Monday, January 26, 2009

University of Utah Student Secular Alliance

My good friend Elaine is (among many - other - things) the new president of the University of Utah Secular Student Alliance. This group has been languishing for the last few years, but if there's one thing Elaine knows how to do, it's how to start from near nothing and in seemingly no time have a thriving community.

If you're a student at the U of U, the SSA has two events coming up this week:

Tomorrow, the 27th, stop by the SSA table at Plazafest (in the Union Ballroom) between 10:30am and 1:30pm.

This Thursday, the 29th, the SSA is having it's first meeting, which is your chance to have a say in what the group does this semester, or just learn more about what the SSA is all about!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Salt City Skeptics Darwin Day Spectacular

Join Salt City Skeptics for a night celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, whose brilliant insight into the mechanism of natural selection paved the way for modern biology and heralded an unparalleled age of scientific discovery that continues to this day.

February 12, 2009 will be Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, and this year also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, Darwin's book that introduced the world to natural selection and revolutionized biological science.

Speaker Information

Dr. Alan Rogers, professor of anthropology and biology at the University of Utah, will be presenting a talk entitled "The Evolution of the Debate Over Evolution," followed by a Q&A and discussion session.

Come enjoy food, drink, conversation, pool and a great guest speaker.

Event details:

Thursday, February 12, 2009
7:00pm - 10:00pm
Fat's Grill
2182 Highland Dr

Salt Lake City, UT

Fat's is a restaurant, so people under 21 are welcome to attend for once. :) Fat's has generously given us this space at a significant discount, so show your appreciation by coming hungry and buying some food! They've got great pizza and sandwiches and a vegetarian-friendly menu.

If you plan on attending, help me get a rough headcount by RSVPing at event listing on either Facebook or Meetup (or even in the blog comments here). Like all Salt City Skeptics events, this night is open to any and all who might be interested, so bring your friends!

And thanks Travis for the location recommendation!

Skepticism: The Pocket-Size Scientific Method

Sam, the lone skepdude blogger at Skepchick, co-runs the Houston area skeptics group (Space City Skeptics... I swear I didn't steal the alliterative name and the SCS acronym) just put up a post called "What Is Skepticsm?" and I loved what he had to say so much I wanted to touch on some of it here.

You may have seen my own "What is Skepticism?" post here, and Sam touches on a lot of the same ideas. But he said a couple things that expand on these ideas beautifully. Here's the butchered-to-hell version of some highlights for you lazy people, but you really should go read the whole post.

...The scientific method is the single most valuable tool ever conceived for understanding the universe around us ... The conclusions we draw from doing good science are as honest and as accurate as anything can be. Science is that powerful.

But the scientific method is problematic; at least where regular folks are concerned.

It’s just not practical to apply the scientific method fully to everyday claims and situations. I mean, there are phenomena we encounter on a daily basis that spark our curiosity, and our desire to discover. Perhaps strange things are happening at the old lake house, and we want to know if it’s haunted. Perhaps the claims of homeopathic medicines pique our interests, and we want to know if they really work. Perhaps our co-workers insist the bright lights in the sky last night were alien space craft, and we want to know if that’s true. Unfortunately, the majority of us simply don’t have the means to set up lab experiments, test hypotheses, repeat the tests, have peer groups study our data and scrutinize our tests and repeat them, and have independent lines of inquiry from all over the world repeat the process. The scientific method is just too bulky and cumbersome for us in this regard.

That’s where skepticism comes in.

We can view skepticism as an express version of the scientific method; sort of a travel or pocket version that we can apply to everyday claims, ideas, and situations. It is a tool that basically does the same thing as the scientific method — it relies on evidence and the analysis of that evidence to draw conclusions that are most probably true — but it’s more practical for regular folks to use at any time, because it can be applied without the attendant “ceremony” of a scientific experiment. We basically become a one-person research team.

If we observe phenomena, or encounter outrageous claims, or hear seemingly amazing ideas in our everyday lives, we can deploy our pocket scientific method. Without the formality of a full-on scientific review, we can examine any related evidence that may be present. We can leave any biases we may have behind and rely on a critical analysis of the evidence to discover what is most probably true about the phenomena; the lake house is just old and creaky, homeopathic medicines are basically just water, and the lights in the sky were probably just the Goodyear Blimp.

Nice work Sam! I love the idea of skepticism as the pocket version of the scientific method. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Event location recommendations, anyone?

Hello everyone! I'm looking for recommendations on where to hold some of our events... specifically the upcoming Darwin Day Spectacular on February 12th.

Here's the deal: Our first couple of events were at Piper Down. At the beginning of 2009, however, the new no-smoking-in-bars law went into effect, so the back room where we had our first event is now the "smoking room."

Piper Down remains a great spot for the Drinking Skeptically nights, however, they can no longer accommodate us for more organized events, such as anything with a guest speaker.

Does anyone know of a good spot where we can hold events such as this that have a back room or semi-secluded space? It might be nice if it were a restaurant instead of bar, as that would accommodate anyone under 21, though feel free to give me some feedback.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

January Drinking Skepitcally Recap!

Januray's Drinking Skeptically event was a lot of fun. You lame people who decided they'd rather watch American Idol missed out!

Our group was at least as large (20 people, I'd guess) as the December's event, but almost everyone there was a new face! A number of people found the group from our Meetup page and said that they've been waiting for just such a group to come along.

Piper Down continues to be a great location for Drinking Skeptically, with lots of space, a central location and cheap drinks (my seven - SEVEN - gin and tonics for under $30 can attest to that). Last time, we had full use of the back room, but due to the change to smoke-free bars in Utah, that room is now a smoking room. Oh well, we still had a blast!

Like last time, we all just hung out and got to know each other, talked about how we got into skepticism (which, unsurprisingly because of its awesomeness, was usually the Skeptics Guide to the Universe). There was some discussion that we should turn the group into a cult.

Sadly, I neglected to bring a camera, so there is no tangible evidence that the meeting even took place, only my eyewitness testimony. If you attended post in the comments and give your thoughts on the evening.

Our next event is in a couple of weeks (see the events calendar or the Facebook / Meetup page for details. This will be a more organized event with less emphasis on the the drinky drink. We'll be watching a film and choosing a book for the Skeptics' Book Club (we'll do a book every two months, so you'll have plenty of time to let it sit and be ignored on your bedside table). All ages are welcome this time, since my house is not a bar.

Lastly, if anyone who attended last night's meetup would like to have their blog or website added to the blogroll at right, just email me at greenishblu (no e) at gmail .

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Drinking Skeptically - January 14

Just a reminder that next Wednesday is Drinking Skeptically at Piper Down.

You may have noticed the new events calender....
( It's right here! -----------> )

You can always view the calendar here, or if you're a Google Calendar user (like me!) you can just subscribe to the calendar to always have the latest Salt City Skeptics events at hand.

We have another event on the 27th. See the Salt City Skeptics group on Facebook or for more details.