Saturday, September 10, 2022

Shadow of a Doubt - September 2022


  • September 10 -  NCAS lecture - Ev: Inspiring critical thinking using paranormal claims, presented by Barry Markovskyeryday Extraordinary
  • NCAS Board of Directors election results
  • Annual Membership Meeting
  • Prez Sez
  • 2022 NCAS Philip J. Klass Award to Susan Gerbic
  • September PhACT Lecture - September 17
  • AmazonSmile
  • Shadow Lite
  • Time to Renew? 
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Shadow of a Doubt - September 2022


June 2022

NCAS Public Lecture Series

Everyday Extraordinary:
Inspiring Critical Thinking Using Paranormal Claims

Barry Markovsky, PhD
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina

Saturday, September 10, 1:30pm - 4:00pm US/Eastern (UTC-04:00)
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:

The presentation will include readings from a book in progress, followed by an open discussion.

With this book, Barry hopes to reach a wider audience that normally wouldn't pick up a skeptical approach. Each chapter opens with a first-person "Front Stage" account of a true extraordinary experience. Then it goes "Back Stage" to show how perfectly normal events can deceive us into inferring something supernatural. Chapter topics are familiar to most NCAS members—ghosts, astrology, dowsing, ESP, UFOs, etc. What Barry hopes will differentiate this book from other skeptical works is its approach: Telling the stories with heart and humor, and explaining what really happened instead of leaping to paranormal conclusions.

"For the discussion, in addition to any feedback you'd like to offer, I'd like to brainstorm with you about strategies for maximizing the impact of this kind of endeavor. Given it's aimed at non-scientists, what's the optimal vocabulary level and pedagogical style? How 'sciency' should it get without the risk of losing too many readers? Is there even a market for it? These are questions I struggle with every day as I write, so your input will be much appreciated."
Barry Markovsky's research areas include group processes, social psychology, social networks, methods of theory construction, experimental research, and computer simulations. His most recent work has addressed social status, identity, fairness perceptions, cooperation, and influence in small group contexts, and he has developed online tools for building, evaluating, and disseminating sociological theories. He has taught courses in group processes, pseudoscience and paranormal beliefs, and theory construction. Prior to his position at the University of South Carolina, he was Sociology Program Director at the National Science Foundation, and Assistant, Associate and Full Professor at the University of Iowa.

Board of Directors Election
Results of June's NCAS member vote on candidates for the board of directors have been tabulated. Re-elected and incumbent members are: Tom Bridgman, Nelson Davis Jr, Chip Denman, Grace Denman, Brian Gregory, Curtis Haymore, Beth Kingsley, J. D. Mack, Mary Pastel, Melissa Pollak, Walter F. Rowe, Scott Snell, and Marv Zelkowitz.

At its June 29 meeting, the NCAS board of directors selected its officers, who are: Scott Snell, president; Melissa Pollak, vice president; Walter F. Rowe, secretary; and Marv Zelkowitz, treasurer.

Annual Membership Meeting
Following the talk and the question-and-answer/discussion segment, the annual meeting of NCAS members will begin.  This will be limited to in-person participants.

Prez Sez
By Scott Snell

Our 2022-2023 lecture series begins with an in-person/online event.  However, in this case I urge you, if at all possible, to attend in person.  This won't simply be a talk followed by Q&A.  It will be much more of a discussion with the audience.  As the emcee, I'll do all I can to convey the questions and comments from our online participants, but I may not be able to actually "converse" on their behalf.  Our in-person audience will have access to the microphone and can speak at length.

There's another reason I hope you can be there.  We're holding our annual membership meeting because we're hoping to attract a participative, thoughtful audience for discussing Barry Markovsky's book-in-progress.  I think that frame of mind could come in handy for discussing the future of the skeptical movement and NCAS.  Our #1 priority is to support Barry as he develops his book to reach an audience of potential future skeptics.  But let's keep the ball rolling afterwards to sketch out our next steps in the months and years to come.

It's true that COVID-19 is still among us.  Wearing a well-fitted N95 mask will probably protect you.  I'm also relieved to see that community levels in Montgomery County, DC, and surrounding counties are currently low.  So your risk for attending in person is, at least for now, relatively small.

(Photo by Susan Gerbic)
As you may already know, prospects are good for having safe public gatherings in the months to come:  The FDA has authorized bivalent COVID-19 vaccines for use.  "The mRNA in these vaccines is a specific piece of genetic material that instructs cells in the body to make the distinctive 'spike' protein of the original virus strain and the omicron variant lineages BA.4 and BA.5. The spike proteins of BA.4 and BA.5 are identical."

This development presents at least a respite from the pandemic, likely to provide actual immunization instead of just minimizing the severity of infection.

Finally, I'll quote our 2022 Klass Award recipient, Susan Gerbic, who completed a cross-country tour of local skeptics groups a few months ago.  "Whatever the goals are for the group, the answer is always to find ways to get people to attend events, have some common experience, and allow people to form relationships."  (Read more about this in the next item.)

2022 NCAS Philip J. Klass Award Presentation Event and Lecture
On April 27, NCAS members and guests gathered at the Takoma Busboys and Poets in Northwest DC for the 2022 Philip J. Klass Award presentation dinner and show.  NCAS president Scott Snell presented the 2022 NCAS Philip J. Klass Award for outstanding contributions in promoting critical thinking and scientific understanding to Susan Gerbic, the foremost citizen skeptic, founder and leader of "Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia."

In his remarks, Mr. Snell noted the parallels between Ms. Gerbic and Paul Kurtz, to whom he had presented a Klass Award in 2009.  Kurtz, generally regarded as the father of the modern skeptical movement, was a leader, organizer, and publisher.  Kurtz's Prometheus Books and Skeptical Inquirer still exist, but what is the future of publishing?  Decades from now, Wikipedia may still exist, and the work that Ms. Gerbic and her colleagues began and continue may still be valuable for educating the public and protecting consumers.  Ms. Gerbic was recognized for "successful and ongoing efforts to ensure the accuracy of Wikipedia and for protecting the public from psychics who exploit the vulnerable."

The evening's entertainment was provided by Peter Wood, "Collector of the Impossible."  Susan and her guest (Adrienne Hill, a fellow member of the Monterey County Skeptics) and NCAS members witnessed a show that Penn Jillette had described as "beautiful, subtle"... a presentation of incredible, unique, and magical objects with unparalleled showmanship.

Susan and NCAS reconvened on April 30 at Arlington Central Library for her presentation, "Grief Vampires, Wikipedia and More."  Her talk is available on the NCAS YouTube Channel at:
In August, Susan told the tale of her cross-country skeptical journey, including her NCAS visit:

NCAS president Scott Snell and Susan Gerbic.
(Photo by Adrienne Hill)

NCAS created the Philip J. Klass Award in 2006. Previous recipients were Michael Shermer, James Randi, Robert L. Park, Paul Kurtz, Ray Hyman, Joel Achenbach, Penn & Teller, Phil Plait, Steven Salzberg, and John Mather. The 2022 NCAS Philip J. Klass Award

(Photo by J. D. Mack)

September PhACT Lecture
Our skeptical neighbors to the north, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT), will present their next event on Saturday, September 17 at 2 PM ET.  After two years of online-only presentations, they are resuming in-person events, but are working to continue their live YouTube stream.  Their speaker will be behavioral scientist Stuart Vyse, discussing his book, The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to be Rational, looking at the aspects of human nature that are not altogether rational but, nonetheless, help us achieve our social and personal goals.  As he did for his CFI and NCAS lectures, Dr. Vyse will focus on yet another chapter of the book, rather than covering the same topics again.  Event details at Also see PhACT's YouTube page:

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 first quarter of 2022 came to $24.35, 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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