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The MISkeptics November Get Together: Evolution Is As Complicated As 1-2-3

Zachary BlountOur next Get Together will be Saturday, November 10th, at 1:00 PM. This month we will have a special guest. Joining us will be Dr. Zachary Blount.

Dr. Blount is a post-doctoral researcher at the Beacon Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. He is also the lead author on a new paper in the latest edition of Nature.

His paper details how he and his team documented the step-by-step process in which organisms evolve new functions. Blount and his teammates analyzed 29 genomes from different generations to find the mutational pieces of the puzzle. They uncovered a three-step process in which the bacteria developed new abilities.

“It’s pretty nifty to see a new biological function evolve,” said Zachary Blount, postdoctoral researcher in MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. “The first citrate-eaters were just barely able to grow on the citrate, but they got much better over time. We wanted to understand the changes that allowed the bacteria to evolve this new ability. We were lucky to have a system that allowed us to do so.”

Dr. Blount will join us for food, drinks and discussion in what will be a very entertaining and informative event.

I have a feeling this will fill up fast so the sooner you RSVP the better your chance to attend. You can RSVP at our Meetup event, our Facebook event or our Google Plus event.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and take part.

I hope to see you all there!

This Saturday: A guided tour of The Henry Ford

Museum clock tower, at night.
Museum clock tower, at night. The building is a replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

-UPDATE- I neglected to mention the tour was for the Benson Ford Research Center located at Henry Ford.

We’ve got a little treat lined up.  Our very own Diane has managed to score us a guided tour of the Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford Museum.

This two hour event also includes the archives that are normally off-limits to normal visitors, including the giant refrigerated area designed to preserve artifacts and items. Bring a jacket, it will probably get chilly in there!

This event has a limit of 15 people so be sure to RSVP as soon as you can. This will fill up quickly.

If for any reason you wish to go but cannot use the pay form on Meetup, contact us and we will make arrangements for getting the payment to us.

Tickets for the event will cost $20 to cover the cost of the tour. The ticket price is refundable is you need to cancel. See the refund section below.

The Henry Ford Museum began as a simple yet bold idea to document the genius of ordinary people by recognizing and preserving the objects they used in the course of their everyday lives. It grew into the ultimate place to explore what Americans past and present have imagined and invented — a remarkable destination that brings American ideas and innovations to life. The sheer scope and design of Henry Ford Museum is as grand as the vision that inspired it. It’s impossible not to feel a sense of awe as your mind adjusts to a different sense of scale — more vast, more expansive and more diverse— by far— than anything you’ll encounter in everyday life. The sweeping, single-floor space with its soaring 40-foot ceilings covers nine acres dedicated to showcasing the finest collection of its kind ever assembled.

The MISkeptics September Get Together: 9/11

9/11 Memorial Fountain
Family members line the perimeter of the 9/11 Memorial South Pool during the tenth anniversary ceremonies of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center site on Sept. 11, 2011 in New York City. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

This September 11th will mark the 11th anniversary of one of the most devastating attacks on American soil. The 9/11 attacks by terrorists ran two fully loaded and manned passenger aircraft into the two main World Trade Center Buildings. Causing their collapse and the resulting damage spread to other buildings as well.

A total of 2752 people lost their lives that day, including hundreds of rescue workers rushing to save civilians.

This Sept 8th, at 1:00 PM, we’re going to talk about the facts of that day as well as some of the more popular conspiracy theories about it.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. You can RSVP at our Meetup site, on Facebook, or on Google Plus.

I hope to see you all there!

Fun Facts about the Preaching Work of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Witnesses at the door

The one thing Jehovah’s Witnesses are best known for is their door to door preaching work. But have you ever wondered what it’s like knocking on doors and telling some poor householder that his religion of choice is nothing more than demon inspired lies? People don’t give you as many hugs for this as you might think.

For those of you whose knuckles aren’t covered in thick calluses from knocking on doors, here’s the inside scoop on what goes on behind the scenes. I’ll tell you what they do, how they do it, and why.

Helpful Hint: Check that peephole before you answer that knock at your door. Especially on a Saturday or a Sunday. You’ll be glad you did.

Trust me.

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An Evening with “Brother Sam” creator Roger Scott Jackson. RSVP now!

Publicity shot for Brother Sam Singleton
Brother Sam singleton is putting on a show in Maumee, OH on the 1st. But on the 31st he will be meeting with us.

Roger Scott “RoSco” Jackson, the creator and actor behind Brother Sam Singleton will be visiting Michigan for one evening only. Michigan Skeptics has the honor of hosting a dinner with the famous “Atheist Evangelist”. On the 1sy he will be putting on a show in Maumee, OH, but on the 31st he will be having dinner with us.

This is a last-minute event so if you can, please try to make it out. It’s a rare event to meet a national entertainer so intimately. This will be a casual, informal event to gather and meet RoSco in a way that not many else can.

If you are not familiar with RoSco Jackson or Brother Sam, check out our post about him from June.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and take part.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. You can RSVP at our Meetup Event or our Facebook Event.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

The Ethics of Banning Circumcision at our August Get Together

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the emergency Session of Parliment
German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the emergency Session of Parliament. They recently, by act of Parliament, overturned a court ruling that effectively banned circumcision for the city of Cologne.

On May 7th, Cologne, Germany completely banned circumcision in the entire city for patients not old enough to decide for themselves. As of July 21st, that ban was overturned.

For our Get Together on August 11th,  we’re going to look at the practice of circumcision. Our guest will be Norm Cohen, State Director of NOCIRC, the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers.

NOCIRC of Michigan is the state chapter of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers. Founded in 1986, NOCIRC states that they are the center of expertise on circumcision.  They are a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization of health care professionals and children’s health activists

Norm Cohen has been active in the anti-circumcision movement at the state, national, and international levels as the Director of NOCIRC of Michigan since its founding in 1994.  He appeared in the 1996 documentary on male circumcision, “Whose Body, Whose Rights?”.  He has spoken before many groups and been interviewed by local and national newspapers, radio, and television.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and take part.

You can RSVP for the Get Together at our Meetup page, at our Facebook event or our Google Plus event.

I hope to see you all there!

The Token Skeptic Wishes Us a Happy Birthday

Kylie Sturgess is a friend of the group and the host of the Token Skeptic podcast. She works with the Perth Skeptics in Australia and also writes for CSICOP’s Curiouser and Curiouser online column. She took the time to send us a birthday message that I had to share. Check out her blog. She also posted a birthday message for us there.

So We Had This Birthday Party…

MISkeptics members enjoying the second birthday party
A table of revelers at the Michigan Skeptics Second Birthday Party. Also you can see Lauren, the awesome waitress that has taken care of us for so many months now.

There are some times where you just have to sit back and smile.

My week had not started off too well. There was an endless chain of waiting in line and bureaucratic red tape that I had to spend several days to wade through just to get back to the beginning. By the end of it, (it is no where near finished) I was tired and really just wanted to either crawl into my bed or the nearest bottle.

But no! I can’t do that. We’re having our birthday party. Two years ago, we started the Michigan Skeptics Association in the hopes of creating a resource for skepticism and humanism in Michigan. Today we have a vibrant and diverse membership throughout the state and satellite groups starting in areas that cannot come to our monthly Get Togethers and events.

So I managed to shower off the last of the red tape and made my way to the birthday party. After all, I had the cake.

It’s been two years of hard work that we all put in together to make us what we are. A strong group of Skeptics and Rationalists working toward a goal of a fact based state. And as a group we are going to be more active in our communities. We will be there when anti-vaccination nuts try to convince people of their paranoia.

We’re going to go to school board and local government meetings where they try to dilute science and facts with drivel and we’re going to fight.

When we started this group, we pledged that we are politically neutral, and we’ve been true to that. We have members on all sides of the political spectrum. We can all agree, though, that fighting back against creationism and conspiracies in our schools and governments is an important matter that goes beyond left or right.

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L. Ron Hubbard’s Great Grandson Speaks Out About Scientology

Portrait of Jamie Dewolf
Portrait of Jamie DeWolf from his Facebook page

Recently, we shared an article telling the story of a young woman’s escape from Scientology. After reading the article, my wife came across the beat poet Jamie DeWolf. DeWolf just happens to be the great grandson of L. Ron Hubbard himself, and he speaks out against Scientology when he can.

“Some people think I’m just coming out of the gate, the start of my anti-Scientology career,” he says. But it was more than a decade ago, in 2000, that he first dramatized his family background. Today, however, he has a hard time looking back at that performance, saying that it was “an incoherent mess.” He had a lot more to learn about his famous great-grandfather and about Scientology. He’s been apt pupil ever since. But he’s rarely talked openly about it. (He also had a different name then. Born Jamie Kennedy, he has taken his mother’s maiden name, DeWolf, to avoid confusion with another comic named Jamie Kennedy.)

“I think it’s funny when people think I’m trying to cash in on the Scientology aspect, because I’ve actually kept away from it a long time because of the hassle,” he says.

After that first performance, his mother was visited by a couple of men claiming to be poets who were interested in his material. She got them to admit they were Scientologists. They subsequently branded him an “anti-religious slam poet” in a flier.

He tries to keep his family out of his act. He did not want it consuming his life. He will only talk about it by request.

“I had a really difficult time. How could I put this into one monologue?” he says. There’s a lot about Hubbard and Scientology to talk about: “Anytime anyone asks me about it, I tell them, are you ready to sit down and listen to me for an hour? There’s so much to it.”

Maybe in the future there will be a full one man show about his family’s infamous past. He has enough to put it together and he plans on doing it, but that is for later. Jamie did, however,  put together a monologue on his great grandfather for NPR’s Snap Judgment which became one of the most famous pieces to come out of the show and was the performance of the year.

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