OF INTEREST: Visit St. Louis’ City Museum [FIELD TRIP YAY!]

The College of Curiosity is taking a trip down to St. Louis to visit the City Museum on September 27, let’s go! the Conference of Curiosity was held there in 2012, and it was AWESOME. This trip is just to visit the museum, though.

Is it skeptical? Not specifically. Are there things at the museum we could be skeptical about? Probably. Is it going to be fun? Most definitely.

Please register here to get the discounted rate. More details about the event can also be found on the CoC website, including travel details and a schedule for the day. (Details on an extra, optional Sunday trip to Cahokia may be found there as well.)

If you’re not familiar with the City Museum, it’s difficult to describe. A former Buster Brown shoe factory, artist Bob Cassilly turned it into a wonderland for children and adults. Part museum, part jungle gym—if you ever wanted to visit Willy Wonka’s wonderland, this is about as close as you can get. (Please don’t drink the river). For more info on what the City Museum has to offer, click here.

To see some pictures of the City Museum, check out this Flickr search.

Some highlights:

• A wide array of slides, some as high as 10 stories

• Planes, fire engines, and other vehicles that you can climb on and out of

• Several small, quirky museums

• An extensive cave complex

• Architectural salvage from Chicago and St. Louis

• A ferris wheel Model train, shoelace machine, a circus, snowflake workshop

• And so very, very much more

If you’re a curious adult, this is the place for you. All kids are curious.

Date: September 27, 2014

Price: $13.00 (normally $17.00)

Time: 11:00 AM to 12:00 Midnight

Where: City Museum, St. Louis, Missouri

Children are welcome.

Click here to register!

Skeptical Salon – Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen

Thursday, September 25, 2014
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

“History is furious debate informed by evidence and reason, not just answers to be learned.”

James Loewen spent two years at the Smithsonian Institute surveying twelve leading high school textbooks of American History. What he found was an embarrassing amalgam of bland optimism, blind patriotism, and misinformation pure and simple, weighing in at an average of four-and-a-half pounds and 888 pages.

In response, he has written Lies My Teacher Told Me, in part a telling critique of existing books but, more importantly, a wonderful retelling of American history as it should – and could – be taught to American students. Beginning with pre-Columbian American history and ranging over characters and events as diverse as Reconstruction, Helen Keller, the first Thanksgiving, and the My Lai massacre, Loewen supplies the conflict, suspense, unresolved drama, and connection with current-day issues so appallingly missing from textbook accounts.

A treat to read and a serious critique of American education, Lies My Teacher Told Me is for anyone who has ever fallen asleep in history class.

For those who would prefer to borrow a copy rather than purchase, this month’s selection has copies available at the Chicago Public Library.

Skeptical Salon – You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney

Thursday, August 28, 2014
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

“Self delusion makes you human, but you can do something about it. Delusion, that is. You’re stuck with the human thing.”

David McRaney’s first book, You Are Not So Smart, evolved from his wildly popular blog of the same name. A mix of popular psychology and trivia, McRaney’s insights have struck a chord with thousands, and his blog–and now podcasts and videos–have become an Internet phenomenon.

A mix of popular psychology and trivia, You Are Now Less Dumb is grounded in the idea that we all believe ourselves to be objective observers of reality–except we’re not. But that’s okay, because our delusions keep us sane.

Expanding on this premise, McRaney provides eye-opening analyses of seventeen ways we fool ourselves every day, including:

  • Enclothed Cognition (the clothes you wear change your behavior and influence your mental abilities)
  • The Benjamin Franklin Effect (how you grow to like people for whom you do nice things and hate the people you harm).
  • Deindividuation (Despite our best intentions, we practically disappear when subsumed by a mob mentality)
  • The Misattribution of Arousal (Environmental factors have a greater effect on our emotional arousal than the person right in front of us)
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy (We will engage in something we don’t enjoy just to make the time or money already invested “worth it”)

McRaney also reveals the true price of happiness, and how to avoid falling for our own lies.

For those who would prefer to borrow a copy rather than purchase, this month’s selection has 18 copies available at the Chicago Public Library.

Our Dumb Emotions

Saturday, August 16, 2014
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

Do you think you’re a rational, reasonable person who never lets your emotions influence your carefully constructed arguments? If so, you’re wrong! Come find out why your arguments are not as airtight as you think and how feeling the most important emotion of all — empathy — can help you make those arguments stronger.

Aubrey Henretty is a science writer and storyteller. She writes about language and critical thinking at wordmonster.org.


Skeptical Salon Segment Style – The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer

Thursday, July 31, 2014
7:30 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

Since we’re a bit late in posting this month’s Salon, we’re only reading a segment of a book {Chapters 6 and 7 to be precise}.

Our own Marcus Davis has suggested this month’s Salon piece, and comments about it thus:
“This month’s selection, or the portion that we’ll be reading, addresses the question of evidence-based altruism and the empirical arguments that all such aid is ineffective. Specifically, they address how we know which charities are effective, an estimate of the cost of some of these interventions, data on what countries give now, if and when aid is self-defeating, if trade is the better option, private versus government aid and, finally, the role of overpopulation concerns in aid.

“The two chapters combined likely aren’t more than about 50 pages (it is a little over a 100 when reading them on iPhone). And, importantly, the acceptance of the empirical arguments in them does not depend at all on the acceptance of the ethical arguments that make up much of the rest of the book.”

Here is the link to the Amazon.com entry, and the link to the NY Times book review.




Rethinking Nature

Saturday, July 19, 2014
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

Join us on the 19th, when our favorite skeptical pirate Arthur Wawrzyczek will ask us to reconsider our thoughts about nature.

“Let’s rethink nature. What do you see when you hear the word nature? Close your eyes and imagine it. I’ll go ahead and take whatever you see and flip it upside down for you. The nature of nature may not always be as it seems; nature, naturally, has many surprising natures. Let’s dive deep into the smallest and largest objects in the cosmos and reveal their strangeness. We’ll take a trip through the universe until we find ourselves- we’re in there somewhere… right?”

Arthur (Captain Cuddles) Wawrzyczek has sailed through the treacherous seas of papal nightmares before landing on the Grand Island of Inquiry. There, the great Captain was challenged by the infamous spirits of Fallacious Arguments and escaped through the power of Critical Thought! He now sails around Chicago in his land-ship conquering such things like Biology, Environmental Science, and Education.



The Addicted Brain: gambling, sex, exercise – pastime or problem?

Monday, June 30, 2014
6:00 PM

Location: TechNexus

Illinois Science Council (ISC) continues its series of free public talks about the brain. The programs are a wide-ranging exploration into the neuroscience and psychology of the human brain – our choices, decisions, personalities – those similarities and differences that make us humans so darn fascinating. The next event in the “Your Brain” series is behavioral addictions expert Jon Grant, JD, MD, MPH, of the University of Chicago Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience. People and media often use the term “addiction” rather loosely – “She’s addicted to that TV show,” or “He’s addicted to his running routine.” But what does addiction really mean when it comes to a whole range of behaviors? What causes something to change from a pastime to a problem? Can one really be addicted to gaming, sex or exercise? How can you tell what rises to the level of an addiction, and what’s the solution? Don’t miss this unique opportunity to gain insight into how or brains can help or hurt us.

Your Brain on Addiction – Gambling, Sex, Exercise… pastime or problem?
Jon Grant, JD, MD, MPH
TechNexus, 20 N. Upper Wacker Dr., Ste. 1200, Chicago, IL
FREE and open to the public.


Skeptical Salon Movie Night!

Thursday, May 29, 2014
7:00 PM

Location: Jennifer’s Place

We’re slowing it down a bit for this month’s salon, since we haven’t had a movie night in a while. Please note that we will be starting Skeptical Salon at 7:00 p.m. in case we have a movie that runs over 2 hours so we have ample discussion time.

Right now the Organizers are sorting through a number of movies that would be great for Skeptical Salon; however, if you have any suggestions, we would be more than happy to here them. Please leave the suggestions in the comment thread and please tell us how your suggestion is skeptically relevant. Looking forward to hearing your suggestions!

Vaccine-preventable­ diseases: Outbreaks, Updates, Antis and Pros

Doses of oral polio vaccine are added to sugar cubes for use in a 1967 vaccination campaign in Bonn, West Germany. "Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F025952-0015, Bonn, Gesundheitsamt, Schutzimpfung" by Gathmann, Jens - This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive.. Licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, June 21, 2014
12:30 PM

Location: Black Rock

What’s new in vaccine preventable diseases? The country is currently seeing pockets of measles, mumps and whooping cough. We’ll discuss the medical implications of these diseases that, happily, most people in this meetup have likely never personally experienced.

Additionally, who are the big players in the anti-vaccine movement? What are their arguments and how does science refute them? All this plus anecdotes from the front-line of educating parents about vaccines by our pediatrician-in-residence, Jennifer Newport