Thursday, August 8, 2013

Debunking pseudoscience at Cafe Scientifique Dubai

Cafe Scientifique Dubai held its fourth monthly session last Friday, and with the topic of "Science vs Pseudoscience", perhaps its most contentious yet. And quite a timely topic, given who's coming to town. Shifted to 7pm because of the ongoing Ramadan, the event at Cafe Lila was attended by a large number of science-seekers, despite it taking place in the relatively population-sparse season.

Introduction by Bidshahri

The introductions by Rohan Roberts about the scientific method, and by Raya Bidshahri about the placebo effect, had to be done in a tent because of the iftar buffer in progress indoors. The open discussion/networking slot was moved ahead for the same reason, and continued until the tables inside were cleared and cleaned up.

Screening video of Michael Shermer

Once we got seated indoors and had access to the projector, we watched a hilarious TED Talk video that tore into all sorts of modern-day non-science and nonsense, from dowsing to UFOs to pareidolia.

The moderated discussion at the end started with the question of whether there is even any point combating the prevalence of pseudoscience. Once we go that out of the way, there was plenty to talk about such varied subjects as astral projection (including possible neurological causes), the effectiveness of homeopathy and alternative medicine vis-a-vis placebo/nocebo effects, and telepathy (including scientific possibilities of false memory implantation and remote mind-to-mind communication using EEGs and neural manipulation)

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