In 2004, I attended my first Amaz!ng Meeting at the Tuscany Hotel in Las Vegas. It was an event that changed my life. Hungry for more, I subscribed to Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer, and it was there that I found an advertisement for something called "The Skeptic's Toolbox."
This event has been held for the last twenty years at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Led by skeptic, scholar and magician Ray Hyman, The Skeptic's Toolbox is an intense weekend devoted to a single aspect of skepticism. This year's topic: "The Scientific Method." August 6-9 is going to be an interesting weekend in Eugene.
From the site:
Skeptics believe that unusual claims should be backed by evidence which is supported by sound scientific method. However the status of science and the existence of scientific method are currently highly controversial issues. Cynics argue that scientific method does not, and cannot, yield objective outcomes. Indeed, they argue that all scientific knowledge is relative to a given culture or social group. They assert that such knowledge is socially constructed and has nothing to do with an “objective reality.” This year’s Toolbox will consider these and other questions about the role of science and scientific method in helping skeptics to evaluate unusual claims.
Where TAM has hundreds of people in a convention hall, The Skeptic's Toolbox is more of an intensive workshop. Audience participation is mandatory, and an awful lot of fun. I'm pleased to see that Jim Alcock and Lauren Pankratz will be back again this year. They were at the Toolbox focusing on "The You You Don't Know" which I attended. Along with Ray, these two gave me more to think about in a single weekend than I'd had in entire years. We spent a couple hours going over the "Monty Hall Problem" in-depth, and it was very satisfying to delve into a subject in such detail. I know of no other skeptic event where you can spend so much time working side by side with some of the pillars of skepticism.
Speaking of "Halls," TAM speaker Harriett Hall will also be at the Skeptic's Toolbox this year. Harriett is exactly the kind of person you want to have join you for lunch. It takes about a minute to realize that she is not your average Air Force officer/MD/Author.
Lest I give the impression that the event is all academic, there is the Saturday night magic show that features a rotating quartet of top flight close-up magicians, including Ray himself. By close-up, I mean about a foot away. And no, being that close does not help you figure out how they do it.
I highly recommend this weekend to anyone with a passion for skepticism, learning, and enlightened fellowship.