He was the biggest force in late-1900s skepticism. Paul Kurtz was considered a legendary figure among American humanists, atheists, and skeptics alike. For 50 years, he worked to advance a secular view of life and of society. His influence and presence in the skeptical community shall be sorely missed. CLICK HERE to read a wonderful memorial biography of Paul Kurtz by Hemant Mehta (from The Friendly Atheist). And CLICK HERE to read the Center for Inquiry's obituary.
On the evening of Friday, October 12th, the Ohlone Psychology Club Speaker Series continued its three-year tradition of providing top-name speakers in science and skepticism by hosting renowned social psychologist Dr. Carol Tavris. Dr. Tavris’ talk was based upon her book “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” which she co-wrote with Elliot Aronson. The book focuses on cognitive dissonance, a psychological phenomenon in which we feel uncomfortable due to conflicting behaviors, opinions, thoughts, or beliefs. Coined by Leon Festinger, one of the true geniuses in the field of psychology, the influence of cognitive dissonance on our behavior is one of the most powerful, yet least recognized, phenomena. Festinger’s now-classic 1956 book, “When Prophecy Fails,” brought th
On September 12th, 2012, Bay Area Skeptics was delighted to be present for Professor Sheldon Helms’ presentation entitled Gay Conversion Therapy: You Make Me Sick. Sheldon’s presentation was particularly timely because on September 29th, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1172, which protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) minors from "reparative" therapies administered by mental health professionals aimed at altering sexual orientation or gender identities and expressions. Governor Brown was quoted as stating that such misguided an unscientific psychotherapy “will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery…This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide.” As overdue as this new law was, it will sadly and tragically not prevent amateur therapists with a religiously rigid orientation on what constitutes “acceptable” sexual expression and sexual identity from infl
Compliments to the San Francisco Chronicle for an article reviewing evidence that Vitamin C doesn't prevent colds, but may reduce symptoms. http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Vitamin-C-may-shorten-cold-not-stop... Back in the 1970s, largely on the word of Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, consuming massive dosages (up to 10 grams/day) of Vitamin C was promoted as being a preventive for the common cold. Although Pauling was a respected scientist in molecular biology, winning the Nobel for his research on chemical bonds, his research on the role of large quantities of nutrients as disease preventives or curatives was strongly criticized, and replications of his research were largely unsuccessful. A Wikipedia article presents many references on this topic, FYI, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Pauling#Molecular_medicine.2C_medical... . But kudos to the Chron for helping to get out the word. Alas, there have been many examples of more credulous repo
Your Nervous System Can Fool You I was recently asked to join the James Randi Educational Foundation's "Education Initiative," whose purpose is to promote the teaching of critical thinking and skepticism. As part of this effort, I will be writing articles geared toward teachers, offering them tips on how they can encourage reason and scientific literacy... Please CLICK HERE to read the first in my five-part series called "The Top 5 Lessons from Psychology for Critical Thinkers" published on the James Randi Educational Foundation's SWIFT web site. Titled "Your Nervous System Can Fool You," this article briefly provides some tips for teaching people not to trust their own personal experiences as valid evidence. It contains several links to web sites that can be used to demonstrate pareidolic effects, and references for helping people understand how they are created. Enjoy!
Bay Area Skeptics Advisor Dr. David Morrison, of NASA Ames, author of "Ask an Astrobiologist" blog, was interviewed on the September 23 "On the Media" program on National Public Media. For those of us who missed it, it is ARCHIVED HERE.
A physical anthropologist who believes Bigfoot is highly probable reviewed my talk sponsored by BAS and Ask a Scientist back in 2009. It is archived on Fora.tv. Needless to say, he disagrees with my interpretation. To view the Fora.tv film (linked in the article) and make up your own mind, CLICK HERE
Skeptic David Morrison earns big profile for 2012 information. CLICK HERE to read the article.
On Monday, July 9th, all five hosts of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe (SGU) podcast attended a meet-and-greet cosponsored by the Bay Area Skeptics and the Psychology Department at Ohlone College. Many people have asked me how on earth we were able to pull this off, so I thought I'd share the story. I was introduced to Evan Bernstein several years ago while attending "The Amaz!ng Meeting" in Las Vegas, NV. I had never heard of the SGU, and casually asked Evan what brought him to TAM. He replied, "Oh, I thought you knew. I'm Evan from the SGU." I said, "Oh? What's that?" He said, "The Skeptics Guide to the Universe." I said, "Okay. And what's the Skeptics Guide to the Universe?" Evan looked a bit taken aback and laughed, saying, "I'm sorry if I look surprised. It's just that I don't usually
The Bay Area Skeptic’s SkepTalk of 8 August 2012 attracted a packed house and delivered a riveting program that included a one-hour documentary movie followed by the Skype presence of the movie’s principal character, Matthew LaClair. The story begins when Matt LaClair, a student at a suburban New Jersey public high school, hears his history teacher insert Christian proselytizing into his lessons. LaClair believed the teacher was doing this in the other classes he taught and probably had been for years. LaClair also believed that if he voiced an objection [on the basis of respecting the separation of church and state] the teacher would still continue proselytizing in other classes. Matt decided to bring a tape recorder to class and recorded what the teacher had to say about Jesus. [Teacher on tape] “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.” LaClair and his parents released the tape to the media