Boston Skeptics: I’m the First Speaker

Rebecca of is putting together a monthly lecture series in Boston, aka Boston Skeptics, and I’ve been asked to speak on March 24 (hopefully, I won’t kill the damn thing off). So, if you were at a meeting of Boston Skeptics, and had to listen to me rant for around forty minutes (give or take), what would you want to hear me rant about?

I’m thinking that I want to speak about how, at a fundamental level, I don’t think defenders of evolutionary biology are making the best defense of evolution–or the best offense against creationism (which is that biomedical research is so intertwined with evolutionary biology, that to argue about the existence of evolution is not only silly and ignorant, but harmful to combating infectious disease).
Or I could just yell at everyone to wash your damn hands…
What are your suggestions?

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7 Responses to Boston Skeptics: I’m the First Speaker

  1. bob koepp says:

    For sure, yell at everyone to wash their hands. But resist the temptation to justify evolutionary biology by appeal to its practical relevance. It’s nice when a body of theory has practical relevance, but it’s not essential for justifying knowledge claims.

  2. spurge says:

    I like your idea for a topic. It should jump start a very interesting conversation.
    Just don’t use the F word 😉

  3. Joshua says:

    Well, considering that the meeting will take place in a pub, I’m going to contradict spurge and suggest that you use the F-word a lot.
    More seriously, I think your idea for a topic is a good one. Personally, even as someone who has always been pro-science and never doubted evolution (even when I was still religious), I hadn’t ever really heard about building phylogenetic trees based on DNA analysis, just for one example. Most people who don’t actively follow the debates or have a side interest in biology are still stuck at the fossil record. Bringing genetics into it shows the true depth and breadth of evidence for evolution, and microbiology goes a long way to show active evolution still in progress. Knocking down the “past evolution is undeniable; present evolution unobservable” kind of thinking would be a big deal.

  4. Joshua says:

    (I should note that I know about all of that stuff now. I just didn’t up until a couple of years ago when I started actively reading science blogs like this and Pharyngula. And keep in mind that I went to a good high school with a biology class that didn’t mince words. John Q. Couchtuber will know even less than I used to.)

  5. First, I never thought I would say this, but: I really regret that I’m not going to be in Boston….
    “I want to speak about how, at a fundamental level, I don’t think defenders of evolutionary biology are making the best defense of evolution–or the best offense against creationism….”
    Yeah, I vote that you speak about that.
    Is there any chance of a recording of the speech making it back to those of us on the other end of the continent?

  6. daedalus2u says:

    How about talking about quorum sensing of bacteria, and how they use that to trigger expression of virulence factors, and how many eukaryotes disrupt quorum sensing to control surface infections (instead of trying to kill the organisms).
    Disrupting quorum sensing doesn’t cause bacteria to evolve resistance. They just sit there thinking they are alone and don’t induce the crowd behaviors.
    I will post a blog on how many eukaryotes use the bacteria I am working with (ammonia oxidizing bacteria) to do this.
    One of the important factors in preventing UTIs and what is euphemistically called BV, is the right strain of Lactobacilli, which produce H2O2 and a low pH.
    There are some suggestions that using topical microbicides might be a good strategy to prevent STD transmission, particularly for women in regions where they don’t have the power in the relationship to insist that their partner use a condom.

  7. Physicalist says:

    I like your topic idea, but keep in mind the obvious creationist canard: “Oh, but we believe in MICRO-evolution, and that’s all that’s important for medicine. But you’re never going to get a virus to evolve into a duck!”
    (And then there’s, “Assuming it all did happen by Random Mutation and Natural Selection, where did the laws of gravity come from?” — Ben Stein.)

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