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.”

Skeptical Salon: The Madame Curie Complex:The Hidden History of Women in Science by Julie des Jardins

October 29, 2015
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

This month’s Skeptical Salon book is The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by Julie des Jardins. Bring a snack to share and/or a beverage of your choice… we usually have a pretty good spread thanks to everyone bringing goodies, so let’s keep it up!

Description from amazon.com:

Why are the fields of science and technology still considered to be predominantly male professions? The Madame Curie Complex moves beyond the most common explanations—limited access to professional training, lack of resources, exclusion from social networks of men—to give historical context and unexpected revelations about women’s contributions to the sciences. Exploring the lives of Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, Rosalyn Yalow, Barbara McClintock, Rachel Carson, and the women of the Manhattan Project, Julie Des Jardins considers their personal and professional stories in relation to their male counterparts—Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi—to demonstrate how the gendered culture of science molds the methods, structure, and experience of the work. With lively anecdotes and vivid detail, The Madame Curie Complex reveals how women scientists have often asked different questions, used different methods, come up with different explanations for phenomena in the natural world, and how they have forever transformed a scientist’s role.

As usual, please feel free to bring snacks and/or beverages to share.

(Vote here for NEXT month’s Salon book!)

There Will Be a Meetup This Day!

Saturday, September 19, 2015
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

There’s no formal speaker or agenda for this one, so we’ll just be hanging out like a plain ol’ Skeptics in the Pub. We can talk about Skepticamp or Festivus or potential future speakers…or any interesting skeptical topic we like.

Skeptical Salon – Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Thursday, September 17, 2015
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

Bring a snack to share and/or a beverage of your choice, Jennifer and Jeff are hosting yet another Skeptical Salon! This month’s book is Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America by Barbara Ehrenreich.

from Amazon.com:

Americans are a “positive” people — cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: This is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive is the key to getting success and prosperity. Or so we are told.

In this utterly original debunking, Barbara Ehrenreich confronts the false promises of positive thinking and shows its reach into every corner of American life, from Evangelical megachurches to the medical establishment, and, worst of all, to the business community, where the refusal to consider negative outcomes–like mortgage defaults–contributed directly to the current economic disaster. With the myth-busting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of positive thinking: personal self-blame and national denial. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best–poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.

(Vote here for NEXT month’s Salon book!)

Personality is Not Destiny

Saturday, August 15, 2015
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

Personality tests are everywhere, from job applications to Buzzfeed. Do they provide any accurate information, or just random feedback that sounds believable? Chris Long will present a simple, tested tool that can dramatically improve the way you communicate with yourself and others.

Chris is an optimist who cheerfully overestimates the abilities and positive intentions of others. She works as an IT Director and believes that good management is a noble goal. She lives in Lincoln Square with her husband and two awesome cats.