New York always leaves me happy, but I always leave New York sad. There’s a moral somewhere.

Thank you to everyone who made it to my talk yesterday — I was told we had about 55 or 60 people, with about 40% women, which if you saw my talk you know is kind of great.  Afterward we retired to The Essex with something like 20 or 30 people, unbeknownst to the Essex. Half the crowd had to wait downstairs at the bar while we annoyed away the other diners in the upstairs space and drove the wait staff mad. Then we headed across the street to the Magician, which I remember very little of but have heard it was fun (we talked all night, oh but what the hell did we say?). I was operating on about four hours of sleep, having arisen at 5 that morning to catch the bus from Boston to New York, and my total caloric intake for the day consisted of a few pretzels, half an omelet, a pitcher of margaritas, and whatever they were handing me at The Magician (thanks, Josh, for kindly handing me water at some point). And so I offer this blanket apology for every silly thing I said or did.

Pics of the afterparty are after the jump. Those of you with pics of the talk, please post links in the comments or feel free to e-mail them and I’ll put them on Flickr.

Essex crowd

Crowd waiting to eat at Essex

At The Magician

Darwin for president!

I left this shirt at the bar. If you picked it up, please let me know or at least give her a good home.

See more pics on Flickr.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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28 Comments

  1. Avatar of Joshua
    February 17, 2008 at 7:13 pm —

    Right. I meant the NYC Skeptics Matt.

  2. Avatar of kidneypuncher
    February 17, 2008 at 9:08 pm —

    I am a new male skeptic who went and enjoyed the talk, and I hope that unicorn and/or rainbow pony breaks will eventually become standard in most public speaking. I had two comments that maybe I will form into questions but I did not ask due to a general lack of assertiveness when other people are raising their hands.

    1. In comparing men to women regarding magical thinking topics, is there any data on sports superstitions? It seems to me that I hear men often talk about their lucky jersey, etc. that plays a causal role in the outcome of important sporting events.

    2. What percentage of skeptics had prior scientific training? In other words, my initial sense is that many of the skeptics are actual scientists/doctors, and a difference in male/female ratio of skeptics could be explained by a difference in male/female ratio of scientists.

    I have no data on this and feel guilty when I do any research on things that aren't my dissertation, so feel free to reseach, comment or ignore.

  3. Avatar of Joshua
    February 17, 2008 at 10:43 pm —

    Actually, I think Matt took the shirt home with him. He changed out of his dress shirt and put it on at… some point. I have no idea when.

  4. Avatar of kookbreaker
    February 17, 2008 at 10:56 pm —

    There were three people named Matt at the Magician. Just so you know. This includes me. I did not take or wear the shirt.

  5. Avatar of jtradke
    February 17, 2008 at 11:20 pm —

    I was nowhere near New York, but I just want to say that I love Modest Mouse.

  6. Avatar of a.real.girl
    February 18, 2008 at 12:22 am —

    Sigh. I’m bummed I missed this.

  7. Avatar of Melusine
    February 18, 2008 at 8:33 am —

    Margaritas and skepticism…sounds good! I would have liked to have gone, but I'm an absolute wimp about cold NYC streets. I also have a hilarious book I wanted to show Rebecca. Glad you had a good turnout.

    Waiting for warmer weather….

  8. Avatar of Joshua
    February 18, 2008 at 9:52 am —

    Even though I do have a science/engineering background, my experience parallels Expatria's in that I came to skepticism through woo. We were discussing it at the Essex, actually. Both of us got involved in skepticism by first being UFO true-believers, rather than from being interested in science.

    The really big turning point, for me personally, was reading all the crap surrounding the Philadelphia Experiment and especially the less-known follow-up the Montauk Project. That was the point that the woo got so ridiculous that I just had to start looking up debunks, and I got to thinking, basically, if Carlos Allende is a lying liar who lies, who else might be?

    Although Phil Plait gets to share a bit of the blame as well, thanks to my finding his movie reviews.

    At the same time, there are lots of scientists who more or less exemplify the "ivory tower" stereotype of being completely focussed on their narrow field that they don't bother to get involved with much in the general culture. I'm sure there are lots of biologists, even, who hear the occasional rumble about ID and go, "Eh, who cares? It's not like anybody believes that crap." When, of course, lots of people do. To a certain degree, I think having the experience of True Belief in some form is required to understand why skepticism is so important; otherwise, it's too easy to pass off all sorts of dangerous woo as stuff that only idiots would believe. It's harder to dismiss that way when you yourself, not being an idiot by most standards, used to believe in crap.

  9. Avatar of Joshua
    February 18, 2008 at 9:54 am —

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, this is why people have been lobbying for comment editing/previews. D'oh.

  10. Avatar of Expatria
    February 18, 2008 at 9:39 am —

    Hope you get that shirt back, Rebecca, that was a good ‘un.

    I know how you feel, kidneypuncher, about doing extra-dissertational research. That was more or less the story of my life last year from April to August. I basically either did NOTHING, or did nothing without feeling guilty, throughout that time period. You’ll get through it though, no doubt.

    From my own experience, personal and irrelevant as it may be, most skeptics I know came to it from some form of woo rather than science. Many people, myself included, were into the paranormal but eventually had to concede that whatever it was we believed in was NOT true. Then the rest slowly fell away from there.

    I have no science training at all, not even having taken a lab science during my undergrad days (as I took a “college level” course in High School). All of my higher-ed training is in the liberal arts, and the same (or similar) is true of many of the skeptics I’ve met. But I share your curiosity about what Rebecca‘s survey says about it.

  11. Avatar of
    February 18, 2008 at 11:33 am —

    Also, that's a great shirt, and you look very pretty in it. Just thought I'd let you know.

  12. Avatar of Marcus Ohreallyus
    February 18, 2008 at 1:46 pm —

    Informative and fun!
    More photos here:
    http://nyctours.googlepages.com/nycskepticspubliclecture

  13. Avatar of Melusine
    February 18, 2008 at 1:51 pm —

    Marcus, that’s cruel showing those pictures of food! That bakery is calling my name.

  14. Avatar of TomDG
    February 18, 2008 at 2:33 pm —

    I’m glad you survived Rebecca, you were a lot of fun and as far as I know you didn’t do anything incredibly silly. I think you drank a glass of bushmills at The Magician and a lot of water. I have a ton of pictures but I’m feeling like shit today, unrelated to the events of saturday, but I’ll upload them to flickr and post a link somewhere.

  15. Avatar of Joshua
    February 18, 2008 at 3:42 pm —

    Just to clarify: Rebecca lost her shirt, but not in that way. So, no, guys, you didn't miss out on a show.

    Although she did challenge everyone to a game of strip poker. Which, sorry to let you all down again, didn't happen.

  16. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    February 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm —

    Hm, considering that I do not recall the poker challenge, I'm a little relieved no one took me up on it. Not that I don't think I could've whipped you all, sober or not . . .

    Thank you for the sweet compliment, Rystefn. I should say, though, that I actually look nothing like that in person. BEHOLD, the power of the DARWIN SHIRT! It magically improves your chances of reproducing.

    Marcus, thanks for posting the pics, though I feel I should correct a few inaccuracies. Like, when I said I got carried away with Captain Morgan, that's not quite what I meant.

  17. Avatar of
    February 18, 2008 at 3:31 pm —

    I’m sorry I missed it. Sadly, it’s a touch too far for me to walk to New York from Houston.

  18. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    February 18, 2008 at 3:36 pm —

    I’ll be installing new plugins like the comment preview thing soon, Josh. Tonight if I’m home at a reasonable hour (ha).

    Kidneypuncher, good questions:

    1.) Yes, there are some stats and I believe I have the full study data at home in which there was a breakdown of male/female athletes. I think that there was no marked difference, but I might be misremembering. I’ll check tonight.

    2.) I’m willing to bet the majority of people who consider themselves skeptics do not have a science background (though I suspect the plurality are engineers). However, I do think there are strong correlations between the number of women in science and those in skepticism. I suspect that we’re going to see an increase in female skeptics as we see an increase in female scientists.

  19. Avatar of spurge
    February 18, 2008 at 4:51 pm —

    Hearing about the NY fun leads me to ask, are there plans for a regular skeptical social event in the Boston area?

  20. Avatar of Michael
    February 18, 2008 at 3:54 pm —

    You lost your shirt?!

    We’ll just have to send you another one…

  21. Avatar of fuzzbucket1
    February 18, 2008 at 4:48 pm —

    I went to the lecture. The unicorn breaks were too funny. haha

  22. Avatar of Kerry Maxwell
    February 18, 2008 at 7:49 pm —

    I should say, though, that I actually look nothing like that in person. BEHOLD, the power of the DARWIN SHIRT! It magically improves your chances of reproducing.

    Magic shirt properties aside, I maintain that is a wysiwyg photo.

    I look forward to elaborating on the " I was a teenage Woo- Wolf" theme next time we all get together. Although I do feel sorry for the poor fellows who had endure the 4 1/2 hour discussion Expatria and I carried on during our bus ride home.

  23. Avatar of KingMerv00
    February 18, 2008 at 7:50 pm —

    Great talk Rebecca.

    Roon ya bahstard roon!

    (Get it? Just checking for short term memory loss.)

  24. Avatar of Michael
    February 18, 2008 at 8:03 pm —

    Hearing about the NY fun leads me to ask, are there plans for a regular skeptical social event in the Boston area?

    You are always welcome to start up a Drinking Skeptically chapter… :-)

  25. Avatar of Kerry Maxwell
    February 18, 2008 at 8:13 pm —

    PS: Yay! Preview!

  26. Avatar of kidneypuncher
    February 19, 2008 at 5:58 am —

    Thanks for the empathy Expatria!

    Rebecca, thanks for the response. For number #1, I was thinking more along the lines of sportsfans believing their lucky something affects the outcome rather than athletes, although that study may be the closest to finding out. Assuming you are not misremembering, one could make the case that since there are likely more male sportsfans than female, then there could be a higher total number of sportsfan superstitions among males than females. Of course, the ratio of superstitions might be equal among male and female sportsfans, but I think it would be much more fun to report at least one area that men are much higher on.

  27. Avatar of MWare
    February 20, 2008 at 8:48 am —

    I'm sure nobody is reading these comments anymore, but I'd like to set the record straight and say that I did not take Rebecca's shirt. As a NYC Skeptic I actually get my own shirt thank you very much! The suit and tie just wasn't working at a certain point…

  28. Avatar of Zach Alexander
    February 20, 2008 at 8:38 pm —

    Glad it went well.

    Meant to blog about it after you told me about it at the Darwin Day party, but you know how it goes.

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