March 24, 2008

Boston Skeptics in the Pub

I have just now walked into my apartment after the drive home from Cambridge. The first lesson I learned, even before arriving at the get together is this: don't drive to Cambridge. It is a crazy place in which to drive and an even crazier one in which to park.

The meeting itself was quite well attended and Skepchick Rebecca was an affable, even ebullient, hostess. For those who haven't met her in person, she actually does look quite like her cartoon avatar. Thanks to her for organizing the meeting as well as for giving me the occasion to use the word "ebullient" today.

Mike the Mad Biologist spoke about communicating about evolution to those who can't or won't wrap their heads around the concept, citing examples from his own study of bacterial genomics and the useful applications that arise therefrom in treating and preventing disease. Even most Creationists should be able to understand, he reasons, the connection between evolutionary theory and disease and so come around to understanding why disregarding good biology in favor of poor theology is an undesirable goal. The tactics he suggests using sounded very much to me like what I do anyhow — at least most of the time — so I don't plan on changing much based on his talk. I did get to lob a question his way about how to talk to people to whom the language of heredity might as well be Aramaic. His suggestion about how to talk to such people is, again, something I've tried. Unfortunately, I generally find that people who haven't the first clue about genes and the mechanisms by which they change and the ramifications of all this that we know about are frequently in such condition because they don't care enough to learn about it in the first place. They just want to put forth an opinion, which wouldn't be so bad if there weren't so many of them and they didn't bother electing equally ignorant representation at various levels of government. Nonetheless, he gave a well-reasoned answer that was the best he could muster. Perhaps he'll someday find himself in Baker County, Florida or thereabouts and get a better feel for the sorts of people whose attitudes toward these things are rather hard for me to describe in a 30-second question.

I met a few other people as well while enjoying a bit of Erdlinger Hefe-Weisen and shepherd's pie. I'm not sure if any of them have blogs, though I believe they know where to find me now and let me know if they do. There was a Josh, a Brian, an Elvin (who is working on computer modeling of human vision; neat stuff) and a British fellow whose name I didn't catch but with whom I happily conversed about probability and John Allen Paulos' Irreligion and other fun and skeptical, rationalist things. I also met a fellow whose name was Kerry or something close; my hearing problems make it hard for me to pick out words sometimes and one can only ask another to repeat his name so many times before it becomes a little embarassing and, I'm sure, annoying. However, this fellow also spoke of an interest in mushrooms, particularly chanterelles. It may have been CarrieP, author of Garlic is Love.

There is, I'm told, another meeting in the works for next month and I hope to attend once again. The Asgard is a fine place and has rather good shepherd's pie. I parked in the wrong garage tonight, though, being unfamiliar with the area. I pulled into the Lansdowne Street garage which, I noticed after I parked, is only intended for tenants and visitors of University Park. There is supposedly a $30 fine for parking there without getting one's ticket validated by University Park. Luckily for me there was no attendant on duty and the machine that takes payments didn't know I had no such validation, so I got away with shelling out only $7 for my spot. Next time, though, I still think I'd be better off taking the train. As Rebecca kindly pointed out, I could have drunk quite a bit more if it weren't for having to schlep the 60+ miles back to Worcester under my own power.

And now, sleep. I have to teach tomorrow.

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