skepticamp-new-hampshire-2012-73

Science and Critical Thinking On Tap at The Barley House

skepticamp-new-hampshire-2012-73

Concord, NH – The local critical thinking/science literacy promotion group Granite State Skeptics has announced they are hosting their 2nd annual Skepticamp Conference on October 27th 11:30am – 4:30pm at The Barley House on Main Street, Concord NH.

Skepticamp is a free informal conference, open to the public, but does require registration, as space is limited. The purpose of this conference is to promote science, education, and critical thinking through speaker/audience exchange in a relaxed atmosphere.

In the past Skepticamp event we have had a wide variety of topics. Some topics we have talked about at our last skepticam were: Magicians as honest liars, Sugar myth, Science based medicine, Starting a science/skepticism pod cast, statistics, and math as magic.

Speakers are encouraged to answer audience members question and provide reputable sources for their topic on requested. Anyone knowledgeable on a topic related to science and skepticism are welcome to sign on as a speaker. Our speakers have a wide range of experiences: Magicians, Doctors, Middle School aged mathematician, and others who have a topic of special interest in science or skepticism and have made it their hobby.

This type of event has been gaining in popularity and is held in at least 50 other locations in the United States and around the world.

About Granite State Skeptics:

Granite State Skeptics are a local group based out of Manchester NH and is run by the husband and wife team Travis and Dale Roy. The goal of this group is to promote science and critical thinking to the public. One way to do this is through monthly meetings at The Farm Restaurant on Elm Street, Manchester NH, held on the second Monday of every month. Anyone interested is welcome to join us.

Links:

To sign up and for more info: http://skepticamp.org/wiki/SkeptiCamp_New_Hampshire_2012

NHPR’s Story on the 1st Skepticamp:

http://nhpr.org/post/indigenous-and-incredulous#.UAb21AD1UL8.facebook

Granite State Skeptics Page:

http://www.granitestateskeptics.org/

Contact Information:

Dale Roy
Email: dale@granitestateskeptics.org

Travis Roy
Email: travis@granitestateskeptics.org

Marian Call – October 8th!

Photo by Brian Adams (http://baphotos.com)

We’re happy to finally be announcing that the fabulous Marian Call will be entertaining us for our October meeting. This will be slightly different than our normal meeting. It will be at The Farm Bar and Grille as usual, but we will be in the atrium space. This event will also be open to anybody and everybody.

So please join us on October 8th, 7pm at The Farm Bar and Grille!

More info about Marian Call can be found at the following locations:

http://mariancall.com – (official website)
http://youtube.com/mariancall – (performance videos)
http://mariancall.bandcamp.com/ – (listen for free or purchase)
http://twitter.com/mariancall – (twitter)
http://facebook.com/mariancallmusic – (Facebook musician page)

(Our Facebook event for this is at https://www.facebook.com/events/100451446777773/)

GSS-TAM2012

TAM2012 – Granite State Skeptics in Vegas

Granite State Skeptics had a great turnout at The Amaz!ng Meeting 2012, especially for such a small group. Formed shortly before TAM7, we became energized to make it work. Our success comes out of regular meetings, having great speakers, and the support of other organizations like the James Randi Educational Foundation.


(Photo Courtesy of Susan Gerbic)
Our TAM representation ranged from Kitty, who’s been to every American TAM, to some first TAMers. Some of them shared their experiences here. Click through to read their experiences.
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Brian Dunning at New England College

Science writer Brian Dunning is the host and producer of the podcast Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena, applying critical thinking to urban legends and popular pseudoscientific subjects promoted by the mass media. Skeptoid has a weekly audience of 190,000 listeners. Brian is also the author of three books based on the podcast. A computer scientist by trade, Brian uses new media to showcase the rewards of science and critical thinking. He has appeared on numerous radio shows and television documentaries, and also hosts the science video series inFact with Brian Dunning. He is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

Brian will be presenting his talk “Sounds from Beyond!” Monday, March 26th in the New England College Simon Center at 7pm in Henniker, NH

House Bill 1457 – Scientific Inquiry Bill

Thursday 2/9/11 @ 11:00 am. HB 1457 Science Inquiry Bill Hearing scheduled.

Please go to this or have someone go that can read your letters into record.
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HB 1457 is a bill defining how Scientific Inquiry should be defined and taught, by two representatives Gary Hopper and John Burt.

HB 1457 states:

“Scientific Inquiry. Require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”

and can be seen here:  http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1457.html

 

What is the issue with this bill? 

This bill is worded in a very subtle way and may seem benign.  It is true that science does not hold on to one idea, science is always giving a nod to uncertainty and possible change.  However, the most troubling part of this bill comes from   “new evidence” and “Not committing to theories”

By not defining the terms “new evidence”, it becomes unclear as to what kind of evidence will be valid for consideration in the classroom.  Does any kind of evidence get accepted?  What if the evidence brought in by a parent or student, is from a study that has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal?  Will this type of evidence  be required to carry the same weight and consideration as actual scientific evidence provided by a study that has undergone peer-review and has shown up in scientific publications?

How much evidence?

By allowing the term “new evidence” to be so broad, people/students may think a theory will be overturned because one lone scientist discovered it.  Will they make the connection that a scientific theory is same as our day-to-day vernacular suggests?  Instead of what a scientific theory really is actually defined:  A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.  It cannot be overturned because of one new study.  It can be overturned, when a consensus of the scientific community has been reached, thanks to the repeated verification and study of the “new evidence”.

By allowing “new evidence” to be so broad, does it matter the form of evidence?  

Will science teachers have to teach Astrology during the Astronomy units, because of a well known astrologer and blogger posts about the 13 astrological signs and their “influence” on a person in relation to the various planets with those signs?

David Brooks’ “Granite Geek” article of the Nashua Telegraph said it best with

“Mention of astrology, claiming evidence about an instantaneous universal force unknown to science, means physics class should “not commit” to Newton’s ideas about gravity. Homeopathy means classes should “not commit” to basic chemistry. The Hollow Earth Theory means earth science should “not commit” to plate tectonics. Brouwer’s Intituitionism (to dredge up memories from college days) means math class should “not commit” to irrational numbers. And so on.”

“Not committing to just one theory”

Interestingly enough, this does not get limited to just science.  This bill in fact opens up possibilities for other subjects with the “Not committing to theories” statement.  What about our history classes?  Will history teachers have to give equal weight to Sarah Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, if some random person can provide any kind of evidence to it?

An even better example would be Economics!  Economics teachers should consider what they teach as well. For example:  They should not just teach the classic Capitalism theory which is so popular here in America, but Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Neoclassical economics, Keynesian economics, and any other theories deemed relevent by a student or parent.  New evidence may show that any of these economic theories are valid and if a student or a parent should bring these subjects up, then by george the teacher better be ready to do so.

(Wish I could take credit for the economics segment.  It’s brilliant, but it was brought up by a Dartmouth Professor who’s name escapes me right now; I apologize and thank you!)

 

While my questions/examples may seem far fetched and unreasonable, this is what many people think of when it comes to science.  Many people seem to share the incorrect thinking “Anything goes, after all.. science is just guessing”.  No, I am afraid it is not that simple.  Science is not out there just guessing with no guidelines, review, and oversight.  The scientific process is self correcting and stringent.  This type of thinking and other anti-science thinking from the population is not helpful to our society; it is especially problematic when our legislators follow up on this with bad bills.   The news media keeps mentioning how tough these tough economic times are.   It may be safe to assume that science and technology will be the types of jobs that keep growing in demand. Our state should be doing everything we can to attract these types business.  Showing our commitment not just to education, but an educational system that is strong in science and technology, can only help our situation (both present and future).  How can NH expect to attract these industries (that are so readily found in Massachusetts) when our state legislators are set on scaring them away with anti-science legislation such as HB 1457 and its other anti-science counter part 1148?

Representatives John Burt and Gary Hopper as far as I am aware, are not educators nor do they not have a background in science. Instead of helping to strengthen our states educational system,  they are setting  our students up for confusion.  In fact, if these two would go take a look, the NH Dept. of Education already has an extensive outline for how scientific inquiry should be taught in the “Scientific Process Skills” section of the document “K-12 Science Literacy New Hampshire Curriculum Framework”   found at this link.  Why try to change what has already been laid out by the qualified people the state hired, by writing inferior laws?  Now I understand some would argue that the state has not provided a perfect guideline for teaching scientific inquiry.  That may be true, but it is a far better guideline then what Representatives John Burt and Gary Hopper has provided us with.  HB 1457 is a good example of why those who do not have a clue of what they are doing when it comes to education or science, should not be writing bills that influence or affect education.

 

Please go to the Educational Committee hearing and ask that Bill 1457 be killed in committee.  If you cannot go to the hearing, then please write the committee members and also send someone to read your letters to the committee for the record.

 

Sources:

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/945078-196/lawmakers-zero-in-on-science-theory.html

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1457.html

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committeedetails.aspx?code=H05

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.education.nh.gov%2Finstruction%2Fcurriculum%2Fscience%2Fdocuments%2Fscience.doc&ei=8ZAUT6CyDOnl0QG-r6TKAw&usg=AFQjCNEZ_YmW_18wmLvuYLH9L3e9oaQm0A&sig2=dHBYUKMC_usI3AxIxB9Q1A

SkeptiCamp New Hampshire

UPDATE: Please see below, and the link to the SkeptiCamp Wiki for new details about this event.

SkeptiCamp New Hampshire is just over a month away! Please join us for the first such event in New England. Based off of the unconference model of BarCamp, SkeptiCamp is a dynamic event with lots of participation and interaction.

We will be holding SkeptiCamp at The Barley House in Concord, NH on Saturday, October 22nd from 11am-4pm. For those coming from Boston please look at Concord Coach Lines for the South Station <-> Concord bus line. It’s a easy alternative for those coming from the Boston area, especially if you don’t have a car.

Please note that due to the limited space, registration is required to attent. Registration can be done at our EventBright page. If you want to cancel your registration please let us know so that we can release the seat to others. Speaking slots are even more limited, so if you have a topic you’re interested in presenting please contact our event coordinator, Dale Roy.

This event is made possible by the co-sponsorship of the James Randi Education Foundation.

September Skeptics in the Pub

This month we welcome our first return speaker. Bart Center, writer of “The Atheist Camel Chronicles” is joining us to talk about his new book “The Atheist Camel Rants Again!

Bart is also the operator of Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, a website for post-rapture pet care.

So please join us, 7pm at The Shaskeen in Manchester on September 12th. More information can be found at the event facebook page. Please RSVP there or here in the comments.

Opinion: On Staying Silent

People are remaining silent on various issues.  For many, silence is considered supportive of one side or another.  If you don’t disagree visibly or vocally, then you must agree! It’s a fallacy, we all know it, but never the less it’s happening.  Right now, we have members of the skeptical movement who are staying silent out of fear of the resulting backlash.  It seems the silence is greatest when something is going wrong but, people are afraid to comment.  We all know when something has gone awry and we all know the moment of clarity that happens each of us, when it does.  What is puzzling for the skeptical movement is the silent stance.  After all, what has been one of the big tenets of our movement? Engagement.  We skeptics research, read, get informed, find answers that get us upset… then do nothing? What good comes from that?

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John Edward Protest – A Recap

On June 21st, The Granite State Skeptics put together a quiet protest outside the John Edward show. Our goal was modest: Make aware and Inform.  For those that may be interested in doing something similar, I thought a full run down of our story from the very beginning to the end would be helpful.

Back in October, 2010. One of the founders (Andrew Cramb) sent me an email stating psychic John Edward would be performing at The Palace Theatre in June. I thought it would be a good idea to put something together, but till I had a good idea best to put it on the back burner. After all, there was plenty of time to do something.  However, what I did do in the mean time, was come up with a pamphlet called “Rational Guide to Psychics”.

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Image from Flickr - Matthew Beckler

It’s From Nature – It Must Be Better

Image from Flickr - Matthew Beckler

Ah nature, its beauty astounds me and I gladly walk through its many wonders. To think, all it took was time, pressure, and a few chemical reactions to make some impressive features. I am even more impressed by how our means of better living was achieved through nature. Achieved through our ancestors curiosity and survival instincts. As a result many of the proven natural aides are used today, albeit in different form. However, today, we have a population of people who think the world is in trouble. That our world is better served by abandoning our advancements and return to the primitive past. While it is true many of our products used today are nature based; that does not mean abandoning our advances will provide a safer or better environment.

 

Many things that make life easier came from plants. Aspirin, for example originated from the bark of a willow tree in the form of salicylic acid. Thanks to Bayer and other makers of aspirin, most people no longer have to worry about their stomach becoming upset. Retinal is another plant-based product that has been manipulated to suit our purpose. Cosmetic companies figured out retinal are good for smooth skin. A third chemical, and the focus of this article, is oxalic acid. This is a chemical found in many plants and it is made readily in the lab for industrial and commercial use. Oxalic acid is used in many disinfectants, bleaching agents, and insecticides for household, commercial, and industrial use. As for plants, it can be found in Spinach, Swiss chard, and most notably –if you are a New Englander-Rhubarb.

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