Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Facts and the SciSchmooze

from the desk of Herb Masters

Hello Reasonable and Science Accepting Folks,

Is it still 2020?  Is this the 42nd of December?  It has been a rough start to the new year that everybody was so hopeful about. 

Here at the SciSchmooze we focus on science, reason, and critical thinking.  Many people are struggling with what happened last week in Washington DC.  I think we have been watching a corollary of what happened for years and denying the importance of it.  The “freedom” to deny facts has morphed into something really crazy.  Many people have been able to deny facts and let that affect other people’s lives to the detriment of us all. 

Consider our own home, Earth.  Over 2000 years ago Pythagoras and Aristotle figured out that the earth must be round. Eratosthenes even came up with a reasonable estimate of the circumference of the earth!  That was science using the best information and data at the time.  It’s too bad that Columbus hadn’t read about Eratosthenes, it might have helped.  While Galileo is well known for going against the common beliefs that everything went around the earth, Copernicus published a book about this and had been dead for 21 years before Galileo was born.  Galileo thought about something that was incredibly revolutionary.  Galileo is believed to have dropped a cannonball and a musket ball from the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Until then it was “known” that heavy things fell faster than light things.  Most of us probably didn’t hear about this until David Scott demonstrated it.

So here we are in 2021 caught between a pandemic and a president that can deny anything without concerning himself about the consequences.  I think we need to embrace truth is one of the best statements relative to where we are now.  (Don’t be offended by the title of Stupid)  How much risk do we take walking to the store or driving?  There have been so many challenges to what science explains or predicts it is crazy.  Science grows, improves, evolves, and develops over time.  How about a nice tall glass of iced phlogiston?  Humans have been having a really bad year. You might think science and science based medicine have brought us to the brink of success in getting past this pandemic.  This is largely true for us here in the SF Bay Area, but if enough people don’t follow the science as we understand it, we are destined to struggle against what we could be defeating.  That’s not enough though.  We need to make sure that entire countries and continents that are not as wealthy as us also receive the benefit of our science and technology. 

Here are two articles that have an audio version with them.  How Science Beat the Virus by Ed Yong and The Great Vaccinator by Radiolab.  Listen to them.  Here are some more articles I think are worth your time…     The Safest Medical Procedure We Have. Make Your Wager Wisely,   The Idiot’s Guide To Viral Mutation 

Now that we are in a new decade by both definitions (except…  see opening paragraph) things are starting to warm up on the calendar.  Here’s a couple of good on topic prospects for the coming week.  Check out Grey Matters: What the History of Vaccines Can Tell Us About the Future this Wednesday and After Dark Online: Vaccines on Thursday.  You should also consider The Continuing Relevance of America’s Eugenic Legacy on Thursday, you might be surprised. 

Tuesday is the first day of class with Professor Fraknoi, don’t be late.  Aliens in Outer Space: The Science & the Fiction – A Short Course  There’s still time to register.  Be sure to make the call instead of registering on line.  I’m not known for punctuality but I’ll be on time this time!

You might want to check out A New Wave of Vibrant Science Programs and the Encyclopedia of things considered harmful.

So what do we all need to do?  When you see something false, stupid, dangerous, or otherwise needing some redirection, you need to speak up.  Sometimes it might be hard.  Sometimes it might not be the right time or place.  Sometimes you have to find another way.  Oh yeah, did I mention how Global warming scaremongering causes so much misinformation.  

Good luck science, we’re all going to need it.
herb masters

“When a thing is said to be not worth refuting you may be sure that either it is flagrantly stupid—in which case all comment is superfluous—or it is something formidable, the very crux of the problem.”  — Miguel de Unamuno

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