How to Solve Climate Change Without Breaking the Bank

Saturday, April 16, 2016
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

As many skeptics know, rampant disinformation distorts the science on anthropogenic global warming, but did you know the disinformation campaign extends to the economics of climate change as well? What can economics really teach us about designing climate policy? Will mitigating cost us, or save us? A careful look at the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and other recent reports, along with a look at the consensus among economists, can help us separate science from fiction on the economics of climate change mitigation.

About our speaker:
Emily Church is a long-time skeptic and PhD candidate in neuroscience who has suffered for years from an obsession with climate change economics and climate policy.

Here it is on Meetup!

Skeptical Salon – Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens

April 21, 2016
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

This month’s book will be Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens by Susan A. Clancy.

From amazon.com:

They are tiny. They are tall. They are gray. They are green. They survey our world with enormous glowing eyes. To conduct their shocking experiments, they creep in at night to carry humans off to their spaceships. Yet there is no evidence that they exist at all. So how could anyone believe he or she was abducted by aliens? Or want to believe it?

To answer these questions, psychologist Susan Clancy interviewed and evaluated “abductees”–old and young, male and female, religious and agnostic. She listened closely to their stories–how they struggled to explain something strange in their remembered experience, how abduction seemed plausible, and how, having suspected abduction, they began to recollect it, aided by suggestion and hypnosis.

Clancy argues that abductees are sane and intelligent people who have unwittingly created vivid false memories from a toxic mix of nightmares, culturally available texts (abduction reports began only after stories of extraterrestrials appeared in films and on TV), and a powerful drive for meaning that science is unable to satisfy. For them, otherworldly terror can become a transforming, even inspiring experience. “Being abducted,” writes Clancy, “may be a baptism in the new religion of this millennium.” This book is not only a subtle exploration of the workings of memory, but a sensitive inquiry into the nature of belief.

Want to vote for next month’s book? Want to change your votes from before? Do it here!

Want to make a suggestion to add to the list? Send it to us here.

Why? A lot of the top-ranked choices on our list right now are great, but loooong, so we’re looking for shorter selections that we can reasonably hope folks will have time to read over a few weeks. We’re all busy!

Skeptical Salon: Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler

March 24, 2016
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

A short book for short notice! For March, we’ll be reading Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler. It looks like a fun read and there are many illustrations, with tons of notes at the back for those who love that sort of detail. Bring a snack or drinks to share!

from amazon.com:
“Pronged ants, horned humans, a landscape carved on a fruit pit–some of the displays in David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology are hoaxes. But which ones? As he guides readers through an intellectual hall of mirrors, Lawrence Weschler revisits the 16th-century “wonder cabinets” that were the first museums and compels readers to examine the imaginative origins of both art and science. Illustrations.”

Voting is now open for April’s book! Vote here.

Please note that Jennifer and Jeff now have two lovely pups, Adler and Tully! I think they’re quite charming, but they can be put away if folks are allergic or phobic. I also understand that the narwhal has been replaced. :)

Effective Affect

Saturday, March 19, 2016
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

Emotions are messy, disorganized and don’t help us make rational decisions. Right? Then why do we have them? Scientists have gone through great lengths to study emotions including electrical shocks to the face, torturing dogs, botox injections, conversations with cannibals, use of the postal service, and inappropriate use of a No.2 pencil. What are the findings of all this research? Presentation may even include an adorable picture of a baby gorilla taking a bath, but that is just to get an emotional reaction from the audience.

About our speaker: Michael Maloney is an emotional guy who has combined his work in mental health and clinical/behavioral health research to become a Research Study Counselor.

Here it is on Meetup!

Was Malthus Correct?

Saturday, February 20, 2016
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

February’s presentation will be from Corina Schusheim:

“My talk will be an inquiry about whether the Robert Malthus Theory of Population Growth applies to today’s society.  Does a high rate population growth cause poverty, or does poverty cause a high rate of population growth?  Is there a relationship between a society’s level of prosperity and its population growth?  I will present examples of neo-Malthusian themes in literature, and contemporary media.  Then we will conclude with predictions from demographers and economists.  A bibliography will be provided of source materials on this topic.”

Here it is on Meetup!

Skeptical Salon: Epileptic by David B.

February 25, 2016
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

Graphic novel time! We’ll be reading Epileptic, by David B. Lots of copies of this one at the Chicago Public Library!

Bring a snack to share and/or a beverage of your choice… we usually have a pretty good spread thanks to everyone bringing goodies.

(I just realized that our book-voting list has been closed since the end of November, so I’m going rogue on this month’s selection.)

From amazon.com:
“Hailed by The Comics Journal as one of Europe’s most important and innovative comics artists, David B. has created a masterpiece in Epileptic, his stunning and emotionally resonant autobiography about growing up with an epileptic brother. Epileptic gathers together and makes available in English for the first time all six volumes of the internationally acclaimed graphic work.

David B. was born Pierre-François Beauchard in a small town near Orléans, France. He spent an idyllic early childhood playing with the neighborhood kids and, along with his older brother, Jean-Christophe, ganging up on his little sister, Florence. But their lives changed abruptly when Jean-Christophe was struck with epilepsy at age eleven. In search of a cure, their parents dragged the family to acupuncturists and magnetic therapists, to mediums and macrobiotic communes. But every new cure ended in disappointment as Jean-Christophe, after brief periods of remission, would only get worse.

Angry at his brother for abandoning him and at all the quacks who offered them false hope, Pierre-François learned to cope by drawing fantastically elaborate battle scenes, creating images that provide a fascinating window into his interior life. An honest and horrifying portrait of the disease and of the pain and fear it sowed in the family, Epileptic is also a moving depiction of one family’s intricate history. Through flashbacks, we are introduced to the stories of Pierre-François’s grandparents and we relive his grandfathers’ experiences in both World Wars. We follow Pierre-François through his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, all the while charting his complicated relationship with his brother and Jean-Christophe”s losing battle with epilepsy. Illustrated with beautiful and striking black-and-white images, Epileptic is as astonishing, intimate, and heartbreaking as the best literary memoir.”

 

Do you want to help choose our next book? Make your suggestions in the comments, or vote on our existing list o’ goodness here.

Skeptical Salon: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

January 21, 2016
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

This month’s book is The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Bring a snack to share and/or a beverage of your choice… we usually have a pretty good spread thanks to everyone bringing goodies.

Yep, it’s a long one this time, but maybe you’ll have a little extra time for some relaxing, Pulitzer-Prize-winning reading over the holidays.

From amazon.com: 

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and now a documentary from Ken Burns on PBS, The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist. From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave may have cut off her diseased breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease. Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.

It’s also a PBS film in three parts!

Do you want to help choose our next book? Make your suggestions in the comments, or vote on our existing list o’ goodness here.

Skeptical Salon: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

November 19, 2015
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

This month’s book is So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Bring a snack to share and/or a beverage of your choice… we usually have a pretty good spread thanks to everyone bringing goodies. Some of us just saw the author at the Chicago Humanities Festival on Halloween, it should be a good discussion!

Description from amazon.com:
“For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us – people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work. Once their transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know they’re being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job.

A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice. But what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people’s faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.

Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws – and the very scary part we all play in it.”

Do you want to help choose our next book? Make your suggestions in the comments, or vote on our existing list o’ goodness here.

On Human Uniqueness: Our Evolved Qualitative Differences

Saturday, October 24, 2015
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

A look at our similarities as just another mammal and primate and our unprecedented differences in behavior, empathy, tool manufacture and cognitive abilities, especially our unique evolved conceptual abilities that drive human language and culture.

Dr. William Zingrone is a Developmental Psychologist with passionate research interests in Consciousness and Cognitive Evolution.
“My driving motivation is to dispel outdated religious based ideas about human nature that are ingrained in the folk beliefs of our modern culture. Father, devoted husband in his 61st year, hockey fan, information sponge, music lover, out to give religion the drubbing it deserves.”