Catching up with the Indefatigable Kavin Senapathy

Susan Gerbic

Kavin Senapathy is a science communicator who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Her bylines appear in a number of outlets, including Slate, SELF Magazine, and Forbes on many topics. Kavin also writes a new column for Skeptical Inquirer’s website called “Woo Watch.” She is also featured in a documentary film called Science Moms. Kavin will be speaking at CSICon Saturday, October 20, at 11:30 am.

Susan Gerbic: Great catching up with you, Kavin. It looks like your life has been pretty busy. Can you please tell readers a bit about yourself and what you have been up to lately?

Kavin Senapathy: Outside of being a mom to a delightfully argumentative seven-year-old and a five-year-old who likes to go to the dog park to hang out with the humans, it might seem like I spend all my time on Twitter, and sometimes it feels that way! Outside of that, I’ve been writing articles and stories covering issues like informed consent in childbirth, the so-called “new organ” discovery, the “GMO” debate, lotus birth, and more. I’ve also been having a great time this last year working with my fellow SciMoms and traveling to show the Science Moms movie, and helping out at my family business, Genome International

Gerbic: I heard lots of great comments about the documentary Science Moms, which was shown at CSICon last year. One of my GSoW editors, Rob Palmer, even came back from the conference and was so inspired that he wrote the Wikipedia page for Science Moms. Since Rob made the Wikipedia page public, it has been viewed over 15,000 times.

I have not heard how Science Moms has done regarding folks buying it. Can you divulge how the film is doing? Also, is there anything in the works to get it on one of the streaming services? If not, why not?

Senapathy: The film did really well regarding folks buying it. So well, in fact, that you can now watch it for free on YouTube! Filmmaker Natalie Newell was able to recoup a small fraction of the costs for her time—it was a labor of love, but love doesn’t pay the bills. Now, it’s time for our message—that there is a growing community of parents raising our kids with evidence rather than fear and hype—to spread even further. And I have to use this opportunity to plug our SciMoms project, which includes writing by all of us and guest contributors, and even a comic series featuring the SciMoms as LEGO characters going head to head with evil villains like Sue Doe Syence. It’s our way of running with the movie’s momentum.

Gerbic: You are now writing a column for Skeptical Inquirer’s website called “Woo Watch.” What have you got in store for us? Is it all going to be associated with alt-med?

Senapathy: There’s so much more than alt-med to talk about when it comes to woo! The world of alt-med does often collide with the evolving woo in the food and parenting worlds, though. I’ve even been keeping an eye on some pretty bogus stuff in the pet care industry. Stay tuned!

Gerbic: Your first article, “Lotus Birth,” was terrific. GSoW has already added the article to theWikipedia page for the practice. I see that Deepak Chopra is also a citation on the Lotus birth Wikipedia page. Oh joy, does it ever end?

Senapathy: When it comes to Deepak Chopra, the joy is as infinite as our consciousness, heh.

Gerbic: So, what have you got planned for CSICon 2018?

Senapathy: This will be my third year speaking at CSICon (I’m excited for the new venue and bigger con!) so I’ve decided to change it up a bit. In 2016, I spoke about what I call “fear babes”—the charismatic and beautiful people adept at exploiting and fueling fear to sell their ideologies and wares. In 2017, my fellow Science Moms and I had the U.S. premiere of the film at CSICon and had a great discussion with the audience about how we navigate parenting. This year, I’m going to talk about the series of events that led me to the skeptic’s movement. I don’t often get on stage and talk about myself and my childhood, but if anything, people might be interested to know that it wasn’t too long ago that I loved Dr. Oz and even bought a supplement he recommended (and when I ran out, I bought it again).

Gerbic: CSICon 2018 has a terrific lineup with many new faces. What lectures are you looking forward to, Kavin?

Senapathy: It looks like there will be a lot of interesting talks, but I’m particularly looking forward to fangirling over my favorite vagina doctor, and I’m also curious what Adam is going to ruin when it comes to skepticism!

Gerbic: This year the Halloween theme is going to be pajama party. That should be interesting. It was a blast last year, and I assume that it is a not-to-miss again this year.

Senapathy: My husband is coming this year, and he almost never comes on these trips with me. So, I’m gonna take the opportunity to make him dress up. (What the heck is a Halloween pajama party? I don’t know but we’ll figure it out.)

Gerbic: The tips I give to first-time CSICon attendees are that they should just expect to get very little sleep, bring a jacket as it is always over-airconditioned, follow the activities on theCSICon Facebook page, and make sure you say hello to someone new every day. The people you meet at these events are always great. Oh yeah, arrive on Wednesday or early Thursday and leave after breakfast on Monday morning. What tips can you share Kavin?

Senapathy: Everyone is welcoming, so don’t hesitate to talk to new people! If you’re like me and like to wear heels, I also highly recommend bringing at least one pair of flats. I’ll probably give up on heels Day 1.

Susan Gerbic

Affectionately called the Wikipediatrician, Susan Gerbic is the cofounder of Monterey County Skeptics and a self-proclaimed skeptical junkie. Susan is also founder of the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) project. She is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and writes for her column, Guerilla Skepticism, often. You can contact her through her website.