Thursday, December 16, 2021

Shadow of a Doubt - December 2021

December 2021

NCAS Public Lecture Series

Mass Extinction Events and What Causes Them

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr., PhD
Principal Lecturer, Department of Geology, University of Maryland
Research Associate, Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History

Saturday, December 11, 1:30pm - 4:00pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00)
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center
2nd Floor (West Room)
4805 Edgemoor Lane
Bethesda, MD [map] [directions]
(Bethesda Metro station)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

 Also a YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

NCASVideo YouTube Channel:

Mass extinctions are catastrophic overhauls of the diversity of life on land and sea. There are five well-attested such events in the history of life, and evidence we could be on the cusp of a sixth. We'll look at the record of past events, what we know about how they happened, and what might have caused them. These environmental crises might serve as warnings for our own future.  What might a "sixth extinction" mean for human society?

Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. is Principal Lecturer in Vertebrate Paleontology at the Department of Geology, University of Maryland, College Park. His research focuses on the origin, evolution, adaptations, and behavior of carnivorous dinosaurs, and especially of tyrannosauroids (Tyrannosaurus rex and its kin). He received his Bachelor's in Earth & Planetary Geology at Johns Hopkins in 1987 and his Ph.D. from the Department of Geology & Geophysics at Yale in 1992. He is also a Research Associate of the Department of Paleobiology of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History and serves on the Scientific Council of the Maryland Academy of Science, which operates the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. In addition to his dinosaur research, Holtz has been active in scientific outreach. He has been a consultant on museum exhibits around the world, and on numerous documentaries. He is the author of award-winning popular audience books. He is the current editor of the Life of the Past series at Indiana University Press.

Health & Safety FAQs:

What measures will be taken to protect the health of all attendees?

From the CDC:
As of Friday, December 10, Montgomery County is an area of substantial community transmission:

Face coverings must be worn by all persons in the County over the age of two years old when indoors at any location accessible to the public.
(This applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated people.)

A face-covering exception is made for "giving a speech or performing for broadcast or an audience, if no one in a location accessible to the public is within six feet of you."

Seating will be arranged to separate each person by six feet or more.
Refreshments will not be served; instead, bring your own beverage, or use the water fountain in the hallway.

I'd rather not ride the elevator to the meeting room, is there a stairway?
Yes, there's a stairway near the elevator.

Message to Current and Prospective NCAS Members
In response to the economic hardship and other uncertainties that our members may be facing, in 2020 NCAS automatically extended by one year all memberships that expire in 2020 or later.  Payment will be accepted for new memberships as well as renewals for 2019 and before: new and renewed will have a bonus year added.  Each life member may sponsor a new one-year membership at no charge.  (Double life memberships may sponsor two.)  Send your sponsored member's name and contact information to This offer will end on December 31, 2021.

January NCAS Lecture
Skeptical Inquirer investigator, folklorist, and Research Fellow Benjamin Radford will discuss his recent book, Big–If True: Adventures in Oddity, which guides readers on an open-minded, science-based examination of 70 mysteries, including curses, Bigfoot, reincarnation, chupacabras, Icelandic elves, conspiracy theories, UFOs, miracles, the Goat-Man, crop circles, subliminal advertising, sea serpents, wandering trees, medical mysteries, and hypnotist thieves—plus a 1990 Elvis sighting.  Saturday, January 8 at 1:30 PM ET, live on the NCASVideo YouTube channel.

Belgian Skeptics Win Court Case
You may recall that over the past year the Belgium skeptics group SKEPP sought crowdfunding for two SKEPP authors who "criticized the content of the pseudo-scientific master classes as well as the marketing tricks [Carl] Van de Velde [similar to Tony Robbins] uses to attract participants."  The authors won the lawsuit brought by Van de Velde, but Van de Velde took the case to the Court of Appeals.
(See, "Belgian Skeptics Seek Crowdfunding after Multimillionaire Takes Lawsuit to Appeals Court.")

On December 9, the president of SKEPP emailed NCAS and other skeptics groups:

It has taken quite some time but today the Appeals Court in Belgium judged that free speech and well-founded criticism are more important than the perceived wrongs of the commercial organization being criticized. The claim of our adversaries was soundly rejected by the court.

The court ordered Van de Velde to pay SKEPP's court costs (as it turns out, amounting to only a small portion of the costs).  Crowdfunding and SKEPP's "war chest" will, fortunately, be able to cover the remaining costs.

AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When shopping at, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the second quarter of 2021 came to $24.84, meaning that nearly $5000 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's more than enough to cover an hour of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

For more information:

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