Archive for July, 2013

TAM 2012 Video Round-Up

July 22, 2013

I never did get around to writing a TAM 2012 wrap-up post last year and now that TAM 2013 has come and gone I’m starting to feel a little guilty. While The Amazing Meeting means so much to me I have a hard time expressing that to others, it might just be better to show y’all what you missed. The only full video up for TAM 2013 so far is for the Crowd Sourced Activism workshop with Susan Gerbic presentation along with a few podcasts so I decided to do a round-up of videos from TAM 2012 so you can get a sense of what its like to be there. The talks are presented in the order they appeared on the schedule.

Thursday, JULY 12 2012

WORKSHOP 1A – Science & Skepticism 101 Presented by Kyle Hill

From Witch-burning to God-men: Supporting Skepticism Around the World Presented by Leo Igw and Brian Thompson

WORKSHOP 2A – Dr. Google Presented by Steven Novella, David Gorski, Harriet Hall, and Rachael Dunlop

WORKSHOP 2B – Promoting Skepticism at the Local Level Presented by Brian Thompson
No video available. Sorry.

WORKSHOP 3A – Astronomy for Skeptics: Investigating “Lights” in the Sky Presented by James McGaha

WORKSHOP 3B – The Future of Skepticism Online: Crowd-Sourced Activism Presenters: Tim Farley and Derek Colanduno

WORKSHOP 4A – Investigative Methods for the Skeptic Presenters: Presenters: Ben Radford, Karen Stollznow, Bryan Bonner, Matthew Baxter, Blake Smith, Carrie Poppy, and Ross Blocher

WORKSHOP 4B – Coalition Building for the Skeptical Activist Presenters: Sharon Hill, Chris Stedman, Kitty Mervine, Dave Silverman, and David Niose

FRIDAY, JULY 13 2012

PANEL – Skeptics Guide to the Universe LIVE
Audio of the live SGU show.

TALK – The Moral Arc of Science and the Social Singularity: How Science Has Bent the Arc of the Moral Universe Toward Truth, Justice, Freedom, & Prosperity by Michael Shermer
I highly recommend this talk!

TALK – The Future of the Creationism and Evolution Controversy by Eugenie Scott

PANEL – Skepticism about the Future: Techno-optimism vs. Reality?
Panelists include Michael Vassar, Michael Shermer, Steven Novella, and Stephen Macknik. Moderated by Julia Galef

TALK – Future of Skepticism: New Adventures in Critical Thinking by Jennifer Michael Hecht

TALK – Talking to Tomorrow – Prediction and Language by Karen Stollznow

INTERVIEW – James Randi in conversation with Jamy Ian Swiss

PANEL – The Future of Skepticism
Panelists include Jamy Ian Swiss, Tim Farley, Reed Esau, and Barbara Drescher. Moderated by D.J. Grothe

TALK – The Values of Science: Ignorance, Uncertainty, Doubt by Stuart Firestein

TALK – The Self Illusion – How Your Brain Creates You by Bruce Hood

FRIDAY KEYNOTE – A Skeptical Look at Pseudoneuroscience by Carol Tavris


TALK – Doomsdays and 2012 Mayan Prophecy by Ben Radford

TALK – A Life of Art and Skepticism by Sara E. Mayhew

PANEL – Skepticism and the Humanities
Panelists include Amy Davis Roth, Miranda Celeste Hale, Robert Blaskiewicz, Eve Siebert, and Hai-Ting Chinn. Moderated by Brian Thompson

TALK – Overlapping Magisteria by Jamy Ian Swiss

TALK – Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose by Deirdre Barrett

TALK – Your Deceptive Mind by Steven Novella
Unfortunately video was not available for this talk.

TALK – Make the World Better (Ask if Anyone Minds Later) by Pamela Gay

TALK – Faithful Resemblances by Susana Martinez-Conde

TALK – From Particles to People: The Laws of Physics and the Meaning of Life by Sean Carroll

TALK – Social Networks: Civilizing the Future by Elisabeth Cornwell

TALK – The Future, and Nothing by Lawrence Krauss
No video available. Sorry.

SATURDAY KEYNOTE PRESENTATION – 38 Years of Magic & BS by Penn & Teller

SUNDAY, JULY 15 2012

PAPER – Quackery no longer just refers to ducks:  The growing prevalence of CAM in veterinary medicine – Martha Keller
A highly recommended watch for animal advocates.

Scientific Deception: The Billy Meier Metal Samples – Ivan Alvarado

PAPER – How to avoid getting sued for Libel – Dave Gamble

PAPER – SLAPP writs, Barbara Streisand and the Skeptical Movement – Eran Segev

PAPER – The (F)utility of Post-Conviction Polygraph – Jeffrey Rosky

PAPER – Assessing Intelligent Design from a Communications Perspective – Christine Shellska

PANEL – The Truth About Alternative Medicine
Panelists include Harriet Hall, David Gorski, and Rachel Dunlop. Moderated by Steve Novella

TALK – If You Were Me: Using In-Group Language to Reach Out by Carrie Poppy

TALK – Your Brain Sucks by Brian Dunning

TALK – Unstoppable Secular Students by Lyz Liddell

TALK – How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass by Christopher diCarlo

TALK – You Are the Future of Skepticism on the Internet by Tim Farley

PANEL – How Not To Be a Paranormal Investigator
Panelists include Karen Stollznow, Ben Radford, James Randi, and Banachek. Moderated by Carrie Poppy

TALK – Beware the Religio-Industrial Complex by Sean Faircloth

WORKSHOP 5A – How to Tell the Future by Ray Hyman

WORKSHOP 5B – Promoting Skepticism in Classroom Setting by Barbara Drescher, Matt Lowry, & Michael Blanford

SPECIAL EVENT – Live Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge Event


July 3, 2013

A couple weeks ago I attended the 4th annual SkeptiCal conference in Berkeley, CA and had a blast. The conference offered much be learned and many wonderful people to meet and was a great warm up for the upcoming The Amaz!ng Meeting. One of my favorite of the presentations was one given by Laurie Issel-Tarver titled “Who Owns Your Body? Henrietta Lacks, Myriad Genetics, and the Future of Medical Ethics”. Eugenie Scott also gave a passionate presentation on the “Legends, Hoaxes, Frauds, and ‘Frauds’ of Science” that at one point made me tear up as she spoke about the exploitation and abuse of Oliver the “Humanzee”. Anthony Pratkanis’ presentation on the “Weapons of Fraud” was also great at busting some myths around financial fraud and arming the audience with tools to detect and avoid such frauds. He has also done some great work with the AARP and other organizations to study and combat fraud. There also tables set up with vendors from various organizations and I was pleasantly surprised to see these wonderful vegan and atheist shirts on sale from the folk over at Secularity Clothing.

As often happens at such conferences, a non-attendee who was staying at the hotel approached me and asking me what this thing was all about. I responded with a pat answer I had developed a couple years ago based on Tim Farley’s “elevator pitch” for skeptics, “It’s about scientific skepticism and critical thinking. We focus on the intersection of science education and consumer protection, because there is a lot of misinformation and fraud out there that can cause people harm.” Sometimes people ask more questions and sometimes not, but I’ve found that to be my best short introduction to the subject and it saves me from fumbling around with my words. Now after having attended a number of skeptics events I am seeing the need for me to have an elevator pitch about animal rights and my own veganism. It may not stop some of the amazingly un-skeptical follow-up questions like, “But aren’t we supposed to eat meat?” & “What would happen to the cows is everyone ‘magically’ went vegan tomorrow?”, but it could be useful in addressing some people’s basic curiosity and serve as a gateway to a deeper conversation about the subject. I’m not the first one to arrive at this idea, and other vegans have compiled their own lists of vegan elevator pitches. But I want an elevator pitch that specifically speaks to skeptics and atheists in terms of secular values and critical thinking.

I believe I have settled on an answer, Human exceptionalism, the idea that humans are essentially different than (and inherently superior to) other animals, is a relic of the idea of special creation.  As we suffer, they suffer. One of the most basic things we can do to begin to help non-human animals is to cease to exploit and kill them for food and consumer products to the greatest extent possible.”

I’ve also solicited a few other responses:

@RebeccaOnCanvas says,

(For the scientists:) “As scientific skeptics we recognise the inevitable biological similarities between human and non-human animals (for example a central nervous system) If we acknowledge that animals can suffer… and that suffering sucks, then we should try to minimise it: Therefore vegan.”For the scientists:

& (For the ethicist:) “Unnecessary and unwanted suffering (unlike kinky fun) is universally disliked by all sentient creatures. As secular yet moral people the only real measure of how we act is its effect on others, if our actions inflict suffering maybe we should reconsider those actions : Therefore vegan”

Rebecca also mentioned requesting that people watch the conversation between Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer from The Genius of Darwin: The Uncut Interviews. I have to say that I definitely agree on that being a great interview to watch and it would be on the top of my list of recommendation along with reading Animal Liberation by Singer.


“Veganism is applied pacifism; the abstention from all animal products, inspired by a reluctance to cause suffering.”

James Funston responded with a response of his own, Why Be Meat-Free?, that is it very well written and concludes that,

“Eliminating meat from your diet is one of the best steps you can take to reducing your impact on the planet and minimizing suffering, not just in the lives saved directly but also in shrinking your carbon footprint.

Nerdi Wizzurd added his own reply,

“Given the substantial amount of scientific evidence which points to all biological organisms having a shared tree of ancestry, its hard to rationalize eating other animals for pleasure, especially when evidence also points to plant-based diets being significantly better for your health. The Earth and Universe were not designed or created for us and the beings that inhabit it are not ours to do with as we please.”

So what are your reasons for going meat-free? Let me know in the comment below.

Further reading:
Why Vegan – Vegan Outreach
A Vegetarian Philosophy by Peter Singer


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