Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Got Good Science? SciSchmooze

from the desk of Herb Masters

Greetings People of the Science Persuasion,

What do you learn at a science museum?  Science?  I always thought that was it.  At least since before the current millennium I have also thought that we need more education about what incorrect, wrong, or “bad” science is.  My concern has only grown since then as it seems like more people don’t seem to get itThe Science Schmooze is about promoting science, reason, and critical thinking by letting you know where you can go to learn these things.  In the last few years I have become more and more concerned about the lack of information about how to discern what is reliable and what is not and it’s getting harder to tell.  It seems that science museums have shied away from confronting the opposite of “good” science and helping people learn how to recognize these.  There is a lot out on the web trying to help us figure it out.

Recently I have become more concerned that we don’t teach what good science is and how to recognize it when you are looking at something that pretends to be true.  I think most museums fail here.  This week one museum is taking on the topic.  The explOratorium After Dark: Matters of Fact program is going to do this.  It is rare for a museum to do this and I encourage you to support them on this one!  (Of course, I am a strong supporter of the explO!)  Here are two talks that will be great to catch… “Why Do People Reject Good Science?” featuring Eugenie Scott and “Disinformation: The Threat We Are Facing is Bigger Than Just “Fake News” featuring Rachel Thomas.  I encourage you to talk to the folks at any science museum and leave suggestions that they need to start teaching how to understand and recognize good vs. bad science.  Needless to say I find it disheartening that some things just won’t go away and may even gain acceptance again!

Here are a few presentations that David and I think you should really consider this week. 
Monday   Celebrating 20 years with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory
Tuesday   Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? Effects of Climate Change on Bay Area Wildlife
Wednesday   Science in a Fact-Free World
Thursday   After Dark: Matters of Fact

I hope that you weren’t too inconvenienced by the loss of electricity in the last week or so.  I had an interesting experience going home to my dark house.  It reminded me a bit of the eclipse a couple of years ago.  Maybe you noticed it as well.  Did you notice the sounds?  It was unusually quiet and calm.  Even the animals seemed to be effected by it.  It did make for an interesting 2 nights at home. 

The fires that continue to burn throughout the state are a sobering reminder that nature still holds a major influence in our lives.  I personally think they are only part of a bigger problem we are coming up against in our society.  For too long we have, as a community, culture, society, state, or nation chosen to defer the costs, or shift them somewhere else, of being one of those groupings that we all live in.  We have let short term savings and profits for a few, take precedence over long term planning for the inevitable.  We will see this in many other areas of our lives in the coming years.  We talk about our failing infrastructure, we talk about not funding education adequately, we talk about climate change, we talk about not funding science and we talk about science helping us avoid the consequences with technical fixes!  The sooner we all step back, take a breath, and listen and work with those we think are wrong because they simply disagree with us or work with a different set of “facts” the quicker, and less painful, the solutions will become.  We will all have to change how we live and use our resources.  Science will help immensely with this but we still have to make a lot of changes.  We’ll all do better when we allow everyone to help solve the problem…  Female scientists are up against a lot of unconscious bias.  It’s Time These Ancient Women Scientists Get Their Due 

So aside from the end of daylight savings time, which I’m too late to remind you about…   Tuesday is the 2019 County Administered Elections   Have you voted?  This is something I feel very strongly about.  There’s still time to cast your ballot.  Some counties have gone to great lengths to help you vote.  Even if it is a local election about something you don’t care about or aren’t well informed about, you really should vote.  You can find out a lot about your status and what to do here…  

They walk amongst us!

I do wonder how many actually read this far!

Have a great week learning real science.
herb masters

“How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.”  Isaac Asimov “Prometheus,” The Roving Mind (1983)

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