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SDARI Event Archives

Event Archives 2006:

  • November 12, 2006  Norm Stamper on the Death Penalty and related topics.

    Few things in American law will start an argument faster than our perceived duty to protect ourselves by killing people. This is true even though nearly every other developed country in the world has abandoned the practice. While Texas leads the nation in executions, California has more on death row than any other state. As of last July some 657 in our state awaited the final justice.

    Is all this fair? More importantly, does it do any good? Are we sure, absolutely sure, we are "offing" the right person in every case? What does killing others do to us personally? What does one of our country's top cops think of it.

    We found out the answer to the last question on November 12th. Our guest was one of San Diego's own, Norm Stamper. Stamper is a 26 year veteran of the SDPD and author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing. After leaving our area, he became Chief Of Police in Seattle. The guy knows a bit about criminal justice, and he is not a bit reluctant to share.

  • October 22, 2006  Hossein Azar and Elie Shneour on Water, Water Everywhere, But Is It Fit To Drink?

    As our population grows and as draughts continue the gap between what we have and what we want grows. As usual with scarce products we throw away more than enough to bridge the gap. But is discarded water something we can really reclaim? Or is the yuck factor so strong we donít have the political will to make the best use of a scarce commodity. Two people who have studied the subject in depth spoke on this October 22.

    • Hossein Azar has worked for the City of San Diego for 19 years and has been an engineer for 25 years. He has worked as a designer, project manager and construction manager for building, roadway and infrastructure projects. Currently, Hossein supervises staff in the Water Reuse program, which is part of the City of San Diego's Water Department.

    • Elie Shneour is a founding member of SDARI with enough accolades to fill a couple pages. As the Chairman of the San Diego County Science Advisory Board he led a study on the feasibility of making potable water out of gray water. The board is taking another look at the question.

  • September 24, 2006  Judge James Gray on Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed.

    A war on drugs is raging across the country, and San Diego is right on the front lines. Illegal drugs can be deadly and the cost of fighting them is tremendous. The reckoning must include having jailed 9 million of our citizens over the past five decades -- far more per capita than in any other developed country. Despite all the lives destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and much easier to get than they were 36 years ago at the beginning of the war on drugs.

    Our speaker, Judge James Gray of Orange County, author of Why Our Drug laws Have Failed and what We Can Do About It, addressed these problems and what they mean to us. He spoke on behalf of "Law Enforcement Against Prohibition"(LEAP) a group that believes a system of regulation and control is far more effective than one of prohibition. Judge Grey supported many self help programs to combat drunk driving and drug abuse. His appeal would seem to cross political boundaries. In 1992, he was named "Judge of the Year" by Orange Countyís Business Litigation Committee and in 1995 by The Orange County Constitutional Rights Foundation. He was appointed to the Santa Ana Municipal court in 1983 and to the superior court in 1989 by Governor George Deukmejian.

  • August 27, 2006 - Panel discussion: Conspiracy Theories? Be Skeptical.

    Justification for a conspiracy theory needs to be much more than a fervent belief that something bad happened and a lot of people covered it up. Now, thanks to the Internet, such things are passed on endlessly with the idea 'oh what does it hurt?"

    Our August meeting was a panel discussion examining whether it does indeed hurt, and what we ought to know to evaluate conspiracy theories. The panelists were four SDARI members from four very different backgrounds:

    • Paul Wenger, president of SDARI, and chair of the meeting.
    • Elie Shneour, President and Research director of Biosystems Research Institute and a founding member of SDARI, CSICOP, and an earlier San Diego Skeptics group.
    • Harry Sutton, retired Naval officer, computer programmer, and mathematician.
    • Keith Taylor, program chair for SDARI and columnist for

  • July 23, 2006 -- Interactive B#llsh*t

    The San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry presented an hour of selected features from the TV show B#LLSH*T which features two of America's most outrageous comedians. They are super skeptical and super funny. Best of all they skewer and puncture some of Americaís most credulous beliefs. Just what we like! Nobody is neutral about Penn and Teller.

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

  • June 25, 2006 - Linda Pratt - Public Planning in an Era of Climate Change.

    By most accounts the earth is getting warmer. The icecaps are melting. The water level around the globe is rising. Many scientists believe it is being caused by greenhouse gas emissions. San Diego, along with many other cities, has moved ahead of the federal government. In 2001 we began our own campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our leadership may help others to make this vital step.

    Linda Giannelli Pratt is the Chief of the Office of Environmental Protection and Sustainability with the City of San Diego Environmental Services Department. For more than 25 years, she has successfully built a professional career focused on community-based environmental protection. Her experience is broad, and includes positions as a laboratory analyst, regulatory compliance specialist, consultant, adjunct professor at the University of California at San Diego, and director of regional environmental programs. Her reports have been published in three books and many professional journals. Linda received a Bachelors of Science degree in Microbiology and Chemistry and a Masters of Science degree in Environmental Studies.

  • May 28, 2006 - - The search for the historical Jesus.

    Christianity is the pervasive religion of the western world, and Jesus Christ is the focus of that religion. But what do we really know about the life of Jesus? The canonical Gospels tell a story which is widely believed but in some respects inconsistent. What do non-Gospel sources have to say and how do they related to the Gospel stories? What do we really know about the historical Jesus? Our speaker for May 2006 discussed these questions posed by various books and other sources.

    Harry Sutton is a past President of SDARI and former Christian with a deep interest in investigating the beliefs of Christianity. While not himself a biblical scholar, he has read extensively about this subject and based his talk on numerous reference sources.

  • March 26, 2006 - Kevin Keenan - Science Under Siege.

    Assaults on scientific inquiry and freedom are based on the same fallacies as attacks on political freedom: Big brother knows best and censorship is good for security. Foreign scholars are excluded. Materials and technology are unavailable. Outright censorship characterizes the environment our researchers and scholars must face today.

    Even worse, religious assault on science has become so pervasive that schoolchildren are rejecting evolution and looking to their Bibles for answers to scientific questions. Several states have even proposed laws requiring that alternatives to evolution be mentioned in public schools. The right to engage freely in scholarly and scientific inquiry is guaranteed by the First Amendment, and these assaults on science and civil liberties are part of a dangerous trend that the Ameican Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is working to end. SDARI thinks this is cause for worry.

    So does Kevin Keenan, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego and Imperial Counties. Keenan graduated from Swarthmore College in 1995, and earned his law degree from Yale. He is the author of Invasion of Privacy: A Reference Handbook (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO 2005) and, with Samuel Walker, "An Impediment to Accountability? An Analysis of Law Enforcement Officers' Bills of Rights" (Boston University Journal of Public Interest Law, 2006).

  • February 26, 2006 - Cindy Stankowski - How do archaeologists know what we know?

    We have a good history of San Diego dating back to the earliest visits of Juan Cabrillo the Spanish explorer who sailed into our bay in 1542. But people were here before that. How long were they here? Where did they come from? How do we know?. Less than 1% of the stuff of our lives are preserved in the archaeological record. So with all this "missing" data, how do we know what we know? SDARI people will be glad to know that the answer lies in hard science: relative and absolute dating, obsidian hydration dating, tree ring analysis and spectrography. Another part is detective work, linking ephemeral clues together to paint a picture of the past. An important component is held in the cultural aspects of present day people. And some things we just don't know-yet.

    Our February speaker's personal commitment is one that every SDARI member can applaud. She intends to continue to have a positive impact in the community by making new ideas and information accessible in the museum setting.

    Cindy Stankowski received a Bachelor's degree summa cum laude in Anthropology from San Diego State University and a Master's degree in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University. She has been with the San Diego Archaeological Center (SDAC) since 1996, leading the effort to preserve our archaeological legacy. She brings an understanding of museum management to SDAC and has led symposia on curatorial issues throughout the state. Ms. Stankowski has worked extensively with local American Indian nations to promote cultural use of anthropological collections. She also seeks new and innovative ways for the public to connect with the past, including exhibits, seminars and school presentations.

  • January 22, 2006 - Gary Peterson - Life in our Solar System, Yes or No?

    Our January speaker wrote:

    Our only understanding of life comes from life on the Earth. How did it get started? How has it changed and adapted? What types of life do we have? In gathering and using this knowledge as a beginning, we can then ask the question as to whether life (as we understand it) is possible on any of the other planets or satellites. Do they have any environments in which life could get started, survive or even thrive? Some interesting possibilities exist (the subsurface of Mars, the ocean of Europa) but any form of life higher than the prokaryotic bacterial level is highly speculative. Bacterial life could possibly exist in the atmospheres of Venus and the giant gaseous planets, but the possibility seems exceedingly remote. Otherwise, the planets (and satellites) are all either too hot, too cold or lack essential compounds such as water. The Earth is seemingly the only planet on which higher life could evolve.

    Dr Peterson has been Professor of Geology at San Diego State since 1963, and Chairman, Department of Geological Sciences since 1973. He is a member of The Planetary Society and a Fellow with The Geological Society of America.

Past SDARI Events and Presentations

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