Friday, February 01, 2013

Shadow of a Doubt - February 2013

The Monthly Calendar of the National Capital Area Skeptics

  • NCAS Public Lecture Series - Neuroscience: Facts, Fictions, and Fears of Scanning Brains and Reading Minds - Professor James Giordano, PhD
  • NCAS Board Elections: Call for Candidates
  • NCAS Board Elections: Electronic Voting
  • Shadow Light
  • Drinking Skeptically, now in MD and VA! - Feb 13
  • New Postal Address

NCAS Public Lecture Series
Neuroscience: Facts, Fictions, and Fears of Scanning Brains and Reading Minds
Professor James Giordano, PhD

Saturday, February 9, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
National Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA [map] [directions]
(Ballston-Marymount University Metro stop)
Enter NSF from the corner of 9th N & N Stuart Streets.
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

In this lecture, neuroscientist and neuroethicist Professor James Giordano, PhD, addresses the provocative current - and near future - capacities and limitations of neuroscience, and argues for analyses and guidelines to establish how to engage brain research in ways that are scientifically and technically rigorous, and ethically and legally sound.

Neuroscience is increasingly viewed as having potential to identify predispositions to types of cognition, emotion and behavior.  Could it be employed to allow preemptive interventions to deter the commission of crimes? For sure, this has overtones of the science fictional film Minority Report. But as distasteful as this seems at face value, the recent shootings in Connecticut, Oslo, Phoenix, and Columbine, and instances of international terrorism have prompted calls to use neuroscience to "do something" to ensure that such events do not happen again.

A crucial question is, how to maximize the benefit of the tools we possess, while not over-stepping the boundaries of science or corrupting ethico-legal probity.  Just because we may not currently have the neuroscientific capabilities to predict thoughts or behaviors doesn't mean we're not on a path toward doing so - or at least trying. Therefore, it's important to understand exactly "where we really are" and estimate the validity and value of both our current position and the destinations we seek. We must be aware of agendas to employ neuroscience in a variety of ways, and must be prepared to confront these realities.

James Giordano, a neuroscientist and neuroethicist, is Professor of Integrative Physiology in the Department of Biochemistry, and Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program in the Center for Clinical Bioethics, at Georgetown University Medical Center, and Gryphon Fellow on the faculty of the Human Science Center of Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich, Germany.

Refreshments and socializing after the talk.

NCAS Board Elections: Call for Candidates
Are you an NCAS member who wants to take a leadership role in the skeptics movement?  The NCAS annual board of directors election is fast approaching.  Send an email to by March 15 so you can be placed on the ballot.

NCAS Board Elections: Electronic Voting
The 2013 election will be the first to use electronic voting.  When voting begins, members will receive an email from NCAS containing a unique web address usable as a single-cast secret ballot.  (NCAS will receive information indicating who voted, but nothing to indicate who cast each ballot.)  In the meantime, members are requested to email name and postal address (for record verification) to  Paper ballots will be distributed by postal mail on an as-needed basis.

Shadow Light
Some members and contacts of NCAS receive a postal notification of this and every new monthly Shadow of a Doubt.  The Shadow Light postcard announces the monthly lecture and highlights of the electronic Shadow of a Doubt, which is available online at  NCAS thereby reduces Shadow production and postage costs.  To further reduce costs, members and contacts can opt out of postal notification altogether, while continuing to receive Shadow of a Doubt via e-mail.  To opt out, send us an e-mail at

Drinking Skeptically, now in MD and VA!
On Wednesday, February 13 at 7:00 p.m., please join fellow NCASers at either of our simultaneous DC-area Drinking Skeptically events:

Jackie's Sidebar
8081 Georgia Avenue (entrance on Sligo Avenue) in Silver Spring, MD

The Front Page Arlington
Rear patio / National Science Foundation atrium
4201 Wilson Blvd (across from Ballston Common Mall) in Arlington, VA
(703) 248-9990

The February 2011 issue of Washingtonian magazine features the Sidebar on its cover, for a story on the best bars in the DC area.  (And you'll find the area's best hot dogs there, according to the June 2012 issue.)

Drinking Skeptically is an informal social event designed to promote fellowship and networking among skeptics, critical-thinkers, and like-minded individuals. There's no cover charge and all are welcome. Don't drink? Don't let that stop you from joining us! Some of the world's most famous skeptics are teetotalers, and we are happy to have you! Remember that drinking skeptically means drinking responsibly. If there's one thing science has taught us, it's the effects of alcohol on the human body.

New Postal Address
As of June 2012, NCAS has switched post office boxes, from 8428 to 8461:
National Capital Area Skeptics
P.O. Box 8461
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8461

Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to  Use the online membership form to renew.