November 2014 Meeting

Ethan Kocak with lizard on head

Cartoon Science and Skepticism with Ethan Kocak

Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 7:00 PM
Dewitt Community Library
Shoppingtown Mall
Dewitt, NY

About the presentation
Comics and cartoons are usually considered within the domain of entertainment, but at their core is the goal of communication. This discussion is about how that conversation can be about science, skepticism, and critical thinking and what form of comics and cartooning best suits communicating these topics. Since the Internet and comics are now so intertwined, we’ll also have to consider how that changes the discussion, for better or worse, and there will be some live demonstration of what digital comics creation looks like.

About the speaker
Ethan Kocak is an animator and illustrator who lives in Syracuse, NY. He is primarily known for drawing the webcomic “The Black Mudpuppy,” but has also been involved in the animation project “The Darwin Finches,” the all-science “Tetrapod Zoology Comic,” which is written by paleontologist Darren Naish, and “Al the Anoma Llama” with Doubtful News’s Sharon Hill. When not drawing, he’s writing, tweeting, or being a dad.

September 2014 Meeting

Photo of Debbie Goddard standing in front of Center for Inquiry banner

Debbie Goddard, Center for Inquiry

Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 7:00 PM
Manlius Library, 1 Arkie Albanese Ave,
Manlius, NY 13104

It’s September and time for our first meeting of the 2014-2015 program year.

We are pleased to welcome Debbie Goddard from the Center for Inquiry as our September 17th speaker.

Goddard is the outreach director at the Center for Inquiry Transnational in Amherst, NY. She is also the director of African Americans for Humanism, a program of the Council for Secular Humanism.

Before working for CFI, she participated in local freethought groups in the greater Philadelphia region and helped organize and support campus groups internationally as a student volunteer. She has also been involved with progressive issues and LGBT activism.

May 2014 Meeting

Damian Schofield photo
Damian Schofield

Why Doesn’t it Look Like it Does on Television? The Presentation of Forensic Evidence Using Digital Technologies

Damain Schofield, Director of Human Computer Interaction, SUNY Oswego

Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 7:00 PM
Manlius Library, 1 Arkie Albanese Ave,
Manlius, NY 13104

About the presentation

Courtroom environments have traditionally relied on an oral presentation of information, however they are now changing into cinematic display environments. CGI technology from the movies and the computer game industries are increasingly being used to create compelling visual media displays presenting a range of digital evidence in a convincing and credible manner. Recently, a number of courtrooms around the world have seen the presentation of forensic evidence within reconstructed virtual environments powered by ‘real-time’, interactive game engines. There are a number of problems inherent in the shift from oral to visual communication and a number of facets of this modern evidence presentation technology need to be examined. At first glance, these graphical reconstructions may be seen as potentially useful in many courtroom situations, and they are often treated like any other form of digital evidence regarding their admissibility. However, perhaps this specific form of digital media warrants special care and attention due to its inherently persuasive nature, and the undue reliance that the viewer may place on the evidence presented through such a visualization medium. This talk will introduce a range of examples of where evidence has been presented in courtrooms using video games technology (particularly forensic animation and virtual crime scene reconstructions). The talk will conclude with a discussion of the potential benefits and problems of implementing this technology in courtroom settings.

About the speaker

Dr. Damian Schofield is currently Director of Human Computer Interaction at SUNY-Oswego. Dr. Schofield has been involved in research examining the use of digital evidence in courtrooms, particularly virtual reconstructions, for many years. He is specifically interested in the representation and understanding of visual evidentiary information (especially using computer game technology) in the courtroom environment. Much of this academic research in the forensic area has concentrated on the investigation of the prejudicial effect of digital evidence, validation and verification procedures, admissibility of digital evidence and the mathematical uncertainty concerned with digital evidence. Dr. Schofield is regularly used as an expert witness in courts all over the world and has worked on many high profile cases – he has been involved in forensic casework in the UK, Australia, the USA and Malaysia. A few years ago, he was involved with the facial reconstruction of an Egyptian mummy for a documentary called “Nefertiti Reserected” shown on the Discovery Channel. He has also worked on research projects for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the USA.

March 2014 Meeting

Photo of Dan Curewitz

Investigating our history of inquiry: My scientific, atheistic view on the value of religious texts and religious creeds

Presentation by Dan Curewitz, Ph.D.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 7:00 PM
Dewitt Community Library, Friends Room

About the presentation

Daniel Curewitz, Ph.D., is a secular humanist and atheist but still finds great value in the religious writings, stories, myths, and belief systems we humans have invented. When he looks at the history of the human quest for knowledge, he finds that the basic questions that still drive our inquiry remain vibrant and in many cases have been articulated in the religious writings of many theistic traditions. These questions include: How does the world work and why? What is our place in that world? How can we best organize ourselves and our behavior to survive and thrive in the world?

Asking the first question, even knowing beforehand that the answers will most likely be wrong, is the entry point into scientific inquiry. How do religious stories shed light on our attempts to extract knowledge from our surroundings and to use that knowledge to our direct benefit? In our contemporary world, how did those stories stop being gateways to inquiry and start being impediments to progress?

About the speaker

Daniel Curewitz was born in coastal Maine, and grew up physically poor (but intellectually rich) in a back-to-the-land hippie community. He attended Wesleyan University on a scholarship, and stumbled into earth and environmental science as a result of needing to fill a basic science distribution requirement. He received his Ph.D from Duke University and has spent most of his career living and working in nearly 30 countries around the world, including a nearly 10-year stint in Japan, working as a project manager on the deep sea scientific drilling vessel “Chikyu.” He is now a lecturer/instructor at the Department of Earth Sciences at Syracuse University.

January 2014 Meeting

Person lying on table getting acupuncture

Alternative medicine: Alternative to What?

Presentation by Mahlon Wagner

Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 7:00 PM
Dewitt Community Library, Friends Room

About the presentation

After receiving a Ph.D in experimental psychology, Mahlon Wagner taught statistics and research design in a university setting. With his experience in these two areas it became natural for him to look at alternative medicine and the claims made for alternative treatments in the light of existing experimental evidence.

In his talk, Mahlon Wagner will look at the abundance of alternative medicine in Central New York and discuss how to detect the code words that can suggest if a treatment is “alternative” medicine. He will also discuss some of the main types of alternative medicine (such as chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki, and therapeutic touch) and examine what, if any, evidence exists for their claims of effectively treating medical conditions.

About the speaker

Mahlon Wagner is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at SUNY Oswego. He has been a long-time member of CNY Skeptics, and has given several presentations in Germany and the UK on various skeptical topics. He has written on and lectured about the effectiveness various forms of “alternative” medicine.

Photo credit: NYCTCM on Flickr