Happy 200th (posthumous) Birthday to Charles Darwin. He doesn't look a day over 190... This year marks the 200th year since Darwin was born, on February 12, 1809. Celebrating this date, known as Darwin Day, is celebrating science, skepticism and humanity; and most of all, our better understanding of the way the world works. This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the evolutionary biologist's seminal work, On the Origin of Species. To celebrate these two anniversaries, there are festivities throughout the world, and of course, across the Bay Area. The festivities have already begun, with a lecture by our own Dr Genie Scott at the University of California Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley. The event was extremely popular! On Sunday 8, 2009 the tireless Genie will be also be speaking at Evolutionpalooza!, a Darwin Day celebration to be held at San Francisco Main Branch Public Library. There will be other speakers, guests, games, drinks, and cake! On Darwin Day itself, there will be an informal lecture at the California Academy of Sciences
Janet Adams plead "no contest" to charges of fraud. BAS reported the self-described psychic's arrest in December, 2008. Adams originally plead not guilty, but prosecutors threatened to add fraud charges on behalf of two other victims, and Adams agreed to accept a jail term of up to six years and to make restitution to all three victims. The case filed against her involved an elderly woman who gave Adams $80,330 based on promises that it would keep the victim's husband from dying, and would avert harm to other people. According to the Oakland Tribune: A number of victims approached police after Adams' Dec. 18 arrest, but prosecutors could only press charges in cases with "intrinsic fraud," [San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve] Wagstaffe said. "When you get a quid pro quo ??? 'your husband will die if you don't give me money,' what she's saying is, 'I will prevent it from happening,' and that's the falsehood," Wagstaffe said. "She can't prevent the husband from dying in two weeks unless she has some powers we don't know about." If that was the case, "she probably wouldn't have pleaded no contest," Wagstaffe added. Robert Byers, Adams' attorney, took a less skeptic
"Wonderfest" is an annual Bay Area science festival featuring talks and discussions about science. Held in the fall on adjacent days at Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley, the 2008 Wonderfest was particularly well attended. For those of you who were unable to attend, you now can see three of the discussions online. Go to www.wonderfest.org to see Does Anything Happen at Random? A discussion between Persi Diaconis, Prof. of Statistics & Mathematics, Stanford and Daniel Fisher, Prof. of Applied Physics, Stanford Will Genetics Allow Us to Revive Extinct Species? A discussion between Ronald Davis, Prof. of Biochemistry & Genetics, Stanford and David Haussler, Prof. of Biomolecular Engineering, UC Santa Cruz Are Dreams Psychologically Significant? A discussion between William Dement, Prof. of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science, Stanford and Sharon Keenan, Founder, School of Sleep Medicine, Palo Alto
Couldn't make it to Tuesday's Ask a Scientist lecture on Bigfoot? Well, eventually you'll be able to watch it on fora.tv, but until then, here's a bit of blog coverage to tide you over: The Snitch (SF Weekly): Ask a Scientist: Sorry, Bigfoot Probably Doesn't Exist. But If He Did, He Would Be Taller Than a Bear Metousiosis: Science Cafe: Eugenie Scott — Bigfoot and Other Wild Men of the Forest There was also a negative post from someone who didn't actually attend, and it makes for a glorious game of Conservative Bingo: -San Francisco bashing -insulting a woman's appearance -confusing separation of church and state with anti-religiousness -assuming morality requires religion -invoking
BAS member and skeptical satirist, Paul DesOrmeaux, has published a new article, "The Evolution of Intelligent Design," in the Skeptical Briefs newsletter. He presents a concise, chronological, and arbitrary timeline that more or less accurately presents the history and ???facts??? behind the development of creationism, creation, science, intelligent design, and more importantly, scientific illiteracy. He claims that the article???s contents have been painstakingly researched, and for all intents and purposes, the information provided is ???hysterically??? correct. You be the judge. The article is available at cnyskeptics.org with permission from the Editor of Skeptical Briefs.
Senator Claiborne Pell passed away on New Year's day. The 90 year-old former Senator from Rhode Island is fondly remembered by the tens of millions of students who have been able to go to college thanks to the financial aid grants named in his honor. Skeptics have their own reason to mourn the six-term Senator. He earned the nickname "Senator Oddball" from Time magazine for his obsession with ESP. The Washington Post's obituary explains that he earned the moniker because of:
a 1987 incident when, fearing an extrasensory perception gap with the Soviets, he invited carnival-level spoon bender Uri Geller to Washington to demonstrate his skills. Sen. Pell also attended a symposium on UFO abductions.In addition, Pell hired a Senate staffer to investigate ESP.
During the 1990 campaign, the aide played speeches by Bush and other high officials on the topic of Iran backward. In doing so, Sen. Pell informed the secretary of defense, the word "Simone" had been discerned, and he described this as "a code word that would not be in the national interest to be known." "It sounds wacky but there may be some merit to it," Sen. Pell commented. He told an interviewer later that the "Simone" issue "had not been helpful in t
Janet Adams, a self-described psychic, was arrested for bilking an 85-year-old woman out of $80,330. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Adams told the victim "that her husband would die of a heart attack if she didn't immediately pay $13,000 for 'special prayers,' the prosecutor said." On subsequent visits, the purported psychic extracted more and more money from the elderly victim, until her (still-healthy) husband noticed the odd transactions. The Chronicle explains that:
Adams has victimized numerous women in San Mateo County in the past and was sent to state prison in 2004 for two years on a theft conviction, authorities said. At that time, Adams worked as a palm reader at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival.My crystal ball tells me that the victim, who visited Adams the first time "on a lark," has learned her lesson. Hopefully Adams will learn hers, too. The photograph of Adams is from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department,
We're on Facebook! We've started a Bay Area Skeptics page on Facebook so we can connect with more Bay Area skeptics, and you can interact with us. Joining our group is another way that you can find out about our upcoming events; our Skeptics in the Pub gatherings, our lectures, and other activities. It's also a great way to meet other skeptics, both local, and global. See you there!
San Francisco resident Lisa Marie Miller bilked a Santa Clara woman out of $108,000 and a sports car by giving her "spiritual cleanings", according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle (available here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/09/BA8H14KOHF.D... ). Lisa Miller apparently was carrying on the family business: her mother in law was recently convicted on similar charges, and a sister in law is under investigation for bilking a woman out of $36,000 in payment for a similar "psychic cleansing." She received two months in jail, five years probation, and is required to pay restitution. Oh -- and not to ever engage in fortune telling, spiritual advising, and the like. There is considerable commentary on story at the Chronicle's blog.