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SkeptiCal 2017

Special Report by Susan Gerbic

(Repinted with permission from  The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry)

Race, Pornography, Fake News, Eclipse, Brain Myths, Popular Assumptions, and the Magic of Science: those terms sum up the content of the eighth annual SkeptiCal conference held in the Shattuck Hotel in Berkeley, California, on Sunday June 11, 2017. SkeptiCal is a one-day skeptic conference brought to us by the Bay Area Skeptics and the Sacramento Area Skeptics.

Photo by Susan GerbicPhoto by Susan Gerbic

This is the first time being held at the Shattuck, but the event has floated between Berkeley and Oakland, California, over the last eight years,. This time because of the location, the organizers decided to only meet in one room with no breakout sessions running concurrently as it had in the past. I have attended all eight conferences as it is only a two-hour drive from my home in Salinas. Each one has its own flavor, this one seemed...

tighter and the lectures

A SkepTalk by Susan Gerbic on 11 May 2017GSoW

We should all applaud Susan Gerbic's impossible mission: to keep Wikipedia free from promotions of pseudoscience. Amazingly, she has been remarkably successful due to her methods. She recruits volunteers to help in this mission, puts them through 'boot camp' so they know what to do and how to do it, and tracks everything that is accomplished.

Her cadre of recruits living around the world is the Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, a.k.a. GSoW.

Because anybody can edit Wikipedia pages, making a change can...

be like poking a hole in a pond with your finger; those who have a financial or philosophical interest in disseminating falsehoods can whisk away your edits. There are, however, strategies to limit the forces of drivel.

The mere fact that you are reading this suggests you care about truth AND you have a few minutes out of the week when you could further this essential work. Join the GSoW and make a difference. Not only will you receive at-home training, you will receive ongoing mentoring. Send an email to GSoWTeam@gmail.com

A SkepTalk by Dr. Lauren Popov on 13 April 2017 Dr. Popov’s cheerful voice contrasted strangely with the horror of tuberculosis; indeed, she commented on that herself. However, her upbeat delivery and highly informative details kept me and the rest of the audience captivated throughout her presentation. She began by pointing out that:
  • Although the ebola virus outbreak that began in 2014 in West Africa killed about 9,000 people, a similar number of people die from tuberculosis every 44 hours
  • One-third of the world’s population is already infected
  • About 30,000 people become infected every day
  • Tuberculosis is strongly associated with poverty
  • It disperses through the air from coughing sufferers to infect others
  • Strains of tuberculosis continue to arise that are resistant to antibiotics
  • Most infected people remain asymptomatic for years
Dr. Popov hopes to understand how tuberculosis bacteria manage to avoid destruction by our disease-fighting macrophage cells. In fact, the bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, live and multiply within our macrophages. Conducting her research on tuberculosis is both difficult and dangerous.
  • Tuberculosis bacteria grow and replicate very slowly which can make the simplest experiment last many months
  • Inhal

(The following is unabashedly stolen from The Center For Inquiry.)

Susan GerbicSkeptiCal2016
June 27, 2016

The seventh SkeptiCal was held Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the Oakland, CA, Asian Cultural Center. I’ve attended all seven, each is unique and I always leave feeling that I’ve had a great experience. This is billed as the Northern California Science and Skepticism Conference, and as usual for this specific event, is heavy on the science. The speakers are varied enough to keep the audience interested as you will soon see. The hosts are the Bay Area Skeptics led by Eugenie Scott and Sacramento Area Skeptics, Frank Mosher.

I attend as many skeptic conferences as I can, and each one has its own “flavor” and style. SkeptiCal differs from others by being a no-frills event, but without you noticing that those frills are missing. Many of the speakers are working scientists talking about their...

During the holiday season, we usually start receiving messages about good cheer, Belinda CarlisleBelinda Carlislehope for the future, and volunteering to help those less fortunate. Even for those of us who are non-believers, it's a wonderful time of year.

Have you ever wondered what makes people "do good"?

The subject of Prosocial Behavior is something that social psychologists have a studied for many decades. And in the latest episode of the ShelShocked podcast, we talked about the research, told the story of Sempo Sugihara (aka, the Japanese Schindler), and even had an interview with pop star turned philanthropist, Belinda Carlisle, about her charity in Calcutta, India, "The Animal People Alliance."


...and our board president is giving a talk there!!!Eugenie Scott, PhD

Please welcome the Silicon Valley Skeptics to our extended community. They have a Meetup page HERE. If possible, attend the talk on December 4th by Dr. Eugenie Scott, board president of the Bay Area Skeptics.

What if 'Intelligent Design' Had Won? Reflecting on 10 Years Since Kitzmiller v. Dover

Ten years ago, the decision in Kitzmiller v Dover determined that

Intelligent Design was a form of creationism, and thus unconstitutional to advocate in public schools, but what if the decision had gone the other way? What would have been the legal, political, scientific, and educational fallout? Dr. Scott is president of the Bay Area Skeptics, and the former executive director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., which was part of the plaintiff's legal team.

When: 6:30PM Friday December 4

Where: Emoji Tech Talk Room, Google Mountain View Campus (NOT the Googleplex!), 1255 Pear Avenue, Mountain View (

New BAS Channel Announced

Ann Reid at SkeptiCal-15Ann Reid at SkeptiCal-15

Good news for SkeptiCal fans! (Of course you know SkeptiCal – it’s the northern California conference of science and critical thinking, sponsored by the Bay Area Skeptics and the Sacramento Skeptics. You knew that, didn’t you? Good).

BAS now has a Youtube channel and the first PLAYLIST presents...

the 2015 SkeptiCal speakers.

If you remember a particular speaker saying something that you’d like to hear again, or – and I say this with great sorrow – you missed SkeptiCal this year, you can relive the experience by watching the speakers on the new BAS channel.

We have talks by:

- John Ioannidis on Reproducible Research: True or False?
- Ann Reid: OMG Virus! (Flu, Ebola, Measles and when you really should be afraid)
- Natalie Batalha: Toward Other Earths, Other Life: NASA’s Kepler Mission
- Isil Arican: International

By Carol and Ben Baumgartner

Wally SampsonWally Sampson It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our admired and beloved friend, Wallace Ira Sampson, M.D., “Wally”, on May 25, 2015 at Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

A staunch supporter of science-based medicine and a founding member of Bay Area Skeptics, Dr. Sampson, an oncologist, became interested in pseudo-science in 1972 when he became aware of cancer patients turning to Laetrile for treatment. He became an expert on dissecting false medical claims such as homeopathy, acupuncture, chelation therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and traditional Chinese medicine. Wally was a prominent and highly respected defender of science in health care education and practice, and is considered a mentor by many well-known skeptics working to combat medical pseudoscience, including Harriet Hall, David Gorsky, and Steve Novella. His article “Why the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Should be Defunded”, written in 2003, is as relevant today as then (

Dear Fellow Skeptics:

I'm happy to announce that I've started a new podcast on science and skepticism called ShelShocked. My co-host for this endeavor is the lovely Amanda Devaus, of the Canberra Skeptics in Australia.

Each week, we'll bring you another one-hour program on a topic from science, skepticism, or a related topic. In our first episode, we discuss morality and bigotry, and even have a special interview with my friend Michael Shermer about his new book, "The Moral Arc."

Please CLICK HERE, and let us know if there's a topic you'd like us to cover in a future episode.

-- Sheldon

UPDATE: Due to job and other obligations, Amanda has left the podcst as co-host. She will check in from time to time to let us know what's going on in the skeptic community in Australia. In the meantime, I have found a new co-host in the form of psychologist (and Bay Area Skeptics member) Marilin Colón. Marilin has spoken at our SkepTalk events before, and is a valued member of the adjunct faculty at CSU East Bay, as well as Ohlone College.

Hey, all! The JREF announced yesterday the publication of a new critical thinking resource in the form of "Magic in the Classroom - Using Extraordinary Claims to Teach Critical Thinking," a FREE e-book.JREF eBookJREF eBook

It can be enjoyed by laypeople, but we're hoping it will also be picked up by educators and utilized in the classroom to encourage critical thinking. This book is the culmination of work by a dozen educators from numerous disciplines; I'm proud to say that three of the chapters are from me!

CLICK HERE to visit the download page. It's available in Kindle, iPad, and PDF.

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