Report from Phoenix Skepticamp PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Wagg   

Don Lacey, known to chat room and forumites as AZAtheist, recently attended the Phoenix SkeptiCamp. I'll let him tell the story:

The meeting was held in Discovery Hall on the Arizona State University Campus with about 20 people attending. This was the fifth SkeptiCamp based on a conference concept called BarCamp which Reed Esau adopted for Skeptics. Obviously, Jim had put a lot of work into making this SkeptiCamp happen. Due to the sponsorship from Skeptics Society/Skeptic magazine, James Randi Educational Foundation, and Center for Skeptical Inquiry/Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the cost was free. Actually, it was better than free. In addition to the free T-shirts, there were books and magazines available for all the participants.

Jim Lippard began by talking about SkeptiCamp. The first rule of SkeptiCamp is that you talk about SkeptiCamp. BarCamp has 8 rules and the skeptics' version adds 9th rule: "Prepare to back up all stated claims."

There was a live blog being recorded by Tony Barnhart (Magic Tony); replay it and catch all the comments from the Blogosphere that occurred during the meeting.

Notable attendees included: Michael A. Stackpole of the Phoenix Skeptics on "Practical Techniques for Street Skepticism," John Lynch on "Academic Freedom and Intelligent Design," and Tony Barnhart on "Methods of the Pseudo-Psychic."

Briefly, the presentations included:

  • Skeptics for Dummies-an introduction to skepticism.
  • Teaching Small Children-Comparison of an example of how a preschool was doing the right things with a second grade public school class.
  • Street Skepticism-Mike Stackpole relayed how best to keep engaged with non-skeptics.
  • The Difference Between Skepticism and Denial
  • Some Words Important to Skepticism-Skeptic, Critical Thinking, Cynic, Observation, Theory and Paradigm.
  • A Discussion on Skeptical Dating-Desirable characteristics of a dating partner and what might be considered "deal breakers".
  • The Positive Side of Misinformation-an attempt to show how bad information might be beneficial.
  • A Review of Thinking as a Science by Henry Hazlitt
  • Academic Freedom and Intelligent Design-John Lynch compared and contrasted the approaches of Evolution Science and Intelligence Design.
  • Methods of the Pseudo-Psychic-Tony Barnhart talked about the techniques used by psychics such as cold reading.
  • Why I Am a Skeptic-referenced "A New Kind of Science" by Stephen Wolfram
  • Pleasure and Happiness Model-Creating Skeptical Happiness

This was a great crowd and the discussions were lively, educational, and entertaining. I was impressed that the age of the group tended to be, on average, in the recent graduate/graduate student range (with a few outliers like me). It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Thanks for the report Don! Grassroots meetings like this are springing up all over the place, and from all reports, people are having a great time. If you have an event you'd like to promote, drop me a line at jeff@randi.org.