What we're about

"Skeptics In The Pub" started in London in 1999 as an informal social event designed to promote fellowship and social networking among scientific skeptics, free thinkers, rationalists, science enthusiasts, and other kindred spirits. The group is now held in various forms around the world, with well over a hundred local chapters.

The Philadelphia chapter of "Skeptics in the Pub" hosts bi-weekly group discussions on a range of topics related to science and rationality. There's several things that set our group apart from many other skeptic groups out there:

(1) While most Skeptics in the Pub chapters rely on guest lecturers, we're primarily an intellectual discussion group. That means that our regular bi-weekly meetups have a discussion topic and require some preparation and involve active participation.

(2) Most other chapters of Skeptics in the Pub host their events in "pubs" as the name suggests, but we typically host our small group discussions in cafes & other quiet areas so that noise levels don't interfere.

However, if you're into beers & bars, fear not! We also regularly attend several monthly science-related events in Philadelphia where drinks are served, such as "Science on Tap", "Nerd Nite" and "Profs & Pints". We also occasionally hold informal socializing events for our members called "Drinking Skeptically". These events tend to be more social & require less preparation from participants, so if you're looking to just have fun & meet people while learning something new, these events may be for you. (NOTE: During the COVID epidemic, most of these events have moved online.)

(3) When it comes to addressing pseudoscience & the paranormal, we tend to address controversies among serious scientists & scholars that aren't clear cut rather than just debunking fringe beliefs like homeopathy, Flat Earth, Bigfoot, ghosts & alien abductions for the hundredth time. We typically only address pseudo-scientific beliefs once they become widespread enough to cause major risks or interfere with major benefits to society (e.g. the anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, anti-nuclear power, and climate change denial movements).

(4) While we champion the scientific approach to empirical questions, we're careful to avoid a common pitfall of some skeptic groups -- i.e. "scientism" -- the application of science to non-empirical questions in fields like ethics & aesthetics. Also, while we generally defer to the scientific establishment, we also occasionally act as critics when it comes to issues like funding biases, academic fraud, and the replication crisis.

(5) When we cover conspiracy theories, we tend to focus less on bizarre beliefs about "Men in Black" and the "Illuminati" in favor of somewhat more plausible allegations of political corruption, corporate malfeasance, police cover-ups, covert military actions, domestic spying, etc. We also look at how low science literacy & internet echo chambers lead many normal people to go beyond realistic concerns about Big Government & Big Business and embrace irrational conspiracy theories.

(6) When we address problems with the news media, instead of debunking obvious hoaxes from junk tabloids & "fake news" websites, we tend to focus on problems within the mainstream media coverage, such as the exagerration of scientific findings in "pop science" journalism, product ads masquerading as articles, and the fear-mongering that drives "moral panics".

(7) Although we occasionally address political issues, we do so from a non-partisan, empirical approach. Any politician, pundit or political party that makes claims that are unsupported by logic & evidence are open for criticism.

(8) While most skeptic groups double as atheist groups, this meetup doesn't require members to have any particular position on abstract metaphysical questions like the existence or non-existence of a "higher power”, whether or not free will & our sense of self are "illusions", whether or not we're living in a simulation or a multiverse, etc. When we cover religious issues, rather than debating the existence of God or creationism vs evolution for the thousandth time, we often focus on topics related to the psychology & sociology of religion.

(9) Many skeptics groups focus on topics raised by a relatively narrow circle of science communicators at skeptic organizations like James Randi's JREF, Michael Shermer's Skeptic Magazine, the Richard Dawkins Foundation, the Centre for Inquiry (CFI), and Steven Novella's SGU podcast. We cover their material, but we also draw material from adjacent communities like the "New Atheist" movement & its overlap with the emerging "Intellectual Dark Web" (esp. Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, and Bret & Eric Weinstein), the "rationalist" blogosphere (esp. Less Wrong, SlateStarCodex & Rationally Speaking), Jon & Hank Green's "Nerdfighters" movement, and the broader community of science journalists at media outlets like Discovery & Scientific American and skeptic & science-related YouTube channels (e.g. Adam Ruins Everything, Veritasium, Rationality Rules, Cosmic Skeptic, Genetically Modified Skeptic).

If this sounds interesting to you, we hope you'll join us!

Upcoming events (5)

Atlas Obscura Event: "How the Occult Shaped Progressive Politics"

Event Description:
Atlas Obscura is excited to present a lively and intellectually vibrant presentation, with PEN Award-winning historian and occult scholar Mitch Horowitz, who will explore the little known historical ties between alternative spirituality and radical politics!

During this 90-minute online experience, Mitch will take you on an extraordinary journey to discover the shared roots of alternative spirituality and progressive politics. You’ll meet America's first female presidential candidate (dubbed “Mrs. Satan” in the press); discover the remarkable ties between Spiritualism, seances, and liberatory movements; understand the esoteric references in the talks of pioneering Black nationalist Marcus Garvey; and trace the thought connections between occultist Madame H.P. Blavatsky, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. This is real history that opens a new window on our shared past and present—and reveals how avant-garde spirituality and protest politics have always grown together.

About the Speaker:
Mitch Horowitz is a historian of alternative spirituality and one of today’s most literate voices of esoterica, mysticism, and the occult. He is among the few occult writers whose work touches the bases of academic scholarship, national journalism, and subculture cred. Mitch is a writer-in-residence at the New York Public Library, lecturer-in-residence at the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, and the PEN Award-winning author of books including *Occult America*; *One Simple Idea*; and *The Miracle Club*. Mitch’s book Awakened Mind is one of the first works of New Thought translated into Arabic.

About the Event Host:
Atlas Obscura is an online magazine and travel company founded in 2009 by author Joshua Foer and filmmaker Dylan Thuras. It catalogs unusual & obscure travel destinations, and their articles and online courses cover a variety of topics including history, science, food, art, music, and spirituality.

How to Register & Watch:
Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at: https://www.atlasobscura.com/experiences/radical-spirits-how-the-occult-shaped-progressive-politics-0727

Once registered, you can access the Zoom room for this experience through your confirmation email or Eventbrite account.

This online experience will be recorded. A temporary link to the recording will be provided in a follow-up email to all ticket holders within 72 hours after the event. Access to this recording will be available for seven days.

HxA Event: "Why Healthcare Needs Heterodoxy"

Online event

Event Topic:
Member Spotlight: "On the Outside Looking In: Practitioners vs. Patients" with Jonathan Thigpen

What is the Heterodox Academy?
The Heterodox Academy (HxA) is a nonpartisan collaborative of thousands of professors, administrators, and students committed to enhancing the quality of research and education by promoting open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in institutions of higher learning. It was founded in 2015 by Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, a Georgetown University law professor, and Chris Martin, an Emory University sociologist.

The organization's members embrace a particular set of norms and values called the "HxA Way": (1) make your case with evidence, (2) be intellectually charitable, (3) be intellectually humble, (4) be constructive, (5) be yourself.

If you're currently a student or teacher (K-12 or college), you can apply for a membership in HxA. And even for those who aren't currently in academia, you can sign up as a "friend" of HxA. To learn more, go to: https://heterodoxacademy.org/join/

Registering for the Online Event:
Unlike most HxA events which are for members only, this is a FREE event open to the general public; however, you'll need to register for it. Go to the following link & fill out the registration form, and when you hit "register" you'll receive an email with a link to the Zoom meeting room a week prior to the event date:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcqcO6przgrGtSOmWfkM1oM5nwa8yRXgR1f

Event Topic & Speaker Info:
This session will discuss the ideas, actions, and policies of health care professionals and health educators that are contributing to a disturbing paradigm shift that could result in less patient-centered care and more social divisions...

The session will be led by Jonathan Thigpen, an associate professor and the Assistant Dean for Curricular Innovation and Professional Development at the Samford University McWhorter School of Pharmacy. After obtaining his Pharm.D., he completed two postdoctoral fellowships prior to entering academia full time. He currently serves as the moderator for HxA’s Health Professions Education Community which seeks to improve patient care and public health by exploring an array of viewpoints and promoting the exchange of ideas, free from shame and retribution, especially within schools of health care education.

NOTE: To get a preview of Jonathan Thigpen's approach, you can read his 2019 article at Areo Magazine about the need for more political diversity in professional health education - https://areomagazine.com/2019/04/15/the-need-for-political-diversity-in-professional-health-education/

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Skeptical Inquirer Presents: Mike Rothschild on QAnon

What is "Skeptical Inquirer Presents"?
Skeptical Inquirer is a bimonthly American magazine published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry dedicated to promoting science and reason. They've recently introduced "Skeptical Inquirer Presents" - live online presentations from leading experts in science, skepticism, medicine, media, activism, and advocacy, all devoted to the cause of advancing science over pseudoscience, media literacy over conspiracy theories, and critical thinking over magical thinking.

Every two weeks, Skeptical Inquirer Presents will bring you a new live event, emceed by the brilliant and hilarious comedian Leighann Lord, co-host of the Point of Inquiry podcast. And it’s all happening from the comfort of your laptop (or any other screen), wherever you are in the world, because even though so much has been closed down, big ideas can’t be contained in conference halls.

How can I participate?
Free registration is required for these online lectures. See below for details and registration, and check back for additional events.

For full details and to register for this event, go to: https://skepticalinquirer.org/presents/

Once you register, keep an eye out for a confirmation email from Zoom with instructions on how to join the presentation.

If you have difficulties registering or logging into Zoom for the event, please submit any questions to: [masked]

Event Title: "The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything" with Mike Rothschild

Details for this event:
Mike Rothschild explains the background conspiracies and cults that fed the Q phenomenon, from its embrace by right-wing media and Donald Trump, through the rending of families as loved ones became addicted to Q’s increasingly violent rhetoric, to the storming of the Capitol, and on.

And as the phenomenon shows no sign of calming despite Trump’s loss of the presidency—with everyone from Baby Boomers to Millennial moms proving susceptible to its messaging—and politicians starting to openly espouse its ideology, Rothschild makes a compelling case that mocking the seeming madness of QAnon will get us nowhere. Rather, his impassioned reportage makes clear it's time to figure out what QAnon really is — because QAnon and its relentlessly dark theory of everything isn’t done yet.

About the Speaker:
Mike Rothschild is a journalist focused on the intersections between internet culture and politics as seen through the dark glass of conspiracy theories. His expertise has led to his becoming a leading commentator on the subject for The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, and elsewhere. Rothschild has also been a longtime writer for the skeptic community, with articles appearing in the Skeptoid blog and Snopes. His first print book, *The World’s Worst Conspiracies* was published in January 2020, followed shortly by *Conspiracy: The Greatest Plots, Collusions and Cover-Ups* which he co-authored with Charlotte Greig. Since 2018, he has specialized in examining the QAnon conspiracy cult, and is one of the first journalists to reveal its connections to past conspiracy theories and scams, and he's used this material for his new book *The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything* (2021).

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NECSS 2021: Opening Night Events

Online event

What is NECSS?
Pronounced “Nexus”, NECSS stands for the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism. It's a conference dedicated to science & critical thinking held annually in New York City. NECSS welcomes leading scientists, educators, activists, and artists who educate and engage conference attendees through individual presentations, panel discussions, and performances.

Who is NECSS for?
NECSS attracts hundreds of people, from all different walks of life, from around the world. It is a forum for the general public to mingle with scientists, educators, philosophers, medical professionals, students, and many other people that you might not ordinarily meet.

How can I participate?
While NECSS is usually a 4-day live event hosted in New York City, due to the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic, it will be live streamed on Crowdcast over 2 days.

For full details, go to: https://necss.org

To register, go to https://www.crowdcast.io/e/necss2021/register
* Note: The cost for registration is $29, and this will include all of Saturday's content as well.

Which speakers will be featured on Day 1?
On Friday August 6th, the festivities will kick off with a talk from the keynote speaker Dr. George Church. Dr. Church is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, a founding member of the Wyss Institute, and director of PersonalGenomes.org.

Right after his talk, there will be a game show "BOOMER vs ZOOMER".

Schedule of Events - Day 1 (Friday, 8/6):
- 6:00 PM - Welcome Room: Friday Stream Start
- 6:30 PM - Keynote speech by George Church
- 7:00 PM - Game Show "Boomer vs Zoomer"

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* NOTE: The 2nd day of NECSS 2021 begins at 10:00am on Saturday and runs til 7:30pm that night. There's an impressive list of speakers, as well as musical performances, a live episode of the "Skeptics Guide to the Universe" podcast, and much more. Check out the other Meetup event for the Day 2 schedule and list of speakers: https://www.meetup.com/Philly-Skeptics/events/279239613/

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Past events (463)

PhACT's Annual Picnic & Book Swap

Fort Washington State Park

Photos (374)