Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jan 12 Michael Shermer - The Mind of the Market

Saturday, January 12, 2 - 4 pm

Michael Shermer, Ph.D.

Discusses and signs
"The Mind of the Market"
Available for purchase at the event

National Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA (map)

Drawing on research from neuroeconomics, Shermer explores what brain scans reveal about bargaining, snap purchases, and how trust is established in business. Utilizing experiments in behavioral economics, Shermer shows why people hang on to losing stocks and failing companies, why business negotiations often disintegrate into emotional tit-for-tat disputes, and why money does not make us happy. Employing research from complexity theory, Shermer shows how evolution and economics are both examples of a larger and still somewhat mysterious phenomenon of emergence, where one plus one equals three.

Along the way, Shermer answers such provocative questions as, Do our tribal roots mean that we will always be a sucker for brands? How is the biochemical joy of sex similar to the rewards of business cooperation? How can nations increase trust within their borders? Finally, Shermer considers the consequences of globalization and what will happen if nations allow free trade across their borders.

Throughout his entertaining and surprising new book, The Mind of the Market, Shermer considers the morality of markets in a discussion of what he calls virtue economics. Although we are selfish and altruistic, cooperative and competitive, peaceful and bellicose, in the main the balance is heavily on the side of good over evil. For every random act of violence that makes the evening news, there are 10,000 nonrandom acts of kindness that go unrecorded every day. Markets are moral and modern economies are founded on our virtuous nature. The Enron model of business is the exception and the Google motto of “Don’t Be Evil” is the rule.

NSF is one block south of Ballston-Marymount University metro stop Orange Line. For most drivers, Route 66 to Fairfax Dr. to Stuart Dr is the easiest route. Enter NSF from the corner of 9th and Stuart Streets. Room 110 is on the left before the entry guard -- you do not need to go through NSF security. Parking is available in the Ballston Common mall, in the NSF building, and at other area parking lots and garages. Metered parking is also available on the surrounding streets.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Examining the Culture of Free Energy Claimants

Saturday, December 8, 2 - 4 pm
Eric Krieg, Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT)

National Science Foundation, Room 110 (note new location)
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA (map)
One block south of Ballston-Marymount University metro stop Orange Line. For most drivers, Route 66 to Fairfax Dr. to N. Stuart St. is the easiest route. Enter NSF from the corner of N. Stuart Street and 9th St. N. Room 110 is on the left before the entry guard -- you do not need to go through NSF security. Parking is available in the Ballston Common mall, in the NSF building, and at other area parking lots and garages. Metered parking is also available on the surrounding streets.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

From Noah’s Ark to the Ark of the Covenant and Beyond: Junk Science, Amateur Enthusiasts, and Irresponsible Documentary Filmmakers

Saturday, November 10, 2 - 4 pm (Flyer)
Eric Cline, Ph.D.
National Science Foundation, Room 110 (note new location)
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA (map)
One block south of Ballston-Marymount University metro stop on Orange Line. Enter NSF from the corner of N. Stuart Street and 9th St. N. Room 110 is on the left. Parking is available in the Ballston Common mall, in the NSF building, and at other area parking lots and garages. Metered parking is also available on the surrounding streets. NSF visitor directions and information

The amount of pseudo-scientific nonsense that has been published on so-called “mysteries” of the Bible is appalling. The vast majority of this work has not been produced by professional scholars but by amateur enthusiasts. These enthusiasts--most of whom are self-trained and self-employed, and some of whom publish only, or primarily, on the Internet--all work outside of academia. As such, they are not held to the same standards of rigor, peer review, and scrutiny as professional scholars employed by colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning. Indeed, the work of such enthusiasts frequently meets the criteria of “junk science,” especially when it “advocates a cause, pays little attention to the investigative process, ignores contrary evidence, and advertises a high moral purpose.” In his talk, Dr. Cline will present, and debunk, examples of such junk science--especially as it pertains to topics such as the possible locations of the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Ten Lost Tribes--and issue a call to arms for professional archaeologists, ancient historians, and biblical scholars to take back their fields from the amateur enthusiasts, pseudo-scientists, and irresponsible documentary filmmakers who have had, for the most part, free reign to do what they wish, without any regard to scientific method or an unbiased investigation for the truth.

DR. ERIC H. CLINE is Associate Professor of Classics and of Anthropology (Ancient History and Archaeology) and Chair of the Department of Classical and Semitic Languages and Literatures at The George Washington University, where he has won both national and local teaching awards. A former Fulbright scholar and award-winning teacher and author with degrees from Dartmouth, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania, he is Associate Director (USA) of the ongoing excavations at Megiddo (biblical Armageddon) in Israel as well as Co-Director of the ongoing excavations at Tel Kabri, also located in Israel. An award-winning author, he is perhaps best known for his books The Battles of Armageddon: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age (2000) and Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel (2004). He has just published a new book entitled From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible (National Geographic Society, June 2007).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Oct 20 - Understanding Paranormal Belief in the 21st Century

Saturday, October 20, 2 - 4 pm (Note changed date) (Flyer)
Beamed Aboard a UFO by a Psychic Sasquatch ...
Understanding Paranormal Belief in the 21st Century
Rick Wood, host of (Curious Paranormal Radio)
Bethesda Library, 7400 Arlington Rd., Bethesda, MD (near Metro)

Rick Wood will share his experience
over the course of seven years hosting a skeptical paranormal talk show that has had many guests who have harbored very odd beliefs. Most are not "crazy" and some have held extraordinarily demanding positions, including a combat surgeon and a fighter pilot.

What makes these folks tick? Wood will provide some answers and also do some demonstrations of cold reading and dowsing.

Rick Wood is host of Audiomartini ("Curious Paranormal Radio" at which deals with claims of the paranormal from a skeptic's viewpoint. Wood hosts debates as well as individual interviews, with no call-ins, allowing for in-depth discussions. The focus is on a fair and cordial exchange of information, even with those with whom he disagrees. Recent guests have included Rep. Bob Filner (D-51-CA), the only historian of science in the U.S. Congress, and science journalist Chris Mooney, author of “The Republican War on Science.” Wood also hosted a debate on Intelligent Design between Michael Shermer, executive director of the Skeptic Society and William Dembski, senior fellow of the Discovery Institute.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sep 8 - Too Good to Be False

Memorandum 46 and Other Race-based Urban Legends
Casey Lartigue, Jr.
Saturday, September 8, 2 - 4 pm FREE (Flyer)
Bethesda Library, 7400 Arlington Rd., Bethesda, MD (near Metro)

Memorandum 46 -- allegedly revealing a sinister government plot to undermine black leadership in the U.S. and to sow discord with Africans abroad -- recently gained renewed prominence on black talk radio. Casey Lartigue will discuss the history of and question the veracity of the anti-black version of Memorandum 46, and examine why black activists, politicians, and talk show hosts have been so eager to believe that the Carter administration concocted such a plot. Lartigue will also examine other race-based urban legends.

Casey Lartigue, Jr. is a former policy analyst with Cato's Center for Educational Freedom. His research expertise includes school choice, teacher quality and minority education. His writings have been published in USA Today, Ed. magazine published at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Education Week, the New York Post, the Washington Times, Asian Week and the Washington Post. Before joining the Center, he worked as a staff writer at Cato. He has spoken at the National Press Club, Harvard Law School, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, been a guest on the Rush Limbaugh Show, and testified before Congress on school choice in the nation's capital. Prior to joining Cato, Lartigue taught English and worked as a language examiner in Taiwan and South Korea. Lartigue received a bachelor's degree from the Harvard University Extension School and a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Until recently he hosted the Casey Lartigue talk show on XM Radio.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Barry Beyerstein Died June 26, 2007

Barry Beyerstein -- psychologist, educator, skeptic and friend -- died suddenly last week. The news left us all stunned; Barry was not often here in the DC area -- he was a professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. But just this April he dined with NCAS friends, while he was in town for a Center For Inquiry meeting, and we looked forward to many future visits.

If you are a regular reader of Skeptical Inquirer, you may remember his articles on graphology or mechanisms of belief or alternative medicine or near death experiences -- or that pesky myth about how we use only 10% of our brains. If you had met him -- perhaps at a CSICOP conference -- you would remember his charm, his humor and his gentle wisdom. We can hardly believe that we have lost his voice.

On behalf of NCAS, we extend our deepest condolences to his wife Suzi, children Lindsey and Loren, and the rest of the family.

His daughter Lindsey posted a personal remembrance on her blog, where you can leave condolences.

Please also see this tribute currently on the home page:

Barry L. Beyerstein (1947 - 2007)
A Great Man. A Great Teacher. A Great Skeptic. An Extraordinary Human Being.

A Small Selection of Barry's Contributions:
Selected Articles & Book Chapters
Lectures & Presentations
Why Bogus Therapies Seem to Work
The Disappearing Writing Guru, Sweetwater, and Chicken McNugget
Traditional Medicine & Pseudoscience in China
2004 World Skeptics Congress

Friday, June 15, 2007

Don Herbert; Mr. Wizard Of Children's Television

Let it not go without mention ...

"Don Herbert, 89, who as television's Mr. Wizard was for many years one of the nation's foremost popularizers of science, particularly noted for his ability to attract, inspire and hold the interest of children, died June 11 at his home in the Los Angeles area." Full obituary and photo in Washington Post June 13, 2007
Thank you, Mr. Wizard, for many an inspiring Saturday morning.

To reminisce, see the Wikipedia article Don Herbert, and visit Mr. Wizard Studios

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Skeptical Eye, Volume 19-1 2007

  • Michael Shermer Given First Klass Award Oct 12, 2006
  • Coming Events:
    • March 18 NCAS 20th Anniversary Meeting, with Speaker James Randi
    • Monthly Meeting Dates and Locations
  • Prez Sez: NCAS Purpose, Goals and Projects, Gary Stone
  • Why Darwin Matters, Neil Inglis Reviews Michael Shermer's Book
  • A Neurobiology of Sensitivity? Michael Jawar
  • Della Porta, Richard Dengrove
  • Germ Frenzy, Karl Roberts, Ph.D.
  • Where Is The Line Between Researchers & Revolutionaries?, by Ye. D. Eydel’man, translated by Gary Goldberg
  • The Write Stuff: Sorting Fact From Garbage, Fred Kourmadas

Thursday, March 29, 2007

NCAS 20th Anniversary

As we approached the 20th anniversary of NCAS on March 29, 2007, we invited you to join us in our celebrations. We looked back at our experiences and achievements, as well as forward toward ever more effectively promoting critical thinking and scientific understanding among NCAS members and in society.

The Founding of NCAS

On a very pleasant Sunday March 29, 1987, at the outdoor amphitheater of the Edmund Burke School in northwest Washington, D.C., more than 100 very enthusiastic people attended the inaugural meeting to found the National Capital Area Skeptics. NCAS became a new and independent membership organization to objectively examine claims of paranormal phenomena and fringe science, and more generally to promote critical thinking and scientific understanding. That event is described in the first issue of the NCAS newsletter, Volume 1 Number 1, a precursor to our current, more mature Skeptical Eye newsletters. A special 20th Anniversary reprint of that very first NCAS Skeptical Eye newsletter was made available free to everyone at each NCAS event during our 20th anniversary celebration year.

NCAS 20th Anniversary Year Events

Each NCAS event through June 2007 featured some aspect celebrating our 20th Anniversary. See Shadow of a Doubt for details. Anyone may subscribe to our monthly NCAS-Announce email list to receive the montly Shadow of a Doubt bulletin of events and announcements.

NCAS 20th Anniversary Year Memorabilia

The following are the NCAS memorabilia that were available free at our events throughout the 20th Anniversary celebration September 2006 through June 2007. They are still available free at our events while supplies last.
  • Special 20th Anniversary reprint of NCAS Skeptical Eye volume 1 number 1
  • NCAS button "That's Nice, Prove It!"
NCAS Member Discussions

Throughout that anniversary year, NCAS Members were invited to participate in casual discussions about past personal experiences as a Skeptic and as an NCAS member in a "demon-haunted world". There were also focused discussions about how NCAS can become ever more relevant and effective in the future in promoting critical thinking and scientific understanding.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

June 14 - The Comprehensible Cosmos: Where Do the Laws of Physics Come From?

Victor J. Stenger, PhD (Details)
Thursday, June 14, 7:30 pm Note special time
Bethesda Library

Dr. Stenger will discuss and sign his book, which will be purchasable at this event for $20 (29% off).

Friday, February 09, 2007

NCAS 20th Anniversary Event & James Randi Brunch March 18

Image of James Randi NCAS 20th Anniversary Celebration - FREE - No Reservations
Speaker: James Randi -- "Beware: Skeptic on the Loose!"
Sunday, Mar 18, 1 pm -- 500 Seats on First Come Basis (*)
National Conference Center, Aiton Auditorium (Ketner Hall, lower level)
7100 Connecticut Ave, Chevy Chase, MD (Map)
Get a Free NCAS 20th Anniversary "Prove It!" button.
(*) 50 seats are reserved for those coming from the brunch

Brunch with James Randi & NCAS
Sunday, Mar 18, 11 am - 1230 pm
Advance Reservations Required (Details & Map)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Evolution of a Global Celebration

February 12, 1809 to April 19, 1882

Darwin's 200th Birthday will occur on February 12, 2009; it will also be the 150th Anniversary of the publication of his famous book, On The Origin of Species. So, together we can evolve a truly international Celebration to express gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity. The objective of Darwin Day Celebration is to encourage existing institutions worldwide, such as municipalities, public and private schools, colleges and universities, libraries, museums, churches, private organizations and individuals to celebrate Science and Humanity every year, on, or near, February 12, Darwin's birthday! Go to

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Imaginary Weapons - Pentagon Fringe Science - Feb 10

Sat, Feb 10, 2:30- 4:30 pm - Sharon Weinberger
Tysons-Pimmit Library, Falls Church, VA (Flyer)
Veteran defense reporter Sharon Weinberger will discuss and sign her book about the Pentagon's latest new levels of fringe-science wackiness: antimatter weapons, psychics, telepathy, nuclear hand grenades, and more.

In the spirit of Darwin Day, this talk examines deviations from critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning in military weapons development, as significant examples of how public policy making can go dangerously wrong when it is not consilient with science.

Attendees get a Free NCAS 20th Anniversary "Prove It!" button