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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.

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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


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