Time to start up our 11th PhACT season - Lecture Sept 15 2pm
- Hey people,
The world still needs more science and rationality. We are starting up the fall 2007 PhACT season - remember, 3rd Saturday's of the month in room W2-48 of the West Building at the Community College of Philadelphia.
The latest issue of PhACTUM just came out - do check to make sure you haven't fallen behind in membership.In other news, we could use help with donations and web maintenance.
Our next lecture is a speaker we last had in 2003, Prof. Walter F. Rowe who is professor of forensic sciences at The George Washington University:
September 15th 2007
Mysterious Delusions: Witchcraft in Salem Village
The witchcraft trials in Salem in 1692-1693 were the largest episode of witch hunting in what is now the United States and the last large witchcraft outbreak in Western Civilization. Over a hundred persons were accused of witchcraft and imprisoned; nineteen witches were convicted and executed. A variety of explanations for this event have been advanced.
In the Seventeenth Century most citizens of Massachusetts believed that witches existed and that the accused were part of a conspiracy to overthrow Christianity and replace it with the rule of Satan. During the Enlightenment many educated persons adopted the view that the witchcraft accusers were frauds and that their fits before the Massachusetts judges were mere imposture. In the last fifty years a new set of explanations has emerged.
Some attempts at explanation have focused on food-born toxins (ergot fungus) or pathogens (encephalitis). Other explanations have emphasized mass hysteria, bitter quarrels within the Salem Village community, the psychological stresses of adolescence and ageing or the psychological stresses experienced during a period of protracted warfare. This presentation will critique the modern explanations in the light of the historical record.
Prof. Walter F. Rowe is professor of forensic sciences at The George Washington University. He holds a PhD in chemistry from Harvard University. Prof. Rowe is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a former member of the editorial board of the Journal of Forensic Sciences. Prof. Rowe is a longtime student of the Salem witchcraft outbreak and has spoken on this topic before National Capital Area Skeptics (NCAS), as well as the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He has had a long-term interest in the application of the methods of forensic science to the study of history. Prof. Rowe has applied forensic methods of image analysis to Civil War photography and he is currently applying the methods of forensic firearms examination to archaeological artifacts excavated at the site of the 1866 Fetterman Massacre.
Other meetings I'm working on for the future would be "The Science in Sex" by former Philadelphia Inquirer Science writter Faye Flam. Faye now has a regular column called "Carnal Knowledge" where she clinically discusses issues of sexuality - usually from a scientifc and historical perspective - frequent explaining the behavior as a product of evolution.
Local Celebrity Mathematician and long time CSICOP fellow, John Allen Paulos has agreed to speak to us on innumeracy sometime in the future, and I'm also going to try to line up a media panel discussion.