The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Sea lions, dolphins, and whales! Oh my!

October 11, 2015, 9am–6pm

COME GET AWAY from the hot weather and join the Skeptics Society for a wonderful day by the sea! We’ll take a cruise about 2–2.5 hours long out of Long Beach Harbor, led by experienced and knowledgeable Aquarium of the Pacific educators, to look for whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and other marine life. Before the cruise, Dr. Donald R. Prothero will talk about “The Sixth Extinction in the Oceans” on the future of life on the Blue Planet. Before the lecture and the cruise, you can wander through the Aquarium of the Pacific and see their incredible exhibits of marine life. The Aquarium features not only amazing displays with fish and other marine life from all over the Pacific, but also a shark lagoon, penguins, seals and sea lions, sea otters, a pool where you can pet a ray, an aviary where you can feed lorikeets, and a life-sized replica of a blue whale. Learn more about the Aquarium of the Pacific. We hope to see you all for a wonderful day by the ocean!


The price of $94 includes:

  • the 2–2.5 hour cruise,
  • unlimited admission for that day to the Aquarium of the Pacific, and
  • Dr. Prothero’s lecture on “The Sixth Extinction in the Oceans”
Lecture by Dr. Donald Prothero at the Aquarium

To allow for the maximum number of people to sign up and enjoy this wonderful experience, the lecture will be repeated at three different times: 11:00, 12:30, and 2:00. When you sign up, please indicate your preferred lecture time. HURRY! The lectures will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, since the room seats only 40 people. Parking is only $8 in the Aquarium parking structure, and there are lots of choices for lunch both inside the Aquarium and in the village around the Harbor.

To register, call 1-626-794-3119 with a credit card to secure your spot. The usual legal/medical forms WILL NOT be required on this trip; the aquarium has its own coverage for that. Download the registration form below and submit it.

Email us or call 1-626-794-3119 with a credit card to secure your spot.

Download registration
& information forms

Click an image to enlarge it.
Blue Cavern exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Trichoglossus haematodus (Aquarium of the Pacific)
Male pup (Aquarium of the Pacific)
Aquarium show
Collard aracari (Aquarium of the Pacific)
Flamboyant Cuttlefish (Aquarium of the Pacific)
Jellies (Aquarium of the Pacific)
Penguin (Aquarium of the Pacific)

About this week’s eSkeptic

In this week’s eSkeptic, Harriet Hall examines the statements about vaccines made by four candidates in the recent GOP debate. They all demonstrated a poor grasp of vaccine science, and advocated delays in the vaccine schedule that would represent a danger to the young, the immunocompromised, and to the herd immunity that is a mainstay of our public health.

Dr. Harriet Hall, MD, the SkepDoc, is a retired family physician and Air Force Colonel living in Puyallup, WA. She writes about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, quackery, and critical thinking. She is a contributing editor to both Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer, an advisor to the Quackwatch website, and an editor of, where she writes an article every Tuesday. She is author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon. Her website is

Fact-Checking Vaccine Statements in the GOP Debate

by Harriet Hall, M.D., The SkepDoc

1. Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, said that there have been numerous studies and they have not demonstrated any correlation between vaccines and autism. TRUE.

He said certain vaccines are very important: those that would prevent death or crippling. He said others don’t fit in that category. FALSE. Although some vaccine-preventable diseases have the potential to do more harm than others, there is not a single vaccine that doesn’t prevent a disease that can cripple or kill a percentage of its victims.

He said there should be some discretion. NOT SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE. There is no reason to think “discretion” is warranted in following the recommended vaccine schedule, and there is clear evidence that not following the recommendations can lead to harm. If vaccines are delayed, the infant remains susceptible to a preventable disease until the vaccine is given. Decreasing the number of vaccinated children decreases the herd immunity of the entire population. It means that when a disease enters a community it is more likely to spread, and that harms 3 categories of people: infants too young to have been vaccinated for that disease; sick, elderly, and immunocompromised people who are more susceptible to infection and more likely to sustain serious harm if they catch the disease; and the small percentage of immunized people who may still be susceptible despite the vaccines, which are not 100% protective.

He said “but you know, a lot of this is pushed by big government.” NOT SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE. In fact, I don’t even know what he means. It is not “big government” that supports the current vaccine schedule, but the scientific and medical community.

2. Trump responded to Carson, saying autism has become an epidemic that has gotten totally out of control. FALSE. Most scientists interpret the evidence as showing the rate of autism has risen very little or not at all. The perception of an “epidemic” is due to wider awareness of the disorder, better identification of patients, and re-categorization of children who formerly would have had a different diagnosis.

He said he was in favor of vaccines, but he wanted smaller doses over a longer period of time. NOT SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE. We know smaller doses would be ineffective or less effective, and there is no reason to think any advantage would accrue from spreading doses over a longer period of time. The current schedule has been carefully thought out by experts to provide maximum benefit and safety.

He compared vaccinating infants to pumping in doses that look like they were meant for a horse. FALSE. Exaggeration for emotional effect. What a vaccine “looks like” has little to do with the number of antigens it contains. The volume of material injected is actually very small, both for infants and for horses.

He claimed to know of several instances where vaccines hurt children, describing a beautiful 2½ year old child who got a vaccine and a week later had a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, and is now autistic. FALSE. Under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, more than 5000 families have sought compensation claiming that vaccines caused their children to become autistic, but the courts examined the most striking cases and found that even in those worst cases, there was no evidence that the vaccines had caused autism. The details can be found online.

1a. Carson responded to Trump, agreeing with him that we are probably giving way too many vaccines in too short a period of time. He said “a lot of pediatricians now recognize that, and, I think, are cutting down on the number and the proximity in which those are done, and I think that’s appropriate.” FALSE. It is never appropriate to deviate from the recommended schedule without a very good medical reason for a particular individual. Those pediatricians are bowing to parental pressure and doing the children a disservice. The “too many too soon” argument is fallacious. Babies’ immune systems are more than capable of handling the number of antigens in vaccines, and in fact their immune systems encounter far more antigens in the course of their daily life. Vaccines don’t overload the immune system, they exercise and strengthen it.

3. Paul, an eye surgeon, said he was all for vaccines but he was also for freedom. “Even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread out my vaccines out a little bit at the very least.” IRRELEVANT. One of the principles of medical ethics is autonomy: patients always have the right to refuse treatment, even if it means they will die. We have freedom with respect to vaccines; no one is forcibly restraining people and vaccinating them without their permission. No one is being forced to get vaccines on schedule. People have the freedom to act on the basis of emotion rather than reason, even though spreading out vaccines is more likely to harm them than to benefit them.

4. Huckabee said “there are maybe some controversies about autism…” FALSE. There is no controversy about autism in the scientific medical community. There is only a “manufactroversy” about vaccines that has been sold to a scientifically illiterate public.

“…but there is no controversy about the things that are really driving the medical costs in this country.” And he called for a war on cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. IRRELEVANT. A blatant attempt to change the subject.

What I wish they had said

There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism. Vaccinating is safer than not vaccinating. The current vaccine schedule was carefully thought out by experts to safely maximize protection from vaccine-preventable diseases. I strongly recommend vaccinating on schedule because it protects others in the community and reduces the risk of avoidable tragedies like the recent outbreak of measles at Disneyland.

These attitudes are bad enough coming from the scientifically illiterate, but it is shocking that two of the candidates are medical doctors whose education should have given them a more science-based approach. Worse, Carson is a creationist who has rejected some of the fundamental tenets of Darwinian evolution as “incredible fairy tales,” has claimed that mutations only lead to degeneration rather than improvement, and has claimed that there are no intermediate species. As the world faces current and future challenges like climate change and epidemic infectious diseases, a solid understanding of science will be essential to making rational political decisions. The GOP debate was not grounds for optimism. END

Michael Shermer
The “Mandela Effect”

Are subtle individual memory differences evidence of alternate universes? Michael Shermer considers the claim.

Read the Insight

More About James Randi
DragonCon logo

In this episode of Skepticality, we present a live recording of Derek speaking with James Randi on stage at Skeptrack 2015 this past Labor Day weekend at Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA. Derek and Randi discuss the origins of “The Amazing Randi” and his work exposing fakers and other harmful charlatans over the years.

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Michael Shermer v. Larry Taunton
September 30, 2015 at 7 PM
Benaroya Hall, Seattle
Tickets: 206-215-4747

Fixed Point Foundation, a non-profit based in Birmingham, Alabama, revives an age-old question in the form of a debate – Do we need God? Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine and Larry Taunton of Fixed Point Foundation meet at Benaroya Hall on September 30 to address whether the concept of God is beneficial or detrimental to society.

Exploring the effects of the idea of God on humanity will bring these two participants to consider a variety of issues, including human suffering, morality, and meaning. With backgrounds in education and history, both Taunton and Shermer are well prepared to explore all of these topics, particularly as each relates to religion.

Larry Taunton

Larry Taunton, Founder and Executive Director of Fixed Point Foundation, is a cultural commentator, columnist, author, and regular contributor to The Atlantic and USA Today. He is a frequent television and radio guest, appearing on CNN, CNN International, Fox News, Al Jazeera America, and BBC. Taunton’s book, The Grace Effect, is a powerful and personal account of the effect one Christian can have on a spiritually dead culture. In it, he argues that without the Christian ideals of love, forgiveness, and grace, a society will quickly become the author of its own demise. According to Taunton, “Every meaningful movement in the history of the West has been fueled by Christianity… because they all appealed to a higher law.” God, he believes, is far from irrelevant. Download more biographical details (PDF).

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer, taking an opposing stance, asserts that religion is largely to blame for some of the worst atrocities in human history. His latest book, The Moral Arc, maintains that science and reason will lead us to a virtuous and increasingly moral existence. According to Shermer, we are “getting better at solving problems” as we continue to evolve. A New York Times best-selling author, Shermer is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and has written thirteen books. He is also a monthly columnist for Scientific American, regular contributor to, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. When he isn’t writing or teaching, he travels frequently to speak and debate on a variety of topics. Download more biographical details (PDF).

Those of the opinion that man has ‘outgrown’ a need for God, and those who think that God provides the very moral foundation on which our society is based are both ensured a thoughtful and spirited exchange.


This event is organized by Fixed Point Foundation and sponsored by Summer Classics. Tickets are on sale now through the Benaroya Box Office by clicking the link below or by calling 206-215-4747 to purchase.

Buy tickets online

About Fixed Point Foundation

Fixed Point Foundation has been engaging the culture on significant and relevant issues since 2004. Unapologetically Christian, Fixed Point seeks innovative ways to stimulate conversation in the marketplace of ideas through a variety of mediums (articles, podcasts, radio, TV interviews, writing, speaking engagements, and debates, to name a few). Some of the topics addressed include radical Islam, the New Atheism, science vs. religion, gay marriage, and Intelligent Design.

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