Afternoon Inquisition

AI: What do you want to do?

In case I’ve been too subtle and you totally missed it, I’m launching a new organization. It’s basically Skepchick, but live on the streets of Chicago. Monday I’ll be announcing our first two events. One is an outing and the other is the kickoff of our new lecture series (ok it’s Skeptics in the Pub but with more vagina power.) I’m really excited about our first speaker as everything kind of fell into place timing-wise with her. Right now, she’s someone everyone is talking about. But more on that Monday.

We also have other projects in the works including a science themed art expo and a science fair for grownups and some advocacy work. I’ve got a lot to get done before I pretend to go on leave at the end of May! And tomorrow I meet with the board to brainstorm some more ideas and get some of my ideas skewered.

So I’m asking you to do some of my work for me. Because I’m lazy… Um… Pregnant. I’m pregnant and need help doing some of this stuff because my belly is in the way… That’s what I meant.

What would be a cool skeptic-themed outing or event that would get you excited? Where do you think skeptical outreach is lacking? Who are speakers you’d like to see in your town? What should I do with my organization?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. Well hello Elyse nice to know there are Skeptics in Chicago. I have been trying to set up or find a Skeptics in the pub in Chicago for months and basically have resigned myself to the fact that Chicagoans are just not Skeptical. Look to Mayor Daley as an example of the opposite of Skeptical which is brain dead…

    Anyway is there a Skeptics in the pub around here?

  2. We should have a field trip to the Planetarium! I live in Chicago, yet I never go. I think it would be cool to all go and have someone teach us about space.

  3. Have you guys thought about involving school age children? Not in the pub, but maybe sponsoring field trips to natural history museums, science museums, things like that? Or how about after-school science-y clubs?
    (Okay, maybe in the pub)

  4. It would be cool to actually do it live on the streets. Er, I mean, like, science stuff. Street theater. Especially to appeal to the young. If you could set up in Millennium park, or the museum campus, on a nice summer day…that would be sensational. Now you just need to fill in some details ;-)

  5. I would like to see the Field Museum again, but admittedly, I do not live close enough to Chicago to go to most (if any events). Also are you going to arrange art expos which are not science centric?

  6. I haven’t heard of ANY skeptical event in my town (Orlando) or I’d be all over it. If there are events I’m not hearing about in Orlando, perhaps advertising is where the skeptical outreach is lacking?

  7. @Skept-artist:

    One of the longer-term goals is to get WTF into schools. I don’t have anything concrete in mind, but I do have Matt Lowry, The Skeptical Teacher, on my board of directors. He’s a high school physics teacher and doing great work to bring skepticism into the classroom.

    While he’s mostly known for taking his shirt off for large crowds of skeptics, I plan on using him for his brains. (I already used him for his body at Skepchicamp anyway… totally worth it, but now I want more.)

    June’s event will be for ages 10 and up. Kids will be invited and encouraged!

    Also, June’s event will likely be pleasing to @wdonohue. But I won’t say more.

  8. @Nightfall:

    We will not be arranging art shows that are not science/skeptic centric, at least not any time soon. The mission of our organization is to do science and skeptical outreach. An art show without that theme is a bit too far outside our scope to justify the time and expense right now.

  9. @electroaffinity:

    Unfortunately, the skeptical community in Chicago is not very large or tight-knit. I tend to blame this on Chicago being such an awesome city, we don’t really need to seek refuge or solidarity… you’re free to go about your day and call BS where you see it and move on.

    It might also be our lack of big names… or a lack of motivation to get a group started and keep it going.

    We do have the Chicago Skeptics Meetup group and they’re doing more to get people involved. Unfortunately for me, I’m way out in the far burbs and my trusted sitters are an hour away from my house… and the main meetup is in Lakeview at noon on Saturdays. So I don’t go.

    But last month we saw something really cool: Skepchicamp. I honestly expected a group of 30 or so to show up to our event, and we ended up with 80 skeptics, 20 presentations, and a waiting list for people to speak! So the community is out there, we just need to find out what they want! And figure out how we’re not able to find the people who are looking for us!

    For the last couple of years I’ve been putting together an informal, irregularly planned Drinking Skepchickally at Galway Arms on Clark. But with Skepchicamp planning and me being pregnant and all, the meetups were put on hiatus for a while. The WTF lecture series is going to be more formal and will be scheduled monthly. I’m still hoping to hold them at Galway Arms, though. So keep your eyes peeled.

    Also, keep an eye on the Skepchick calendar. I always submit cool things going on, so they’re usually up there!

  10. A little off topic but Chicago’s Field Museum has the greatest evolution exhibit I’ve ever seen in the world. I particularly enjoyed the disclaimer on the wall as you went in which basically said “Evolution is a fact and anyone who uses that “it’s only a theory” bullshit is trying to make you as brainless as they are.”

  11. Ok, I have thunk on it. I’d like to see more Skeptic presence in Arizoan, period, especially in relation to all the fuck nuttery going on in Arizona right now (education, birther crap, woo, LGBT rights, etc etc). I wish I had more time.

  12. Are there ghost hunting or UFO tours in the Chicago area? Like at some historical sites perhaps? I went on a ghost hunt a few months ago that was really swell and I wished I could have shared it with some skeptic friends. They give you an EMF meter that goes beep-beep-boop when you’re close to a ghostly presence. Allegedly. Would be a good source for a laugh for everyone.
    There’s a place north of here that does UFO tours, but I haven’t done that yet.

    Fermilab sounds so hardcore awesome.

  13. Elyse, great to see you’re getting stuff organized here in Chicago. I would love to see events for families with young children (I have a 1-year-old). Something along the lines of skeptics in the park. The downside is that this leaves out the booze, though I homebrew and would be happy to take a little keg along (Chicago Parks would love that, right?)

    Also, I think group trips to field museum/ planetarium would be great, especially if working scientists in the field could lead them. I’m sure there are plenty in our nerdy midst.

  14. Oh man, a grown up science fair sounds like so much fun!

    How about a sorta-lecture series on all the things you learned in school about science that have changed – which dinos were renamed, what planets have been demoted ;), what elements have been discovered… I say sorta-lecture, because “lecture” makes it sound kinda hoity-toity. I always say I wish I could go back and take elementary school science again and see what they are teaching now that’s different. :)

  15. Firstly, I live in Chicago; Rogers Park actually, and YAY!! For some reason, I never realized Elyse is in the area. I missed Skepchick Camp, though, dang it!

    Secondly, I don’t have anything new to add to the discussion, but second (or third, or whatever) all the suggestions for trips to the museums, and Fermilab, etc. I also like the idea of a lecture series, especially one that addresses how people without much more than an highschool background in science can learn to distinguish between pseudo-scientific claims and real, good, science. I’ve observed that people tend to get really overwhelmed with all the information and mis-information that’s out there, and I’ve sort of stumbled into learning how to do it for myself. It would be great to have some kind guide that would make it manageable to share that kind of info with friends and family who are struggling to discern for themselves what the facts are about things like vaccinations and autism, the whole global warming debate, etc., etc. . . .

  16. @Skulleigh & @Lynners:

    These sound like great ideas for workshops!

    And I have plans to address the vax issue… obviously that’s not the only “over our heads” issue in science and skepticism.

    Actually, the whole goal of the organization is to make skepticism accessible to the less scientifically literate. While I think it’s great that we have so many scientists to lean on in this community, we need more lay people. There’s a reason I talk so much about being a music school drop out, and it’s not because I’m incredibly proud of the fact that I never finished college… while majoring in music FFS! I bring it up often because I am the every day lay person without a science background. My target demographic is me!

    By the way, some of these ideas are being passed on to my board of directors for discussion tonight. I’m totally crowd sourcing my homework!

  17. @B Hitt:

    By the way, I did look into a Field Museum outing for this summer. I actually wanted to do a behind the scenes tour as a fundraiser. Unfortunately, we’d have to charge about $100/head.

  18. I am currently in the process of trying to launch a skeptical crafting group (essentially a skeptical “stitch n bitch”, but not restricted to knitting/crochet) in the Philadelphia area, which I’ve dubbed SkepStitch. A few tweaks on the logo and some prodding of the hubby web designer to get the website up and I will be taking signups soon!

    Meanwhile people can join the FB group at

    or follow SkepStitch on twitter @SkepStitch.

  19. I’m nowhere near Chicago, but I’d love to see: combination feasts/food bank drives/conversations of nutrition myths and facts; meeting at the library as volunteer literacy tutors or skeptic book clubs; learning about making personal residences more environmentally friendly, and maybe some group projects toward the idea; other ideas as to making the community a better place as a group.

  20. Awww, damn, tempestbrewer! That’s a fabulous idea. I’m a rabid knitter myself and I’m trying to find skeptic stuff here in craptacular Richmond, VA. I moved to Richmond from Seattle, WA and found out that apparently they don’t believe in sacrificing sacred cows here.

  21. In the past year or so, there have been a lot of terrific articles about anti-vaxxers, autism quacks, Dr. Oz, etc., in your local Chicago Tribune. As far as I can tell, it’s been the best sustained news coverage of this type of stuff in the whole U.S.

    Trine Tsouderos has been the main writer on all of those articles (and Patricia Callahan was also involved in a good few of them). I think Ms. Tsouderos might be a great person to try and bring out to speak at a skeptical event, or try to get involved on a long-term basis.

  22. @ahythloday: Hey, well eventually I want to make this an event like drinking skeptically that is hosted in many cities across the country/other countries. So sign up and follow and once we get the kinks worked out with the Philly group, maybe you could be our Richmond VA point lady for a second group? :D

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