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The Raging Hormone Myth? What Science Has to Say about Women, Hormones, and Emotion

When: Saturday, October 22, 2016 @ 3:00 PM 
Where: Lawrence and Eris Field Building, Baruch College, 17 Lexington Ave., Room 306 (The "Skylight Room")

Are women at the whim of their hormones? PMS, and the extended idea that women’s mental health is threatened by any changes in reproductive hormones, continues to abound in American culture.  Despite decades of methodologically strong research establishing the limited to non-existent contribution of reproductive hormones to psychopathology in women, the concept of women as occasional hormonal lunatics persists. The hardiness of the hormone myth has benefited several parties, including the medical field, the pharmaceutical industry, psychologists, and anyone who sees an advantage in keeping women in traditional gender roles.

The hormone myth has produced billions in revenue for pharmaceutical companies who have convinced women they need to be on hormones to maintain health for decades of their lives, and for the physicians who prescribe them. A whole cottage industry of books, websites, and seminars for women thrives with the help of the hormone myth. Robyn Stein DeLuca says the myth has hurt women in a variety of ways: It contributes to the idea that women’s reproductive events are illnesses requiring treatment, exposing them to unnecessary and sometimes harmful interventions. It also reinforces gender stereotypes of women as biological, emotional and unreliable, and men as rational, logical, and steady. Finally, it keeps women from addressing the actual issues that cause them emotional upset, which are much more likely to be socially-based than hormonally-based.

Robyn Stein DeLuca has a Ph.D. in Health Psychology with a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies, and was a core faculty member in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Stony Brook University for 15 years. She taught a multitude of courses on the psychology of health, gender, and reproduction. Her research on postpartum depression and childbirth satisfaction has been published in journals like the Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology and Social Science and Medicine. She currently holds the title of Research Assistant Professor in the Stony Brook Psychology Dept.

 During her time at Stony Brook, Prof. DeLuca served for two years as the Executive Director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program at Stony Brook University, a program that provides mentoring, research opportunities, and scholarships to young women showing promise in science, technology, engineering, and math. 

In November 2014, Prof. DeLuca gave a Tedx talk titled “The Good News About PMS” which now has over one million views. Her book, The Hormone Myth will be published by New Harbinger Publications in May 2017.

NYC Skeptics tries to keep their lectures free and open to the public, but it does cost money to produce the events. Please consider donating to NYC Skeptics or becoming a member. Suggested donation for this talk is $10.

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The Myth of War -- John Horgan Returns to NYC Skeptics

"I've been thinking about what to say here," journalist John Horgan told the New York City Skeptics at the beginning of his second invited talk for the group this year. "And there are a lot of different things I could say."

The things Horgan said on May 15 at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS) weren't received all that well, at least by the meeting's emcee, magician and skeptic Jamy Ian Swiss. After the former senior writer at Scientific American suggested skeptics focus less on "soft" targets, like homeopathy, and more on "hard" targets, like the nature of war, Swiss offered his own impromptu rebuttal, instead of leading the originally-planned question-and-answer session.

"It was one of the high points of my career, actually," the returning Horgan told the audience at Baruch College on September 24. During this second chance to make his case, Horgan decided to focus on the question of if war is inevitable, and what could be done to stop it.

"How many people think the end of war between nations could happen relatively soon?" Horgan asked the audience. Four of the approximately 30 people in attendance agreed war could be eradicated by the end of the century, about in line with the usual 10 per cent who agree when Horgan asks the question elsewhere. Most people tend to think war is part of human nature.

"It seems like common sense," Horgan said of the "Malthusian catastrophe" idea, that unchecked population growth will always lead to conflict over less abundant resources, despite evidence to the contrary. "It's simply not supported by the literature," Horgan said. He reminded the crowd of Steven Pinker's work that shows the worldwide decline of war, despite the continued, global rise in population. Horgan argued it's not war that's innate in humans, but the tendency toward conformity.

"Once war's invented in one place, it's extraordinarily infectious," Horgan said, likening the phenomenon to a psychological meme. More practically, if a country's neighbor becomes warlike, it may have to follow suit just to defend itself. Deliberate aggrandizement of conflict, like national holidays commemorating the fighting of wars, also help to maintain the trend, Horgan said.

Horgan opined that the United States could help by setting a better example to the rest of the world, through reductions in defense spending, closing of overseas military bases and the implementation of more imaginative methods of conflict resolution. That might not happen, though, when so many of our leaders are "fatalists," as Horgan said -- those who believe that war cannot be eradicated. Even the Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Obama has made efforts to bolster the United States' nuclear arsenal.

Some high-profile skeptics, like Pinker and Michael Shermer, also continue to accept the "deep roots" nature of war, which may be one reason Horgan believes the boundary between mainstream science and pseudoscience is now "very blurry." At NECSS and again during this lecture, Horgan said that several ideas in current physics, like string theory and the idea of a multiverse, were unscientific, and that many psychiatrists wrongly put too much confidence in medication for treatment of clinical depression.

After the lecture's conclusion, some audience members reminded Horgan that skeptics raise the same points, and that while plenty of people talk about war, homeopathy and other harmful practices often go unchallenged.

"Go ahead, do all that other stuff," Horgan said. But with such a destructive problem -- one that could be ended simply with a little convincing -- all hands are needed.

"I almost don't care about what you do as skeptics," Horgan said. "I'm appealing to you as human beings."

A Facebook Live video of John Horgan's September 24 NYC Skeptics lecture is available here. A higher-quality recording will be added at a later date.

Report by Russ Dobler, photos by Jonathan Nelson


Book Signing: "101 Bets You Will Always Win" by Richard Wiseman

When: Thursday, September 29, 2016 @ 7:00 PM 
Where: Paulaner, 265 Bowery, New York, NY 10002 (Map)

Richard Wiseman, globe trotting psychologist, magician, and keynote speaker at this year's Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, is back in NYC and looking to sign books and share drinks. Come join us at the Paulaner to celebrate the release of Richard's latest book, 101 Bets You Will Always Win. Copies will be available for sale!

Everyone loves a winner. Imagine being able to challenge anyone with seemingly impossible bets, safe in the knowledge that you will always win. Imagine no more. Richard Wiseman is a psychologist who has traveled the globe in search of the world's greatest bets and in 101 BETS YOU WILL ALWAYS WIN: Jaw-Dropping Illusions, Remarkable Riddles, Scintillating Science Stunts, and Cunning Conundrums That Will Astound and Amaze Everyone You Know (St. Martin’s Griffin; September 27, 2016) he shows you how to use science, logic and a  healthy dose of trickery always to be on the winning side of every bet you make

Richard Wiseman is based at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom and has gained an international reputation for research into offbeat areas of psychology, including deception, humor, and luck. He is the author of The Luck Factor, Quirkology, and numerous other books. A passionate advocate for science, Wiseman is well-known for his media appearances, high-profile talks, live demonstrations, and mass-participation studies. He has his own YouTube channel called Quirkology

Paulaner NYC is a Bavarian style restaurant and bar, featuring a wide variety of beers brewed onsite. The menu features everything from house-made sausages to vegetarian options. There's no reason to leave hungry or thirsty!

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