TAM 9 and the return of the ‘Don’t be a dick” debate

July 19, 2011

The Amazing Meeting 9 (or TAM9 From Outer Space) took place this weekend. I wish I could say that was the reason I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties for the past week but unfortunately, I’ve once again missed out on the largest skeptical conference in the world (hopefully I’ll make it to TAM10).

No, I’ve just been busy with a number of other projects this past week, one of which is a slightly skeptically themed short film I directed that I’ll be probably be posting here when it goes live on the internet next month. I can’t post it now because it was made for a 72-hour film festival that requires the entries to not be publicly available until after the festival ends. But if all goes well, within a week or so I’ll finally be able to post a skeptically themed short film I wrote. I’ve been wanting to post it for awhile now but now the only obstacle is getting one more actor to sign a release.

Anywho, while I haven’t attended TAM9, The Friendly Atheist has posted a live blog of the proceedings as they happened during the entire weekend’s events:

You can read about the Friday Morning Session here, the Friday Afternoon Session here, the Saturday Morning Session here, the Saturday Afternoon Session here, the Sunday Morning Session here, and the Sunday Afternoon Session here.

From the looks of it, it was an amazing success with over 1600 attendees, making it the largest turn-out yet and proving that the number of passionate skeptics is growing.

Now from what I can tell, once again, the issue of how to communicate with the public was the central theme of the event, particularly in the Sunday morning presentations such as Dylan Keenberg’s talk, Ashley F. Miller’s talk, and the more heated “Communicating Skepticism” panel discussion featuring PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott, Carol Travris, Phil Plait, and Jamy Ian Swiss, moderated by Sadie Crabtree.

And so, while I’ve written endlessly about my position that there’s a place for both skeptical diplomats and firebrands in our movement, the commentaries of TAM9, including Daniel Loxton’s latest commentary have convinced to briefly take yet another go at it.

I’m confused over the use of words like “radical” or “militant” with regards to the skeptical and/or atheist movements because we have no prominent radicals. I can’t think of anyone who commits violence in the name of skepticism or atheism like the “radicals” in past social movements. If the term is being attributed to someone like Richard Dawkins, then I dare say the word has lost all its meaning because Dawkins is just slight to the right of Mr. Rogers. If it’s PZ Myers who’s being considered the radical, he’s only slightly more aggressive in tone than Dawkins. Neither to my knowledge has committed violence or incited others to commit violence. If merely being passionate and firm in ones position is the new radical and something that is to be condemned by our movement, then our movement is doomed to forever be ignored.

Believe it or not but Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck didn’t become influential because they were the model of polite and calm discourse. Nobody is suggesting we turn to dishonesty or screaming insults at our opponents, but unless some of us are willing to be at least a little more assertive and confrontational than science communicators of the past, no one is going to pay the slightest attention to us, just like they didn’t before. And why would they? The media thrives on controversy. Unless someone is putting up some kind of real fight, they’re simply not interested. We may not like the idea of advertising a strong, fairly hard-line position but as someone whose expertise is in media, I have to say its a necessary evil if one is to get heard over all the noise out there. That’s not to say we should behave like the WBC or PETA by being as offensive as possible to grab attention, just that it wouldn’t hurt to put up the occasional giant roadside billboard unambiguously calling self-proclaimed psychics frauds…

…or a billboard like the bottom one displayed here:

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News From Around The Blogosphere 4.12.10

April 13, 2010

Merchant Of Death

1. Kevin Trudeau begins his 30-day jail sentence – Unfortunately, this merchant of death is only serving 30 days for harassing a judge. But hopefully, he’ll be back behind bars soon enough for his one-man genocide racket.

2. NCSE getting a little too cozy with the religious – Why does the National Center for Science Education feel they need someone working for them under the title of “Faith Project Director”? Which chapter in my science book discusses the importance of faith when conducting science?

3. Jim Carrey mind-wiped from Generation Rescue’s memory banks – Oh, the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Now that Jim Carrey has broken up with Jenny McCarthy, he’s being erased just like Desiree Jennings:

By Friday, Generation Rescue had completely revamped its website. Gone is the picture of Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, and Evan from the front page of the website. Gone is any mention of his name, leaving Generation Rescue as now being just “Jenny McCarthy’s Autism Organization – Generation Rescue.” Gone is Jim Carrey from the Generation Rescue Board of Directors. Given the slickness of hte new look, no doubt that this revamp of the website has been a long time in coming, and probably GR simply moved up its originally planned revamp in order to deal with Jim and Jenny’s breakup. More interestingly, all mention of Desiree Jennings appears to have been send down the memory hole. In case you don’t remember who she is, she is the young woman who claimed that a flu vaccine caused her to develop dystonia, a claim riddled with inconsistencies that didn’t stand up to even mild scrutiny.

This again raises the issue of whether or not Jim Carrey is still an anti-vaxxer at all? Did he come to his senses and opt to cut all ties with Jenny McCarthy just like the co-founder of her now doomed school?

4. Chicago Tribune questions the authority of the great and power Dr. Oz – Their conclusion seems to match that of the medical consensus, pay no attention to man on the screen inexplicably wearing surgical scrubs. And they also talk about Joseph Mercola, the most dangerous cola of them all.


Eugenie Scott and Roger Ebert talk ‘Creation’

January 14, 2010

Two days ago, I briefly posted my positive feelings for the new biopic about the life of Charles Darwin, Creation. Now Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education provided a lengthier review, also very positive. And although he’s holding an official review until the film’s official release, Roger Ebert also wrote about the film here.


Skeptics unite to discuss how you can get involved in promoting good skepticism

March 26, 2009

In 2007, Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton wrote an essay entitled, Where Do We Go From Here, that addressed the future of skeptical activist, which he recited on the Skepticality podcast.

But many people wanted to know how they could get involved and what’s the next step. So now a league of 13 extraordinary skeptics, including Loxton, have assembled to address just that.

Those thirteen skeptics include:
Daniel Loxton (Junior Skeptic magazine); Benjamin Radford (Skeptical Inquirer magazine); Dr. Eugenie Scott (National Center for Science Education); Jeff Wagg (James Randi Educational Foundation); D.J. Grothe (Point of Inquiry podcast); Brian Dunning (Skeptoid podcast); Dr. Karen Stollznow (The Skeptic magazine); Robynn “Swoopy” McCarthy (Skepticality podcast); Kylie Sturgess (Skeptic Zone podcast); Tim Farley (What’s the Harm? and Skeptools websites); Dr. Randy Olson (Flock of Dodos documentary); Pat Linse (Skeptic magazine); Jay Novella (The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast)

One of those skeptics is Kylie Sturgess, one of my partners on Stop Jenny McCarthy. It’s a pretty awesome collection of people (except for Randy Olson, whose 2 appearances on Skepticality convinced me he was a dick).

Anyway, hope this inspires lots of others to get involved in skeptical activism.

And on a similar note, Skeptologist Mark Edward makes some more suggestions regarding skeptical activism here.