it’s much more fun to be here!)