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Thursday
Nov012018

Massimo Pigliucci Book Launch: Nonsense on Stilts, How to Tell Science from Bunk

When: Sunday, November 18. 2018 @ 2:00 to 4:00 PM
Where: The Brooklyn Commons Cafe, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217

IMPORTANT: Please note time change. Start time has changed from 2 PM to 3 PM.

Come celebrate the second edition of Massimo Pigliucci's book, Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk.

From the dust jacket:

In this era of fake news and alternative facts, there is more bunk than ever. But why do people believe in it? And what causes them to embrace such pseudoscientific beliefs and practices? In this fully revised second edition, noted skeptic Massimo Pigliucci sets out to separate the fact from the fantasy in an entertaining exploration of the nature of science, the borderlands of fringe science, and—borrowing a famous phrase from philosopher Jeremy Bentham—the nonsense on stilts. Presenting case studies on a number of controversial topics, Pigliucci cuts through the ambiguity surrounding science to look more closely at how science is conducted, how it is disseminated, how it is interpreted, and what it means to our society. The result is in many ways a “taxonomy of bunk” that explores the intersection of science and culture at large.

“A tour of solid science, shaky science, and pseudoscience, this crash course in critical thinking by biologist and philosopher Pigliucci includes handy rules for evaluating the confused public discourse on climate change, evolution, and even UFOs.” (Discover)

“Pigliucci’s attack of high-stilted nonsense not only offers a great service in a world that is littered with irrational beliefs and pseudoscience, it is also an incisive and philosophically informed analysis of the nature of science and the pursuit of reliable knowledge. With books like [this] on the shelf, it is clear that there is more to skepticism than intellectual garbage disposal.” (Metascience)

The book is available for purchase here and here and copies will be available at the event.

Brooklyn Commons features a wide selection of coffee, food, beer and wine.

Event Links

Friday
Sep282018

Brian Regal and "The Secret History of the Jersey Devil"

When: Sunday, October 21. 2018 @ 2:00 to 4:00 PM
Where: The Brooklyn Commons Cafe, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Legend has it that in 1735, a witch named Mother Leeds gave birth to a horrifying monster―a deformed flying horse with glowing red eyes―that flew up the chimney of her New Jersey home and disappeared into the Pine Barrens. Ever since, this nightmarish beast has haunted those woods, presaging catastrophe and frightening innocent passersby―or so the story goes. In "The Secret History of the Jersey Devil," Brian Regal examines the genesis of this popular myth, which is also one of the oldest monster legends in the United States.


Happy Halloween!

Brian Regal teaches the history of Science, Technology and Medicine at Kean University, New Jersey. His area of focus is the history of evolutionary thought and its impact upon society, politics, and religion. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the stranger side of science history, including "Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology" (Palgrave, 2013). His current research is an examination of the various myths and beliefs about who "really discovered" America, tentatively titled "Waiting for Columbus."

Brooklyn Commons features a wide selection of coffee, food, beer and wine.

 

Event Links

Wednesday
Sep192018

Skepticamp NYC 2018

When: Saturday, December 8th, 2018 @ 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Where: The Brooklyn Commons Cafe, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217

REGISTER AT http://www.skepticampnyc.org/  

Admission is FREE of charge!

SkeptiCamp is like a science conference, except that its content is provided by the attendees themselves! Anyone can be a presenter, as long as your topic has something to do with science and/or skepticism.

It is based on the successful "unconference" model that originated with "BarCamp". (No, it has nothing to do with bars. The name has its own rich history, which you can read about on our Etymology page.) While BarCamp has primarily focused on software and technology, SkeptiCamp will focus on topics related to science, critical thinking, and other notions that appeal to a skeptical crowd.

Conventional conferences tend to follow a standard pattern of linear presentation, followed by Q&A. We hope the sessions and presentations given at SkeptiCamp NYC are more like lively discussions, than straight seminars. Perhaps even a few workshops will be sprinkled in. Presenters should try to welcome the bombardment of questions, after their initial introduction to the topic is made. Though, some may still choose to err on the side of convention.

SkeptiCamp is intended for adults and college students. Youth can also join us, if they'd like, as long as they have their parents' or guardians' permission.

You MUST register on the Skepticamp website. RSVPing on Meetup.com is not enough. Make FREE reservations at http://www.skepticampNYC.org

Anyone who can be in the New York City area, at the given date and time is invited to join and... perhaps even lead a session of your own!

 Event Links

Wednesday
Aug292018

Race and Genetics: Rob DeSalle on his book "Troublesome Science"

When: Saturday, September 15, 2018 @ 2:00 to 4:00 PM
Where: The Brooklyn Commons Cafe, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217

It's well established that all humans today, wherever they live, belong to one single species. Yet even many people who claim to abhor racism take for granted that human “races” have a biological reality.

Rob DeSalle will speak to us about his book "Troublesome Science:  The Misuse of Genetics and Genomics in Understanding Race," which aims to provide a forceful critique of how scientific tools have been misused to uphold misguided racial categorizations.


Rob DeSalle is a Curator at the American Museum of Natural History. He is affiliated with the AMNH Division of Invertebrate Zoology and the Division of Anthropology and works at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, where he leads a group of researchers working on molecular systematics, molecular evolution, population and conservation genetics, and evolutionary genomics of a wide array of life forms ranging from viruses, bacteria, corals, and plants, to all kinds of insects, reptiles, mammals and humans.

Brooklyn Commons features a wide selection of coffee, food, desserts, beer and wine.

Event Links

Monday
Aug062018

Your body is a mess: Nathan Lents on his book "Human Errors"

When: Sunday, August 19, 2018 @ 2:00 to 4:00 PM
Where: The Brooklyn Commons Cafe, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217

We humans like to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures, but if we are supposedly evolution’s greatest creation, why do we have such bad knees? Why do we catch head colds so often—two hundred times more often than a dog does? How come our wrists have so many useless bones? Why is the vast majority of our genetic code pointless? And are we really supposed to swallow and breathe through the same narrow tube? Surely there’s been some kind of mistake.

Through his book Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes, biology professor Nathan H. Lents explains how our evolutionary history is nothing if not a litany of mistakes, a big pile of compromises. But that's also a testament to our greatness -- humans have so many design flaws precisely because we are very, very good at getting around them.

Brooklyn Commons features a wide selection of coffee, food, desserts, beer, and wine.

Event Links

Tuesday
Jul172018

The NIH’s HerbList App: Helping or Hurting?

 

In June 2018, the National Institute of Health (NIH) launched an app available for download on iPhone and Android. The “HerbList” app aims to provide users with “information about the science of popular herbs and herbal supplements” and is published by the NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The Center conducts research into complementary and alternative medicine, which, not surprisingly, often shows no benefits.

HerbList has been downloaded about 1,000 times since its release last month, including by me. It’s a list of popular and widely available herbal supplements, and when an herb is selected, the user receives a short background about the plant and its proposed uses, a section describing whether the currently available science supports those claims, and some safety information.

 

www.nih.govTo the credit of the NIH, the first 10 supplements I’ve looked through, including Acai, Asian Ginseng, Butterbur, and Green Tea,  were reported as having insufficient evidence to warrant the health claims they advertise, and HerbList does provide potential drug interactions and links to primary studies of the supplements’ efficacy.

 

This makes HerbList something of a double-edged sword. It does not guarantee that the product listed on a bottle of supplements is actually in there, or is at the labeled dosage --it doesn't evaluate any specific manufacturer of supplements. Further, the very existence of HerbList and the fact that an NIH institute took the time to develop this app may lend credibility to a business already fraught with data manipulation, fabrication, and exaggeration.


But it may also prove to be a valuable resource for people who otherwise would have never examined their own beliefs about supplements. In the best case, it might avert harmful drug/supplement interaction, in the worst, it will be disingenuously used to support use of needless supplements.

 

By Yelena Bernadskya