Friday, May 27, 2022

June 4 - The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to Be Rational

 Presented by Stuart Vyse, Contributing Editor, "Skeptical Inquirer"


Saturday, June 4, 2022, 1:30 pm
B-CC Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane 2nd Floor (West Room)
Bethesda, MD

Directions: http://tinyurl.com/bcccenter

Join us for the last in-person NCAS talk until the fall!  And if you can't join us in person, watch the live stream at https://youtu.be/t1-1fof15U8 .

Although reason and rationality are our friends in almost all contexts, in some cases people are better off putting reason aside. In a number of very important situations, we benefit by not seeing the world as it is, and by not behaving like logic-driven machines. Sometimes we know we aren’t making sense, and yet we are compelled to act against reason; in other cases, our delusions are so much a part of normal human experience that we are unaware of them. As intelligent as we are, much of what has helped humans succeed as a species is not our prodigious brain power but something much more basic.

In behavioral scientist Stuart Vyse’s new book, "THE USES OF DELUSION: Why It’s Not Always Rational to be Rational"  he looks at the aspects of human nature that are not altogether rational but, nonetheless, help us achieve our social and personal goals.

Stuart Vyse, PhD, is a behavioral scientist, teacher, and writer. He taught at Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, and Connecticut College. Vyse’s book "Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition" won the 1999 William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association. He is a contributing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, where he writes the “Behavior & Belief” column, and a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

April 2022 - NCAS Awards Philip J. Klass Award to Susan Gerbic

 

Two Great Events:
  • April 27, 5:30 PM: Award Dinner and FREE Magic Show to Celebrate Susan Gerbic (Please let us know if you are coming: rsvp@ncas.org) 
  • April 30, 1:30 PM: Susan Gerbic Presents "Grief Vampires, Wikipedia and More"
1. April 27, 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM 

NCAS presents: Philip J. Klass Award Dinner and Magic Show to celebrate Susan Gerbic
at Busboys and Poets, Takoma
235 Carroll St NW, Washington, DC 20012
(one block from the Takoma Metro on the Red Line)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

The Philip J. Klass Award honors outstanding efforts to promote critical thinking and scientific understanding.

All are invited as the National Capital Area Skeptics (NCAS) celebrates Susan Gerbic and the efforts of her “guerilla skeptics” team of editors who keep watch on Wikipedia, especially on issues of science and pseudoscience.

NCAS is hosting an award dinner in her honor, including a show by magician Peter Wood. The event is free and open to all. Food and beverages can be purchased from the menu at the event.


Susan Gerbic
is the founder and leader of "About Time," a project to find, mentor, and train people to promote science and scientific skepticism through crowdsourced and educational activities worldwide.  It features "Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia" (GSoW), a group of editors who create and improve Wikipedia articles to reflect scientific skepticism. This year, the total written pages surpassed 2,000 in 15 languages, with over 100 million views. Gerbic is also known for her research and sting operations against psychic mediums, whom she calls "grief vampires" for cynically claiming to communicate with dead loved ones.  Gerbic's work with GSoW led to her becoming a consultant for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), and later, a fellow.  James "The Amazing" Randi presented her with awards in 2013 and 2017.

Magician Peter Wood is a "collector of the impossible" -- he presents incredible, unique, and magical objects with unparalleled showmanship. On their national television show, Penn & Teller called Peter’s act “beautiful, subtle,” saying “I don’t think we’ve ever said this before on the show: it was really, really enjoyable to do your thinking along with you.”
 
Remember to RSVP at rsvp@ncas.org if you are coming.

2. April 30, 1:30 PM: Grief Vampires, Wikipedia and More

Presented by Susan Gerbic

Saturday, April 30, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
Central Library
Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium
1015 North Quincy Street
Arlington, VA [map] [directions]
(Virginia Square-GMU Metro station)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members
(This is an independent event from the above award dinner. Come to either one or both.)

 Also a YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

NCASVideo YouTube Channel:


Susan Gerbic, who will receive the 2022 Philip J. Klass Award for outstanding contributions in critical thinking and scientific understanding on April 27, will provide an update on her projects.

"About Time," a nonprofit she founded in 2018, recruits, mentors, and trains people to promote science and scientific skepticism through crowdsourced and educational activities worldwide.  It features "Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia" (GSoW), a group of editors who create and improve Wikipedia articles to reflect scientific skepticism. This year, the total written pages surpassed 2,000 in 15 languages, with over 100 million views.

She'll also present the latest news about her sting operations against psychic mediums, whom she calls "grief vampires" for cynically claiming to communicate with dead loved ones.

In addition to receiving the Klass Award, Susan Gerbic is the recipient of the James Randi Educational Foundation's "James Randi Award for Skepticism in the Public Interest" in 2013, and the "JREF Award" in 2017.

A fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, she is also co-founder of Monterey County Skeptics, a frequent contributor to Skeptical Inquirer, and a fellow for GWUP, the German-speaking skeptics' society.

Refreshments and socializing after the talk.

The underground parking garage entrance is located at the library's NW corner.  Surface lots are north and east of the building.

 

Shadow of a Doubt - April 2022

 

April 2022

NCAS Public Lecture Series

UFOs: Then, Now, and Next

 YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

Presented by Robert Sheaffer
Author of Bad UFOs and UFO Sightings: The Evidence

Saturday, April 2, 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-04:00)
NCASVideo YouTube Channel:


For more information, call the NCAS Skeptic Line at 240-670-NCAS (6227).
ncas@ncas.org

Robert Sheaffer, one of the leading skeptical investigators of UFOs, will discuss the history of the phenomenon (including an update about a famous case, now solved), recent news, and possible future directions.  He'll recall his mentor, colleague, and friend, Philip J. Klass (1919-2005), generally considered the top skeptical UFO investigator of his time.  Klass was a founding member of CSICOP (now called CSI, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry), was one of the original conveners of NCAS in 1987, and was an important long-time mentor to the organization.  Also, what was it like to be a skeptic in the Washington, DC area in the 1970s?  Sheaffer can speak from personal experience.



Robert Sheaffer
is a writer with a lifelong interest in astronomy and the question of life on other worlds.  The author of UFO Sightings (1998), his latest book is Bad UFOs (2016), which is also the name of his blog that casts a skeptical eye on claims about UFOs.  He was a founding member (with Philip J. Klass and James Oberg) of the UFO Subcommittee of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and was a longtime fellow of that organization.  Mr. Sheaffer is also a founding director and past Chairman of the Bay Area Skeptics, a local skeptics' group in the San Francisco Bay area.  He has appeared on many radio and TV programs, and his writings and reviews have appeared in such diverse publications as OMNI, Scientific American, Spaceflight, Astronomy, The Humanist, Free Inquiry, Reason, and others.  His "Psychic Vibrations" column in Skeptical Inquirer kept readers informed of weird developments in the "science" of UFOs, psychic research, cryptozoology, etc from 1977 to 2017.  Mr. Sheaffer lives near San Diego, California, having most recently worked as a data communications engineer in Silicon Valley.

(Photo by Susan Gerbic)

There will be an online question-and-answer segment after the presentation.


How to Watch and Participate in this Online Event:

1) Use a supported browser... https://www.youtube.com/supported_browsers
2) Use the link https://youtu.be/EqiF-ApmO7c .  If typing the link, use capital "O".
3) The live stream begins shortly before 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-04:00) on Saturday, April 2, 2022.
4) To post questions, you must be signed in to a Google account.
5) Post your questions in the chat window to the right of the video player when the live stream is active.
6) Click into where it says "Say something..." and begin typing (up to 200 characters). Then click the send icon .

Along with your question, please post what city or town you're in.


Save the Date -- Klass Award Dinner on April 27
NCAS is pleased to present its 2022 Philip J. Klass Award for outstanding contributions in critical thinking and scientific understanding to skeptical activist Susan Gerbic on Wednesday, April 27 at Busboys and Poets Takoma in Washington.  Additional details to follow.


April PhACT Lecture
Our skeptical neighbors to the north, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT), will host their next online event on Saturday, April 23 at 2 PM ET.  Speaker Michael Marshall (Project Director of the Good Thinking Society, Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and host of the Be Reasonable podcast) will discuss his experiences of "The White Rose," a group claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax concocted by the governments of the world to instill fear into their people, as a pretext for introducing new, permanent totalitarian laws.  Event details at http://www.phact.org/meetings.php.


April 30 NCAS Lecture
Susan Gerbic will present "Grief Vampires: Wikipedia and More."  In February 2019, The New York Times Magazine reported on her team (the "Guerilla Skeptics") and their successful work exposing psychic medium Thomas John in a sting.  During the pandemic, the Guerilla Skeptics struck again, researching and exposing multiple mediums operating on Zoom using hot and cold reading to appear to be in communication with the dead.  Saturday, April 30 at 1:30 PM at Arlington Central Library.


NCAS Board Elections: Electronic Voting
The upcoming 2022 NCAS election will use electronic voting.  When voting begins, each member will receive an email from NCAS (via surveymonkey.com) 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.)

Note that voters will not be at risk for spamming as a result of participating...SurveyMonkey has a zero-tolerance spam policy:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/legal/acceptable-uses-policy/


AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When shopping at smile.amazon.com, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, 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 fourth quarter of 2021 came to $44.68, meaning that nearly $9000 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 two hours of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

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

For more information:
https://smile.amazon.com/about
https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-details/amazon-launches-amazonsmile-simple-automatic-way-customers


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.org/p/shadow.html.  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 ncas@ncas.org.


Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to ncas@ncas.org.  Use the online membership form to renew.
https://www.ncas.org/p/shadow.html

Shadow of a Doubt - April 2022

 

  • April Lecture - UFOs: Then, Now, and Next. Presented by Robert Sheaffer, April 2 on NCAS YouTube channel.
  • Set Date - Klass award dinner to Honor Susan Gerbic, April 27
  • April PhAct Lecture - Michael Marshall to discuss "The White Rose" 
  • April 30 NCAS lecture -Susan Gerbic will present "Grief vampires: Wikipedia and More".
  • NCAS Board elections - Upcoming NCAS election via electronic voting
  • Amazon Smile - Donate to NCAS for free
  • Shadow Lite
  • Time to Renew? 
Read Shadow here.

Friday, March 25, 2022

April 2 - UFOs: Then, Now, and Next

Presented by Robert Sheaffer

Saturday, April 2, 1:30PM 

Live event on YouTube (https://youtu.be/EqiF-ApmO7c)

Robert Sheaffer, one of the leading skeptical investigators of UFOs, will discuss the history of the phenomenon (including an update about a famous case, now solved), recent news, and possible future directions.  He'll recall his mentor, colleague, and friend, Philip J. Klass (1919-2005), generally considered the top skeptical UFO investigator of his time.  Klass was a founding member of CSICOP (now called CSI, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry), was one of the original conveners of NCAS in 1987, and was an important long-time mentor to the organization.  Also, what was it like to be a skeptic in the Washington, DC area in the 1970s?  Sheaffer can speak from personal experience.

Robert Sheaffer is a writer with a lifelong interest in astronomy and the question of life on other worlds.  The author of UFO Sightings (1998), his latest book is Bad UFOs (2016), which is also the name of his blog that casts a skeptical eye on claims about UFOs.  He was a founding member (with Philip J. Klass and James Oberg) of the UFO Subcommittee of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and was a longtime fellow of that organization.  Mr. Sheaffer is also a founding director and past Chairman of the Bay Area Skeptics, a local skeptics' group in the San Francisco Bay area.  He has appeared on many radio and TV programs, and his writings and reviews have appeared in such diverse publications as OMNI, Scientific American, Spaceflight, Astronomy, The Humanist, Free Inquiry, Reason, and others.  His "Psychic Vibrations" column in Skeptical Inquirer kept readers informed of weird developments in the "science" of UFOs, psychic research, cryptozoology, etc from 1977 to 2017.  Mr. Sheaffer lives near San Diego, California, having most recently worked as a data communications engineer in Silicon Valley. 
(Photo by Susan Gerbic.) 

For more information, call the NCAS Skeptic Line at 240-670-NCAS (6227).
ncas@ncas.org

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Shadow of a Doubt - March 2022

  • March 12 Lecture -  Save the Children: QAnon, the Blood Libel, and Witch-Hunts, Presented by Eve Siebrt, 1:30pm, NCASVideo YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/OB7gNxZnSuw
  • Save the Date -- Klass Award Dinner on April 27
  • March PhACT Lecture - Medical sociologist Robert Bartholomew will discuss his book, Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria, with Rob Palmer
  • April NCAS Lecture -  In addition to Susan Gerbic's talk on Saturday, April 30 at 1:30 PM at Arlington Central Library, there will be another event, live on the NCASVideo YouTube channel
  • Belgian Skeptics Win Court Case: Follow-up
  • Confessions of Coincidence By Scott Snell
  • Amazon Smile
  • Shadow Light
  • Time to Renew

Full Shadow here

Shadow of a Doubt - March 2022

March 2022

NCAS Public Lecture Series

Save the Children:
QAnon, the Blood Libel, and Witch-hunts

  YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

Presented by Eve Siebert, PhD
Adjunct Professor, Stockton University

Saturday, March 12, 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00)
NCASVideo YouTube Channel:


For more information, call the NCAS Skeptic Line at 240-670-NCAS (6227).
ncas@ncas.org


Many QAnon proponents believe in a vast conspiracy by Democrats, celebrities, the Deep State, pizza parlors, and butterfly sanctuaries to kidnap, molest, traffic, mutilate, and murder children and to drain them of their sweet, sweet blood. Such accusations are not new, however. They have, for instance, affinities with the Satanic Panic accusations that roiled many countries in the 1980s and 90s.

But the story is much older than the late twentieth century. It ultimately derives from two parallel and mutually reinforcing strands of defamatory claims aimed at religious minorities. One is the Blood Libel, the belief that Jews annually choose a Christian child to be murdered for any number of contradictory reasons. The first Blood Libel accusation was made in the middle of the twelfth century, and it has never really gone away.

The other strand of accusations is older. It was initially used against Christians during the Roman Empire, but it was later recycled by the Church and deployed against the wrong kind of Christians, particularly heretical sects. Later the same accusations became central to the great witch-hunts of the late medieval and early modern periods. As with the Blood Libel, these accusations have remained with us in various forms, constantly resuscitated like a B-movie Dracula whenever some group needs to be dehumanized as an existential threat to Christianity, nationalism, or Christian nationalism.


Eve Siebert
has a Ph.D. in medieval English literature from Saint Louis University. She has contributed to the Skeptical Humanities blog, Skeptic magazine’s Insight blog, the Skepticality podcast, and the Virtual Skeptics webcast. She is an adjunct professor at Stockton University.

There will be an online question-and-answer segment after the presentation.


How to Watch and Participate in this Online Event:

1) Use a supported browser... https://www.youtube.com/supported_browsers
2) Use the link https://youtu.be/OB7gNxZnSuw .  If typing the link, use capital "O".
3) The live stream begins shortly before 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00) on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
4) To post questions, you must be signed in to a Google account.
5) Post your questions in the chat window to the right of the video player when the live stream is active.
6) Click into where it says "Say something..." and begin typing (up to 200 characters). Then click the send icon .

Along with your question, please post what city or town you're in.

Exclusive Opportunity for NCAS Members!

Following the talk and the question-and-answer segment, the YouTube presentation will end, and an online "reception" with our speaker and NCAS members will begin on Zoom.  Check your email inbox during the last few minutes of the Q and A. All NCAS members will receive information for joining the Zoom meeting with our speaker.  The "Zoom Client for Meetings" can be downloaded for free at https://zoom.us/download.  To join, just enter the Zoom Meeting ID number and Passcode provided in the email...no Zoom account is needed.


Save the Date -- Klass Award Dinner on April 27
NCAS is pleased to present its 2022 Philip J. Klass Award for outstanding contributions in critical thinking and scientific understanding to skeptical activist Susan Gerbic on Wednesday, April 27 at Busboys and Poets Takoma in Washington.  Then on Saturday, April 30, she'll present "Grief Vampires: Wikipedia and More" at Arlington Central Library.  Additional details to follow in the April Shadow of a Doubt.


March PhACT Lecture
Our skeptical neighbors to the north, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT), will host their next online event on Saturday, March 19 at 2 PM ET.  Medical sociologist Robert Bartholomew will discuss his book, Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria, with Rob Palmer ("The Well-Known Skeptic").  Event details at http://www.phact.org/meetings.php.


April NCAS Lectures
In addition to Susan Gerbic's talk on Saturday, April 30 at 1:30 PM at Arlington Central Library, there will be another event, live on the NCASVideo YouTube channel; details TBD.


Belgian Skeptics Win Court Case: Follow-up
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 defamation lawsuit brought by Van de Velde, who then took the case to the Court of Appeals.
(See https://www.ncas.org/2020/12/shadow-of-doubt-december-2020.html, "Belgian Skeptics Seek Crowdfunding after Multimillionaire Takes Lawsuit to Appeals Court.")

One of the defendants recently wrote about the original case and appeal here:


Confessions of Coincidence
By Scott Snell
Is this one worth even mentioning?  YOU be the judge!

On the morning of February 19, I set out on a day trip to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, near Chincoteague, on Virginia's Atlantic coast.  The occasion was to witness the launch of a cargo vessel to the International Space Station (ISS).   My friends and I were rewarded with spectacular clear skies and a suitably spectacular launch of the Antares rocket.  Its cargo vessel was named after Piers Sellers (1955-2016), a British-American meteorologist, Director of the Earth Science Division at NASA/GSFC, and NASA astronaut who completed three space shuttle flights for construction of the ISS.

On the way home, my friends suggested we stop in Edgewater to show me their sailboat.  It was nighttime when I pulled into a parking lot near a restaurant.  I glanced at it briefly while my friends were looking it up online, deciding whether to get dinner there.  After a minute or so, we braved the windy chill to visit the boat, then returned.  I looked again at the restaurant sign:

 

 

I said something like, "Hey, we saw the launch of the S.S. Piers Sellers today, and now we're outside a restaurant named The Pier."

None of us, least of all myself, were impressed by this, a "sort of" coincidence.  After all, the restaurant wasn't named "Piers."  The name match was only "sorta close."  And how remarkable is encountering something with "Pier" or "Piers" in the name when driving on a route from a space launch site that is, as is often the case, on a coast?  The given name "Piers" is not very common in the US, but it is in the UK.  The fact that the center of our attention for the day was a spacecraft named "Piers" narrowed the coincidence into an almost-respectable category.

I'll rate this as a Coincidence of the First Kind (in honor of J. Allen Hynek's categorization of UFO encounters).  Just sort of a passable coincidence, worth a smile, not a grin.

However, Piers Sellers is worth remembering.  Here's the Wikipedia article about him: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piers_Sellers


AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When shopping at smile.amazon.com, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, 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 fourth quarter of 2021 came to $44.68, meaning that nearly $9000 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 three hours of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

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

For more information:
https://smile.amazon.com/about
https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-details/amazon-launches-amazonsmile-simple-automatic-way-customers

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.org/p/shadow.html.  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 ncas@ncas.org.

Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to ncas@ncas.org.  Use the online membership form to renew.
https://www.ncas.org/p/shadow.html

Friday, March 04, 2022

March 12 - Save the Children: QAnon, the Blood Libel, and Witch-hunts

Presented by Eve Siebert, Ph.D.

Saturday, March 12, 2022, 1:30 pm

Link to live stream:
https://youtu.be/OB7gNxZnSuw


Many QAnon proponents believe in a vast conspiracy by Democrats, celebrities, the Deep State, pizza parlors, and butterfly sanctuaries to kidnap, molest, traffic, mutilate, and murder children and to drain them of their sweet, sweet blood. Such accusations are not new, however. They have, for instance, affinities with the Satanic Panic accusations that roiled many countries in the 1980s and 90s.

But the story is much older than the late twentieth century. It ultimately derives from two parallel and mutually reinforcing strands of defamatory claims aimed at religious minorities. One is the Blood Libel, the belief that Jews annually choose a Christian child to be murdered for any number of contradictory reasons. The first Blood Libel accusation was made in the middle of the twelfth century, and it has never really gone away.

The other strand of accusations is older. It was initially used against Christians during the Roman Empire, but it was later recycled by the Church and deployed against the wrong kind of Christians, particularly heretical sects. Later the same accusations became central to the great witch-hunts of the late medieval and early modern periods. As with the Blood Libel, these accusations have remained with us in various forms, constantly resuscitated like a B-movie Dracula whenever some group needs to be dehumanized as an existential threat to Christianity, nationalism, or Christian nationalism.


Eve Siebert has a Ph.D. in medieval English literature from Saint Louis University. She has contributed to the Skeptical Humanities blog, Skeptic magazine’s Insight blog, the Skepticality podcast, and the Virtual Skeptics webcast. She is an adjunct professor at Stockton University.

Questions from the audience will be entered into Live Chat and then relayed to the speaker.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Shadow of a Doubt- February 2022

  • February lecture: "Protecting the Public from Misinformation," presented by John Cook, PhD, February 9, 7pm on YouTube
  • February Phact lecture: Faye Flam, science journalist and opinion columnist for the Bloomberg News Service, and Dave Cragin, PhD, Director in Quality Assurance at a large pharmaceutical company, will present, "Media coverage of the pandemic," February 20.
  • March NCAS Lecture: Eve Siebert will present our March online lecture, on the medieval origins of the Blood Libel.
  • Confessions of Coincidence by Scott Snell
  • AmazonSmile
  • Shadow Light
  • Time to Renew
See the full February issue here.

Shadow of a Doubt - February 2022

 

February 2022

NCAS Public Lecture Series

Protecting the Public from Misinformation:
“Inoculating” with a Weakened Form of Misinformation

  YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

Presented by John Cook, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub

Wednesday, February 9, 7pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00)
NCASVideo YouTube Channel:


For more information, call the NCAS Skeptic Line at 240-670-NCAS (6227).
ncas@ncas.org


The public are overwhelmed with misinformation and conspiracy theories, causing confusion about important issues such as climate change, vaccination, and COVID-19. How do we respond to the firehose of falsehoods? One way to effectively neutralize the influence of misinformation and pseudoscience is logic-based inoculation. This applies the idea of vaccination to knowledge—we can build immunity to misinformation by exposing people to a weakened form of misinformation. In other words, explain the misleading techniques used in misinformation. Dr. John Cook will outline his psychological and critical thinking research into inoculation and how he has used gamification and cartoons to overcome some of the psychological hurdles facing scientists and educators.

John Cook
is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Climate Change Communication Research Hub at Monash University. His research focus is on using critical thinking to build resilience against misinformation. In 2007, he founded Skeptical Science, a website that won the 2011 Australia Museum Eureka Prize for the Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge. In 2020, he published the book Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers, applying critical thinking, inoculation research, and cartoons to engage and educate readers about climate misinformation. He recently released the Cranky Uncle game, combining critical thinking, cartoons, and gamification to build players' resilience against misinformation. He currently works with organizations like Facebook and NASA to develop evidence-based responses to climate misinformation.

There will be an online question-and-answer segment after the presentation.


How to Watch and Participate in this Online Event:

1) Use a supported browser... https://www.youtube.com/supported_browsers
2) Use the link https://youtu.be/KBz0s5cMAbA .  If typing the link, use "0" (zero).
3) The live stream begins shortly before 7pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00) on Wednesday, February 9, 2022.
4) To post questions, you must be signed in to a Google account.
5) Post your questions in the chat window to the right of the video player when the live stream is active.
6) Click into where it says "Say something..." and begin typing (up to 200 characters). Then click the send icon .

Along with your question, please post what city or town you're in.

February PhACT Lecture
Our skeptical neighbors to the north, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT), will host their next online event on Sunday, February 20 at 2 PM ET.  Faye Flam, science journalist and opinion columnist for the Bloomberg News Service, and Dave Cragin, PhD, Director in Quality Assurance at a large pharmaceutical company, will present, "Media coverage of the pandemic - what did journalists get right, what could be done better?"  Event details at http://www.phact.org/meetings.php.


March NCAS Lecture
The March NCAS lecture will be a YouTube live event; details TBD.


Confessions of Coincidence
By Scott Snell
I've had another entertaining coincidence recently.  On the afternoon of January 22, a Facebook friend suggested that I "friend" a friend of his named Ricky Piel.

That evening, I attended a hockey game at Capital One Arena.  During an intermission, I briefly saw two people dressed as bananas pass by on the concourse.  I was curious about them, but not much.  After the game, I saw them again on the Metro subway platform, and asked why they were dressed that way.  Their answer wasn't interesting (something like, "we just thought it would be fun"), but at that moment my mind finally got the pun of Piel/peel!

Naturally I alerted them immediately about this important sign of...something, and they seemed to love it even more than I did.  (People who dress as bananas are apparently easily entertained.)

My favorite part of the experience was my having to be exposed to the "2nd incident" (seeing banana people) twice, and then engage them in conversation before my brain's pattern detector suddenly found the pun.

For those skeptics among you (and I hope that's every single one), I've provided documentation below.  (Yes, I actually Googled "jan 22 capitals senators banana" and found a photo.)


At left is a redacted screen grab of my friend's Facebook message to me about Ricky Piel.

As I've written in other Shadow columns about coincidences, "We're surrounded by an incredible number of occurrences and details, only some of which we even notice, so we should expect some random 'alignments' of two to happen now and then. We never notice the many misalignments, so when an alignment occurs, it seems remarkable, and could be quite affecting."











AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When shopping at smile.amazon.com, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, 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 third quarter of 2021 came to $72.36, meaning that over $14000 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 three hours of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

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

For more information:
https://smile.amazon.com/about
https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-details/amazon-launches-amazonsmile-simple-automatic-way-customers


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.org/p/shadow.html.  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 ncas@ncas.org.


Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to ncas@ncas.org.  Use the online membership form to renew.
https://www.ncas.org/p/shadow.html