SDARI Event Archives 2001 and Older
- November 25, 2001 -- Dr. Elie Shneour -- Stem cell research
Few discoveries of the past few years have held as much promise as stem cell research. Dare we hope for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of devastating illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and diseases of the nervous system, such as Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease? Even if we can hope for such, is it ethical? Would we be simply trading one human life to aid another human life?
- October 28, 2001 -- Dr. Joe Nickell of CSICOP -- Paranormal Investigations
Dr. Nickell is a superb lecturer on paranormal investigations. On this visit though he not only held a lecture, but also took a tour of San Diego's Star of India and visited some of the reputed ghost sites on this oldest active ship in the world.
- February 25, 2001 -- Lucia Hall -- Tarot Cards
Despite the ludicrous claims some may make about Tarot cards, they have a quite ordinary, though interesting, history. Lucia Hall told us where they come from and how various cultures have left their mark on them.
- July 23, 2000 -- Dr. Elie Shneour -- Lying with the Polygraph
Our government routinely uses the polygraph to screen for disloyal employees. In fact Bill Richardson, the Secretary of Energy, has ordered tests be given the scientists at Los Alamos to determine the circumstances surrounding lost (or misplaced) hard drives. But do they work? One of SDARI's original members, Dr. Elie Shneour, will address this hot topic. Dr. Shneour is research director and CEO of Biosystems Research Institute and Chairman of the San Diego Science County Advisory Board. He is a Fellow of CSICOP and has served on the faculties of New York, Utah, and Stanford Universities. He was science advisor to Jaques Cousteau for many years. Dr. Shneour is author of several books and hundreds of professional articles and essays. He studied polygraphs for three decades, and will share his conclusions with us.
- June 25, 2000 -- Dr. Mark Perakh -- The Rise And Fall of The Bible Code
The "Bible code" was popularized in 1994 with the publication of a paper in "Statistical Science." Since then, authors and "scholars" have published an endless succession of predictions of future events allegedly encoded in the Hebrew Bible, for example: the assassination of Kennedy, the Gulf war, AIDS, comets, and many others. In his presentation, funny examples of the so-called codes will be shown as well as very similar "predictions" found in a variety of non-Biblical texts. Dr Perakh is a retired Professor of Physics from Cal State University
- May 28, 2000 -- Michael McGinty -- The Disease Model: The Unscientific Process
Alcoholism and drug addiction of one kind or another has plagued civilization since time immemorial. Attempts to control and/or eradicate this blight have arisen from every corner of society, such as churches, schools, and governments, each with varying levels of success. Then, just 60 years ago, an organization called Alcoholics Anonymous forever changed the way the world would view alcoholism and drug addiction. For the first time ever, addictions and dependencies which were once considered social problems or problems of personal morality and self-will were now classified as 'diseases.' This new 'disease model' posits that the root of these problems lies beyond the individual's personal control. For scores of people suffering from addiction and dependency, the idea that they are not to blame is a seductive one, as the swelling numbers of people in 12-step programs will attest. As the classifications for what constitutes a 'disease' continues to grow and more are brought into the fold, what no one is stopping to ask is whether or not there is any legitimacy to this model and does the proposed 'cure' really work? Michael McGinty is a corporate trainer who teaches critical thinking skills in problem solving, decision making and planning. He is a former member of Alcoholics Anonymous and he will take a no-holds-barred look at both the disease and recovery models offered by AA and their affects on American politics and society.
- April 30, 2000 -- J. David Archibald -- Dinosaur Extinction: Myths, Controversies, and Facts
The myth that dinosaur extinction was a result of a mysterious, overnight cause (like an asteroid) is disputed by Professor David Archibald, Professor of Paleontology at SDSU. Instead, he maintains that science and fossil data reveal that dinosaurs slowly disappeared similarly to certain animal species today. "This is the same process that is now occurring in places as diverse as San Diego and the Amazon Rainforest, but today it is caused by humans."
- March 26, 2000 -- Lucia Hall -- FROM MYSTIC TO SKEPTIC, A discussion of transition from 'Believer' to 'Scientist'
Lucia Hall is now as strongly committed a skeptic, atheist, materialist, and scientist as you are likely to find in the skeptical community. Therefore, it may be surprising to know she started her early career as a devout believer in the New Age. Her adolescence years as a resident of Marin County, California, were steeped in New Age mysticism that ran the gamut from acupuncture to Zen and everything in between. It was through that mystical lens that she first tried to make sense of the world. This lecture describes the steps of her own personal journey from belief into unbelief, from credulity and spirituality into skepticism and science. What caused the change was a combination of curiosity, blind luck, stubbornness, rebellion, honesty, and a few too many questions needing answers, and even more answers that needed questions. What she lost by discarding her mysticism and, even more importantly, what she gained by embracing science, should provide a great deal of food for thought for skeptics and believers alike.
- February 27, 2000 -- Dr. Seth Asser -- It's nice to believe in magic, but not when your life depends on it. An evening of MAGIC with a serious purpose. Be sure to bring the kids!
Magical entertainment is as much based upon the willingness of an audience to put aside any natural skepticism as it is based upon the perfomers ability to create illusions. Unlike the complex cinematic portrayals such as in the movies "The Sting" or "House of Games," most cons or deceptions require little more than a basic illusion or trick and a motivation (voluntary or subconscious) on the part of the mark to participate in the con. Any 12-year-old with a magic set and an antisocial attitude has the tools to be an effective scam artist. Performing magicians have both a high degree of ethics and an implied understanding with an audience that they be allowed to "con" temporarily, for the purpose of amusement. Scam artists have no such social responsibility. They do not exchange performance for a voluntary fee from a willing audience. Instead, they prey upon human weaknesses for unilateral benefit. Whether it be a financial swindle or health fraud, the results can be devastating to a victim. However, in the latter case, when people are ill and seeking health care, they are motivated to presume that someone calling himself a "health care provider" is truly interested in helping. Because of the physical and psychological effects of illness, most people have their guards lowered when it comes to scam detection. Thus, we have an especially fertile enviroment for the incubation of fraud. Using examples of simple magic tricks that I will simultaneously perform and teach to the audience, I will illustrate some well known scams both for education as well as for an exercise in applying critical thinking to extraordinary claims.
- January 23, 2000 -- Dr. Al Myrick -- The Science and Engineering Fair...
...and what it means to us and to our community. In April, SDARI will become involved with the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair (GSDSEF). We will offer awards for critical thinking to four students in high school and junior high. We are enthusiastic about this. So is GSDSEF, so much so that Dr. Al Myrick, its director, will be our January speaker. Our guest's profession is wildlife research biologist. His community outreach activities have always included helping youngsters. A partial listing includes: Scientific Advisor to San Diego area schools; supervisor and mentor for student volunteers in scientific research; participant in "Upward Bound," a science program aimed at minority students; Member, Federal Women's Program Committee; some 1000 lectures on science to schools, colleges, and university groups. Dr Myrick has been involved with GSDSEF since 1979, its director since 1997. With Dr. Myrick, we have an opportunity to make in important contribution to the youth of our community. Let's have a big turnout and get the new millennium program off to a rousing start.
- November 28, 1999 -- Dr. Michael Shermer -- WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE IN GOD: An Empirical Study on a Deep Question.
The intellectual and spiritual quest to understand the universe and our place in it is at the core of religion and the belief in God. At the beginning of the 20th century social scientists predicted that belief in God would decrease by the end of the century because of the secularization of society. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Never in history have so many believed in God. To find out why, social scientist and Skeptic magazine editor Dr. Michael Shermer has undertaken a monumental study of religion and the belief in God in his new book HOW WE BELIEVE: The Search for God in an Age of Science, from which his lecture is based. Topics of discussion include:
- an examination of what it means to believe in God;
- why Nietzsche and Time magazine were wrong in proclaiming the death of God;
- the results of an exhaustive empirical study that asked 10,000 Americas why they believe in God;
- proofs of God and what they tell us about religious faith;
- the relationship between science and religion;
- how humans, as the storytelling animal, came to become Homo religiosus;
- what "millennial madness" tells us about our desire for a better world;
- how to find the sacred in the age of science
Dr. Michael Shermer is the author of the newly released book HOW WE BELIEVE: The Search for God in an Age of Science (W. H. Freeman). He is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, the director of the Skeptics Society, and the host of the Skeptics Lecture Series at Caltech. Dr. Shermer is also a host and consulting producer for the new television series, EXPLORING THE UNKNOWN, on the Fox Family Channel, airing every Tuesday night from 10-11pm. He is the author of WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS (W. H. Freeman) that was widely and positively reviewed and was on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list as well as nominated as one of the top 100 notable books of 1997. Dr. Shermer is also the host of "Science Talk" on Wednesdays from 6-7pm on KPCC, 89.3FM, the NPR affiliate for Southern California. According to Stephen Jay Gould: "Michael Shermer, as head of one of America's leading skeptic organizations, and as a powerful activist and essayist in the service of this operational form of reason, is an important figure in American public life."
- October 24, 1999 -- Scott LaFee-- Critical Reporting in the Popular Press and How Hard It Is to be Critical
Scott LaFee is the senior writer for the commendable Quest section of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a correspondent for several national magazines. He writes about virtually every aspect of science from astronomy to zoology. LaFee was the author of "How Life Began", an excellent twelve part series on evolution that ran in 1997, and of the four part series on the brain and the mind currently running. Our guest speaker will give some interesting perspectives on writing for the popular press.
- September 26, 1999 -- Dr Gerald Larue-- Ancient Myth and Modern Life
Mythic themes, developed in the ancient Near East some 2,000 to 4,000 years ago continue to impact in detrimental ways on our lives, affecting education, science, social patterns and, most recently, the concerns for the 21st century. What tools are available to skeptics as they seek to respond to these antiquated influences? This talk will focus on the use of research, reason and common sense and will provide opportunity for open discussion.
- June 27, 1999 -- Seth Asser, M.D. -- Preventable Death from Religion Motivated Neglect
Few things present a greater challenge to skeptics than problems hidden behind religion. All of us believe in freedom of religion. Many of us would extend that freedom even to allow people to harm themselves. But what if it goes beyond that and others suffer or die? And what if that is done to the most helpless of all, the children who depend upon their parents for help? Should the law protect those who cannot protect themselves? Whether it should or not, it doesn't. In fact some forty states have special provisions allowing religion to be a defense against child abuse. Is anybody doing anything about it? The answer is yes. Our speaker, Dr. Seth Asser, has been one of the leaders in this fight. He has expressed his opinions on TV shows, radio programs, and in both professional medical publications and in the mainstream press.
- May 23, 1999 -- Lucia K. B. Hall and Dr. Norman F. Hall -- Religion and Skepticism: Can (and should!) Skeptics Challenge Religion?
The speakers, Lucia K. B. Hall, President of the Humanist Association of San Diego and Dr. Norman F. Hall, Ph.D., Southwest Liaison Officer of the National Ocean Data Center, will attempt to counter the claim that science can say nothing about the validity of religion. The Halls will contend that both the findings and the assumptions of science are contrary to religious claims, and argue that skeptics have both a right and a duty to make this incompatibility known to the public.
- April 25, 1999 -- Dr. Richard Lederer -- Language by Lederer (how misuse of it can lead to credulous thinking)
Dr. Lederer has a Ph.D. in English and Linguistics and is one of the country's foremost grammarians. He also is a best-selling author with more than a million books in print. He is a great humorist and a popular speaker. He can be heard Sundays on the KPBS Radio show A Way with Words at 10-11 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. Join us for an entertaining and educational evening with Dr. Lederer. He will speak on the use of language for disingenuous thinking, and how we can be taken in by false etymologies and bogus "rules" of language. He will have a book signing before and after the lecture.
Dr. Lederer has a web site: http://pw1.netcom.com/~rlederer/index.htm
- March 28, 1999 -- Dr. James T. Enright -- The 1998 Heidelberg Skeptics Congress and Some Thoughts on Dowsing
Dr. James (Jim) Enright is a Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, where among many other things he teaches how to critically evaluate experimental data in the laboratory and in the scientific literature. When experiments purportedly supporting dowsing were published in a mainstream scientific journal, he challenged them and showed that the conclusions reached had no scientific basis. Dr. Enright was an invited speaker on this subject at last years CSICOP International Congress and will share his experiences there with us at this meeting. Whether or not you believe that some people have a special ability to find underground water, dont miss this educational evening.
- February 28, 1999 -- Randy E. Gibson -- False or Real Documents - How Police and Courts Find Out
Randy E. Gibson is with the Forensic Science Section of the San Diego Police Department and gives expert testimony in San Diegos courts. He will discuss some of the methods used to uncover fake documents, including graphology. Mr. Gibson has given many lectures to crime investigators and others on this subject.
- January 24, 1999 -- Dr. Gerald Larue-- Ancient Myth and Modern Life [CANCELLED]
Dr. Gerald Larue called in sick one day before his scheduled appearance. Despite our best efforts of chanting and various forms of voodoo, he stayed ill. Unable to find another speaker. President Keith Taylor filled in and gave a talk to our largest crowd of the year. His topic was "What the Skeptic Movement Means to Me." He told of the numerous credulous ideas now being espoused in our government and throughout society. Such as: At the urging of Iowa Senator Harkin, The National Institute of Health now has $50 million, as opposed to $2 million to spend on so-called "alternative medicine." In addition about half the members of the NIH are "alternative" practitioners and few have ever submitted any of their studies to peer review. Untold millions were spent at the urging of Congressman Caliborne Pell of Rhode Island to investigate remote viewing, and the possibility that the Soviets were doing it. After all that neither, the amount of money spent nor the results were available to the public. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah pushed through legislation which took off the controls on herbal and other untested, unproven medicines. Today the public is deluged with unproven claims of magical cures. Taylor's conclusion was that we need a skeptical society, and that skepticism must not be left to the scientists.
- November 22, 1998 -- Dr. Elie Shneour -- Chernobyl Disaster Revisited
November's program will be by SDARI's own Elie Shneour, one of the early members of CSICOP and a charter member of SDARI. In his other life, Dr. Shneour is President of BiosystemsInstitutes of San Diego. He is also the chairman for the Science Advisory Board for the county of San Diego. He made several trips to the Ukraine in the aftermath of the nuclear power plant meltdown. Elie will illustrate what really happened. Compare that with has been written about an event which savaged the Soviet Union and contributed to it's collapse.
- October 25, 1998, Mark Sauer: News Stories of Impropriety - A Reporter's Critical View
Mark Sauer is a Feature Writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has been a professional journalist for 25 years and has a thorough inside view of how newspapers work and what they present as news stories. Mr. Sauer is known for his many excellent articles. His most intriguing stories are those involving the lack of skepticism on the part of powerful public officials who, through combinations of gullibility, blind faith and incompetency, have caused immeasurable pain and loss to innocent people and their families. He will discuss such cases from here and around the country; cases that often involve repressed memory. Those of Jim Wade and Dale Akiki, for which Mark Sauer's reporting received much commendation, will be included.
- September 27, 1998, Dr. Gary Peterson, Asteroids, Meteoroids, Comets: Is there a Danger?
Gary Peterson is from the Department of Geological Sciences at San Diego State University. The impact of Solar System debris, such as asteroids (large pieces of rock) and comets (large chunks of ice), on the surface or atmosphere of the Earth is much in the news, both in the scientific literature and in the popular press. Recent TV documentaries, the TV movie "Asteroid" and the summer blockbuster movies "Big Impact" and Armageddon" present cataclysmic disaster scenarios. What are asteroids and comets? From where do they come? How often might we expect them to pass closely by the Earth? How frequently do these objects collide with the Earth and other planets and what does our documented record tell us? Is the potential for cataclysmic disaster real, or is this just another false alarm?
- June 28, 1998, Dr. Russell Worrall, National Council Against Health Fraud
Consumerism in healthcare is a special interest of Dr. Worrall's He has written extensively for professional journals, and his articles have twice been the cover story for The Skeptical Inquirer. He will will talk to us about alternative medicine, using homeopathy as a case study throughout his discussion. What exactly is the difference between modern medicine and alternative medicine. What are the implications of HMO's paying for such alternative methods as acupuncture and therapeutic touch. Come and enjoy this informative lecture on a topic ever more present in the news and affecting our lives.
- May 24, 1998, Bill Carroll, Author of 10,000 Superstitions: From Common to the Very Strange
What brings good luck? How do you avoid bad luck? Mr. Carroll's new book is based on a unique research project in the early 1930's. It is filled with superstitious folklore from Animals to Work. Mr. Carroll will elaborate on his research and describe his many unusual finding of folklore and superstitions.
- April 26, 1998 -- Dennis Mammana. TheStars Belong to Everyone
Astronomy is frequently perceived as a discipline with no measurable impact on society. But astronomy is a synthesis of all human endeavors: It has pervaded our daily lives from time immemorial--from our system of timekeeping to the architecture of the pyramids, from navigating the oceans in great sailing ships to the language we speak. The cosmos touches us in countless other ways as well--through astrology, time travel, ancient astronauts, planetary alignments, UFOs, and more. As you will see in this informative, yet often lighthearted, presentation--the stars do, indeed, belong to everyone!
- March 22, 1998 -- Richard Rider. The Case for Drug Legalization- A Rational Critique of America's "War on Drugs"
The "war on drugs" has been a priority for the United States for more than 40 years. Are we any closer to a solution? Are the problems we ascribe to drug use truly caused by the drugs, or the prohibition on the drugs? Mr. Rider will discuss this important social issue and propose alternative approaches to the "war on drugs".
- February 22, 1998 -- Don Bauder. Financial Skepticism: Flim Flam Artists and Their Credulous Dupes
Bello Financial, J. David Dominelli, C Arnhold Smith, pigeon-drop scams, pyramid schemes of all sorts: Over the years credulous San Diegans have fallen victim to one get-rich plan after another, and Dan Bauder has had a front row seat to the whole thing. Come listen to the award-winning financial columnist of the San Diego Union-Tribune tell us about them and how to apply skepticism to avoid any future pie in the sky schemes.
- Janurary 25, 1998 -- John Suarez, M.D. Critical Thinking Education Under Assault - Tactics of the Religious Right
Dr. Suarez is a retired psychiatrist and the Skeptic Outreach Chair for the Center for Inquiry West. He is on the Board of Trustees of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
- November 23, 1997 -- Fred Reeves -- The Investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald, the Assassin of John F. Kennedy
Mr. Reeves was a special agent for the Office of Naval Intelligence for twenty-five years, and head of the office in the 11th Naval District. He investigated unidentified flying objects in 1950-1953, and served as the case officer for the investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union in 1959. As a private citizen he has investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and has developed his own hypotheses about this tragic event in American history.
- October 27, 1997 -- Lionel Van Deerlin -- Skepticism in Congress and Journalism
Mr. Van Deerlin is a former newspaper and broadcast reporter and editor, and Congressman from San Diego for 18 years. Currently he is a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He will talk about some aspects of politics that are disturbing to many people. Van Deerlin says: They're always with us-from King Canute to Reverend Pat Robertson-leaders claiming divine guidance in temporal matters. And often with glinteyed followers hanging on their every word. If history has been shaped by these imposters, to what extent do they continue to affect public policy? And how do we deal with them?
- September 28, 1997 -- Dr. Maria-Barbara Watson-Franke -- Being a Man in a Woman-Defined World
All of the major cultures of the world are male-dominant where men define their place in the world and occupy the central position of power in the family and society. These cultures in the past have downplayed the role of women and children, often to their physical and psychological detriment. Are there other ways in which humans could organize their cultures to avoid these negative impacts on women and children? Dr. Watson will present the results of her study of matrilineal societies where women are the focus of power in the family and society. Children and women fare well in such societies but what does it mean to be a father, husband, brother and son in a society with gender dynamics that are very different from those with which we are familiar? Join us for a rational inquiry into a central issue of our time: the relationships between men, women and children in a changing world. Dr. Watson-Franke is Professor of Sociology at San Diego State University.
- June 22 -- H. Jeff Hall -- Looking for UFOs
Mr. Hall is a retired physicist and a member of SDARI. He spoke on the various alleged sightings of extraterrestrial spacecraft.
- May 25 -- Dr. Stuart M. Zola -- False Memory
Dr. Zola is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego and has studied extensively the processes involved in human memory for episodes and events. Dr. Zola commented on the claims of psychotherapists that memories for traumatic (and sometimes criminal) experiences have been suppressed and later "recovered" through therapeutic techniques.
- April 27, 1997 -- Tim Callahan -- City of Babylon: An Analysis of Biblical Prophecy
Tim Callahan is a regular contributor to Skeptic magazine and a long time student of biblical and end-times prophecy. His book, Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment? was recently published by Millennium Press. He is presently working on a book about the millennium and end-times doomsayers.
- March 23, 1997 -- Dr. Christopher Wills -- Diseases And The Rainforest
Dr. Wills discussed why rainforests seem to be a source for so many human diseases, and how the disease organisms involved play an important role in generating and maintaining the diversity of the natural world, including humans. Besides his research papers on molecular evolution and genetic polymorphisms in animals, Dr. Wills has written two books: The Runaway Brain (1993) and Yellow Fever, Black Goddess (1996).
- February 23, 1997 -- Dr. Luann Becker -- Life On Mars?
Dr. Becker presented a critical evaluation of the possible evidence for fossilized life in the Martian meteorite Allan Hills 84001 based on her past and current research on the detection of hydrocarbons in cosmic dust, meteorites and earth ice. She also discussed the general question of how best to detect extinct or existing life on other planets.
- January 26, 1997 -- Dr. Frank Awbrey -- The Case Against Scientific Creationism
Dr. Awbrey presented the claims made by creationists and explained why the real evidence for evolution is so compelling that it is impossible to accept creationist ideas. He has made an extensive study of creationism, debated its proponents, and taught a course at San Diego State University that examined both sides of the issue.
- November 24, 1996 -- Skeptics And The Media
SDARI has started to draw the attention of the local news media. This meeting will focused on how SDARI should best make the voice of the skeptic heard in the local media.
- October 27, 1996 -- Dr. Elie Shneour -- Detecting Lies
Dr. Shneour is the chairman of Biosystems Institute and a long time supporter of skeptics organizations both in San Diego and internationally. He spoke on lie detector tests - what they do, how they are used, their problems, and how to fool them.
- September 29, 1996 -- Dr. Michael Shermer -- The Holocaust Deniers
Dr. Shermer teaches history at Occidental College and is the publisher of Skeptic magazine. He is also the director of The Skeptics Society. He spoke to the claims that the holocaust of WWII did not really happen.
- June 23, 1996 -- Dr. Arthur Benjamin -- Mathematical Magic Show
Dr. Benjamin is professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College and a professional magician. He has appeared as a "mathemagician" on The Today Show and at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
- May 26, 1996 -- Dr. James Enright -- Dousing Dowsing
Dr. Enright, a marine biologist, spoke on the scientific evaluation of the claims of dowsers.
- April 28, 1996 -- Dr. Bernard Leikind -- Mysterious & Amazing Atmospheric Phenomena
Dr. Leikind has a background in plasma physics, bEvent Archives - SDARIut he is probably best know to skeptics for his fire walking demonstrations. He also writes a regular column for Skeptic magazine.
Past SDARI Events and Presentations
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Event Archives 2001 and Older