Thursday, December 14, 2006

Restoring Science Integrity in Washington Jan 13

Sat, Jan 13 2:00 - 3:30 pm - Mike Stebbins, Ph.D.
Bethesda Library, 7400 Arlington Rd., Bethesda, MD (flyer)
Dr. Stebbins will explain the mission of the newly formed Scientists and Engineers for America to promote the proper role of science and evidence-based debate and decision making in American government and our political process. He will discuss the ongoing issues with the politicizing of science in the Congress and the Administration and the challenges for the upcoming Congress.
Attendees get a Free NCAS 20th Anniversary "Prove It!" button

About the Speaker
Michael Stebbins is on the Board of Directors for Scientists and Engineers for
America. He is also the Director of Biology Policy for the Federation of
American Scientists and the author of Sex Drugs and DNA: Science's Taboos Confronted.
He has worked as a policy fellow at the National Human Genome Research
Institute and was a Legislative Fellow for US Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). He has worked as a journalist and is currently a science policy columnist for Seed magazine.

Stebbins is a Science Advisor to ScienCentral News, a television production
company that produces stories for the ABC and NBC affiliates. He has appeared as a
commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, ABC World News, BBC News and
numerous other print and broadcast outlets. Before coming to Washington, he was a
Senior Editor at Nature Genetics. He earned his B.S. in Biology from SUNY at Stony Brook and received his Ph.D. in genetics while working at Cold Spring Harbor

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Germ Frenzy - Hype and Reality

Sat, Dec 9, 2:30- 4:30 pm - Karl J. Roberts, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, PGCC
Tysons-Pimmit Library, Falls Church, VA near West Falls Church Metro (Map & Directions)
As a nation, we have become obsessed with germs and cleanliness, sometimes to the point of paranoia. (Flyer) Get a Free NCAS "Prove It!" button.

It seems that every day we are introduced to yet another invisible microbial threat that aims to eradicate us as a species. But how much do we really know about the microbial world around us?

While we can't escape the presence of germs, we all need to understand them and to realize that only the smallest fraction are the agents of disease and decay. In this talk, we will examine many of the roles microbes play in our world and how they influence our health and well being in both negative and positive ways.

We will also discuss the results of a large, comprehensive study on the ubiquity of germs in our environment, both at home and abroad, as well as role the media plays in disseminating information that lends itself more often to fear than understanding.

Bio: Dr. Karl J. Roberts
BS, Biology - Western Kentucky University (1983)
MSIS, Biology, Sociology, Education - University of Texas, Brownsville (1989)
Ph.D., Biology (Plant Ecology) - Illinois State University (1997)

Dr. Roberts began his career as a high school biology teacher (1985-1989) and has been a college and university instructor at University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas Southmost College, Lincoln College (Illinois), Illinois State University (Director of biology graduate instructors and Supervisor of undergraduate Biology Teachers) and a tenured professor of biology (microbiology) at Prince George's Community College(1994-present).

He has published research papers in plant ecology in refereed journals and have served as a consulting reviewer on several anatomy and microbiology texts. He has also served on grant review boards for the National Science Foundation, been a Grand Awards Judge for the International Science and Engineering Fair and as a Category Co-Chair for ISEF in 2006.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

How Framing Shapes Public Dialogue on Science Policy

According to Matthew Nisbet, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University, we are, by nature, cognitive misers ... We seek shortcuts for understanding massive amounts of information ... What’s interesting is that most strategic communication is not about changing people’s minds; rather it’s about activating people, redefining an issue in a way that makes their social identity or their predispositions relevant to a campaign ...

AAAS has posted a summary of an October 11th introductory talk on "Framing Science" by Matthew Nisbet with a link to his PowerPoint slides, bio and his blog.

See also:
Framing Science - Matthew Nisbet - Podcast by Point of Inquiry
Framing Science Blog - Matthew Nisbet

These citations are posted in the Bibliographies section of this web site under "Science".

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Objectivism & Skepticism: A Good Match?

Sat, Nov 11, 2:30- 4:30 pm - Dr. Ed Hudgins, Objectivist Center Executive Director
Tysons-Pimmit Library, Falls Church, VA near West Falls Church Metro (Map-Directions)
Free NCAS 20th AnniversaryThat's Nice, Prove It! button to all at this event. (Flyer)
In this talk, Dr. Hudgins will show how Objectivism is founded on rational principles. The Objectivist philosophy complements healthy Skepticism by offering those who value reason, science and freedom a complete and coherent morality of rational, responsible self-interested individualism -- from which overall societal good emerges inherently.

Hudgins will explain how self-interest is essential for a rational culture fit for humans at their best -- a society that avoids pre-modern mysticism and post-modern relativism and rejection of reality. He will also address misconceptions about the Objectivist philosophy, including the concern of some that Objectivism is a cult.

Dr. Hudgins is executive director of The Objectivist Center and its Atlas Society ( He was editor of Regulation magazine and director of regulatory studies at the Cato Institute, where he pushed books on trade, the Postal Service and space policy. He also worked for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and was director of the Center for International Economic Growth at the Heritage Foundation. Hudgins has a BA in government and politics from the University of Maryland , an MA in political theory and history from American University and a Ph.D. in political philosophy and international relations at Catholic University of America.

On November 11 please call NCAS at 301 587-3827 for a recorded message -- if there may be any last minute program changes due to inclement weather, etc.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Center For Inquiry Office of Public Policy DC Opens Nov 14

Celebrate the inaugural public event of the CFI Office of Public Policy!
Tuesday, November 14th, 2006. Multiple events from 11 am to 8 pm
Admission fees for some events. RSVP to: Toni Van Pelt at (202) 546-2330

Full and updated details at

Monday, August 28, 2006

Why Darwin Matters

Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design (event flyer)(book)
Talk & book signing
by Michael Shermer, PhD, Skeptics Society Executive Director
Thu, Oct 12, 7 pm Oakton High School 2900 Sutton Rd., Vienna, VA 22181
Discount book sales & signing 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm. The program will start at 7:30 pm.
Only 30 minutes from Rockville or Bethesda (map, custom directions & travel times)
At this event, Dr. Shermer will be presented the first NCAS Philip J. Klass Award for "outstanding contributions in promoting critical thinking and scientific understanding." FREE & PUBLIC. Co-sponsored with the Alliance for Science.

By Metro:
Oakton HS is 1/2 mile west of Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro on foot, taxi cab or bus 2W (Map).

By Car:
  • From I-495, the capital beltway, take I-66 West.
  • Exit I-66 at Nutley Street, which is the first set of exits outside the beltway.
  • The Nutley Street exit is a long service road with three separate exit points.
  • Go to the 3rd / last of these exits. The sign will say, "Metro Parking."
  • Take the "Metro Parking" exit to a traffic light at Country Creek Road.
  • Turn left onto Country Creek Road. Oakton High School is dead ahead.
  • Go to the 4-way stop at Sutton Road.
Dr. Shermer's full East Coast book tour itinerary.
Free NCAS 20th Anniversary That's Nice, Prove It! button to all at this event.

Noon Oct 12 Dr. Shermer at Cato Institute (event web page) FREE & PUBLIC
Dr. Shermer will give another free public book talk and signing for Why Darwin Matters at noon October 12 at the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW., Washington, D.C. Jonathan Wells, Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture, Discovery Institute and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, will provide comments in disagreement with Dr. Shermer. Reservations required. To make your reservation for the Cato Institute event by 12:00 noon, Wednesday, October 11, 2006 go to (bottom of page) or call (202) 789-5229 or e-mail . The Cato Institute requests business attire. NCAS is not a sponsor of this Cato Institute event.

Veritas Vioxx - Ripped From the Headlines

Looking at Junk Science & Junk Justice By Roberta Shaffer
New Time & Location: Sep 9, 2:30 pm at Tysons-Pimmit Library, Falls Church, VA.
Free NCAS 20th Anniversary memorabilia to all who attend this event.
Scientific literacy among judges who rule on the acceptance of expert testimony and the legitimacy of arguments about the nature and scope of science is crucial to ensuring reality-based interpretation of law.

The recent and continuing litigation regarding the prescription drug Vioxx highlights a variety of issues about scientific evidence, and particularly the role of medical research journals in evaluating scientific evidence. The multitude of Vioxx cases may lead to a "new truth" about how we can view and use scientific evidence with the looming concern that "junk science" always presents a real risk of resulting in "junk justice." Event flyer (pdf) - (Directions) - (MAP)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

So-called Intelligent Design is Not Science

Adapted from NCAS Skeptical Eye, Volume 18, Number 1, 2006

Ours is a pluralistic society, with wise constitutional protections against government-sponsored establishment of religion -- and for freedom of individual expression of belief.

It is, therefore, an egregiously evil breach of mutual repect, civility and the law for any one religious group (majority or miniority) to try to force its own religious views (mainstream or extreme) on the rest of society by trying to take control of government institutions such as public schools, which serve all Americans of all religious and non-religious beliefs.

Such behavior is just plain selfish.

Court Ruling Against Intelligent Design:
On December 20. 2005 the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued a ruling against the Dover Area School District policy of teaching so-called Intelligent Design in public school science classes and trying to discredit the scientific validity of evolution theory -- for religious reasons.

The court's Memorandum Opinion establishes legal precedent only in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. But it offers extensive fact finding and legal analysis (far beyond that quoted here) which will significantly inform any litigation elsewhere regarding any attempts to teach so-called Intelligent Design in public science classes.

This post provides two relatively short quotes from the court's full 139-page Memorandum Opinion, which fully and fairly characterize the ruling:
  • The court's summary conclusions as to fact and law.
  • The court's order.
Here is the court's summary conclusion (QUOTE):

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Boards ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwins theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Boards decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants actions.

Defendants actions in violation of Plaintiffs civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs attorneys services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs constitutional rights.

Here is the court's order (QUOTE):

1. A declaratory judgment is hereby issued in favor of Plaintiffs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sections 2201, 2202, and 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 such that Defendants ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Art. I, Section 3 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

2. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65, Defendants are permanently enjoined from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District.

3. Because Plaintiffs seek nominal damages, Plaintiffs shall file with the Court and serve on Defendants, their claim for damages and a verified statement of any fees and/or costs to which they claim entitlement. Defendants shall have the right to object to any such fees and costs to the extent provided in the applicable statutes and court rules.

Gary Stone, NCAS President

Monday, April 10, 2006

Skeptical Eye, Volume 18-1 2006

  • Mysterious Delusions: Witchcraft in Salem, Walter Rowe
  • The Amazing Meeting 4, hosted by James Randi's JREF
  • Michael Servetus—Death by Fire, Neil Inglis
  • Origin of Modern Day Occult, Richard Dengrove
  • So-called Intelligent Design is Not Science, Gary Stone
  • Prez Sez: NCAS Member Survey Results, Gary Stone