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SDARI Event Archives

Event Archives 2005:

    November 27, 2005 - Elie Shneour: The flu is coming, or is it?

    About this time every year we all line up for our flu shots, a good idea. Influenza has been a killer virus since time immemorial. Our mobility has made it even more lethal. The pandemic of 1918 was the most devastating epidemic in recorded history, killing somewhere between 20 and 50 million people, including 675,000 Americans, ten times the number of Americans that died in World War I. Now, with the "A(H5N1)" Avian virus in line to mutate into a human virus, it appears increasingly possible it could generate a worldwide killer influenza epidemic in the foreseeable future. But is there an unjustified panic about this? What are the central factors involved in assessing how such an event could occur, and what is being done or could be done to mitigate its impact? Dr. Elie A. Shneour has been involved in this subject at the local, national and international level. He is a biochemist, the research director and head of the Biosystems Research Institute, a former chairman of the San Diego County Science Advisory Board, the author of numerous research and lay articles as well as several books. He is a member of a number of scientific societies, a founding member of SDARI, and a CSICOP Fellow.

  • October 23, 2005 - Lief Fearn on Education: Reform by testing and coercion is politics, not education.

    The nation's vigor and character do not rest in the number of people who attend church, the number of Rs or Ds in office, or the number of people on the front lines of the various wars we select and name. The nation rests entirely on the qualities of each succeeding generation. The name of the game is how we rear our children, and part of that is what we do with them for 13 years between their fifth and eighteenth years. What we do is extraordinary! Leif Fearn went to teacher school in Pennsylvania and graduate school in Arizona. He taught 2400 Indian teacher aides, bus drivers, and cooks on 54 reservations for tribal Head Start programs. That is where he learned about teaching. He has been on the faculty at San Diego State University since 1967, serving in five departments in two colleges over the years. He writes and teaches boys and girls to write, and he teaches teachers how to teach boys and girls to write. He also teaches teachers how to make citizens who will make sure his old age is spent in a functioning constitutional republic.

  • September 25, 2005 - Dr. Patrick L. Abbott, PhD.  Earthquakes.

    As we so recently observed, a natural disaster can reduce at least part of United States to a third world status. Can it happen here? How about earthquakes? San Diego straddles or lies near several active faults. What if one of them lets go? Can animals give us warning? Does a weather pattern indicate an earthquake is imminent? How bad can a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake be? Few in the county can give better answers than our speaker at this meeting. He gave an unstructured talk with plenty of room for questions from a scientifically oriented audience. Dr. Patrick L. Abbott is a Professor of Geology at San Diego State University. He graduated from Hoover High School in San Diego and ultimately earned a Ph.D. in geology from The University of Texas at Austin. Abbott is the author of Natural Disasters (5th ed.) published by McGraw-Hill and of The Rise and Fall of San Diego published by Sunbelt Press. He has begun the Written In Stone TV series which so far consists of two 1/2 hour-long broadcast TV videos that play on UCSD-TV; they are The Rise and Fall of San Diego and Earthquake Country -- Los Angeles. Dr. Abbott is often interviewed on local TV stations when San Diego starts shaking.

  • August 28, 2005 - Robert Shaeffer. The Da Vinci Baloney.

    We've all heard of The Da Vinci Code, a runaway bestseller, and a forthcoming (blockbuster?) movie. And why not? This "factual novel" purports to reveal "the greatest conspiracy of the past 2000 years." It says the practices of early Christianity and much of ancient history were vastly different than we thought. Most remarkable of all, a secret society of leading intellectuals has allegedly been dedicated to preserving the astonishing secrets and traditions that organized religion has conspired to suppress. SDARI member Robert Shaeffer shared with us a skeptic's guide to what he calls "the Da Vinci Baloney." Mr. Shaeffer is one of the leading skeptical investigators of UFOs, and a founding member of the UFO Subcommittee of the well-known Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. He is also a founding director and past Chairman of the Bay Area Skeptics, a local skeptics' group in the San Francisco Bay area. He is the also the author of UFO Sightings (Prometheus Books, 1998), and has appeared on many radio and TV programs. His writings and reviews have appeared in such diverse publications as OMNI, Scientific American, Spaceflight, Astronomy, The Humanist, Free Inquiry, Reason, and others. He is a regular columnist for The Skeptical Inquirer.

  • July 24, 2005 - DVD Videos of the Showtime program "Penn & Teller: B#llsh*t!"

    Few TV programs are more to the heart of skeptics than Penn & Teller: B#llsh*t!, the Showtime program featuring those incorrigible magician/comics, Penn & Teller. Long a pain to other magicians for their exposure of how some tricks are performed, they have now devoted an entire series of programs to looking askance at a wide variety of commonly accepted "truths." A quick glance at the B#llsh*t! web site will provide an understanding of the intentions of this program. SDARI member Paul Wenger organized the showing of two 24-minute programs from DVDs. The viewing was followed by discussion by the attendees.

    Note: Name of program disguised here to try to prevent this page or site from being filtered/rejected by "indecency" software.

  • June 26, 2005 - Dr. Bruce Flamm. spoke on the topic: Does Prayer Enhance Pregnancy?

    Most SDARI members know where babies come from, but how many believe that prayer can enhance the chances of a woman's having one, even of getting pregnant? That was the subject of a report published in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine in 2001. The report presented data that seemed to show that women undergoing in-vitro fertilization in Korea who were prayed for by Christians in the United States, Canada and Australia were twice as likely to become pregnant as those who were not. June's speaker, Dr. Bruce Flamm wrote, "The scandal is getting more interesting every day," Dr. Flamm is a doctor of medicine in practice as an obstetrician-gynecologist and a faculty member at the University of California at Irvine.

  • April 24, 2005

    The April meeting featured not one, not two, not even three, but five scientists. And we are so proud to have brought them to you. They're the winners of our annual Science Fair program. There is no age requirement to being a scientist. These young folks have shown a commitment to critical thinking, unbiased observation, and a determination to follow through. Thus we welcomed them to the world of science.

    The youngsters presented their programs, told how they came to their conclusions and answered questions about them. They were the stars of the program. The Science Fair is one of our special projects, and one we can all take a great deal of pride in.

  • March 27, 2005 - Milton Saier, Professor of Molecular Biology at UCSD, on the Human Impact on the Environment

    Humans have depleted the oceans of most of their edible life, continue to destroy the world's forests, cause extinction of thousands of living species every year, and contribute to documented global warming accompanied by wild fires and tremendous loss of our ice reserves. The human population is already far in excess of the Earth's sustainable carrying capacity and is increasing at a rate of 250,000 people per day. We are causing an environmental crisis of unprecedented magnitude. History and scientific projections suggest we are headed for a massive human population crash unless drastic preventative measures are taken. Such an event will cause tremendous human suffering. Yet politicians choose to ignore these issues and the scientific evidence in order to pursue their agendas. These important issues were the focus of his presentation.

    Milton Saier is a Professor of Molecular Biology at UCSD and the author of 6 books and over 500 articles with the most recent a book of essays: Our Precarious Earth and Its Biosphere. He is the Chair of the local chapter of Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth).

  • February 27, 2005 - Kevin LaChapelle, on The Special Investigations Agency

    Does a day ever pass without our being offered one get-rich idea or another? By the time we think we've seen them all, along comes another, even more plausible and more nefarious. SDARI complains, usually to the media who too often report the scam without question, but are we alone?

    Remember the "healing cards" that were being offered to the victims of last year's fire? We complained in the papers and our complaints caught the attention of a group who does indeed do something about it.

    Our guest for February heads the local branch of the Special Investigations Agency, Inc. S.I.A. is about 75 such groups across the country. The local outfit is comprised mostly of ex-cops who use their training and dedication to educate, promote, and assure integrity and ethics by providing an investigative and intervention resource to the general public. They then monitor the progress of the case to insure the proper course of action is taken. Although they try to avoid going to court, sometimes it happens. About ten folks have visited the local lockup as a result of the actions of S.I.A.

    Kevin LaChapelle served as a Police Officer specializing in Street Gang Prevention/Intervention strategies and Community Oriented Policing. He also served as Governing Board President for the Grossmont School District with it's 22,000 students.

  • January 10, 2005 - Dr. Eugenie Scott on Evolution vs. Creationism(s)

    Copernicus proposed the heliocentric planetary theory, and Galileo provided the evidence of its correctness. Galileo was persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church until his death in 1642. That the sun, not the earth, is the center of our planetary system is "only a theory". It took centuries for the Roman Catholic Church to admit it was wrong. In 1859, Darwin (with Wallace) proposed the theory of evolution, which has had a profound impact on scientific thought and practice. Evolution is the central pivot of modern biology, with unsurmountable evidence accumulated and still accumulating from many scientific disciplines. It has been 150 years since the publication by Darwin of the theory of evolution. Why is it still challenged by some religious groups today? What is being done about these challenges?

    The San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry was founded to seek answers to such questions. We proudly presented one of the country's foremost scientists to speak to it. Dr. Eugenie Scott is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, the leading organization concerned about the teaching of evolution in the United States. She has written extensively on the evolution-creationism controversy in scholarly and popular venues, and she has won numerous awards for her work from scholarly organizations, including the Public Service Award from the National Science Board. She is a recent past-president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

Past SDARI Events and Presentations

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