Help The Skeptics of Gen Con PDF Print E-mail
Written by Don Riefler   
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 15:04

Editor's Note: This here fellow, Don Riefler, is a good guy. Please read about his plan to bring a skeptical perspective to the freaks'n'geeks of Indiana, and consider helping out. Danke. - BKT

Gen Con is coming to Indiana from August 5-8, a Thursday through a Sunday. It's an enormous convention ostensibly oriented toward gaming (pen and paper RPGs, tabletop games, wargames, etc.), but in reality serving just about every aspect of geek, nerd, and dork culture: comic books, sci-fi/fantasy, anime, video games, board games, card games. You name it, Gen Con has it. It's roughly equivalent to a midwestern Dragon*Con, and pretty much the same size, too.

Our guerrilla skeptical symposium (“symposiums” are Gen Con's equivalent of Dragon*Con's "tracks") is so-called because those of us working on it have been doing it from the bottom up with no official recognition (as yet) from Gen Con itself. It started back in 2008, when some friends and I attended and sat through a panel by the Indiana Ghost Trackers called “The Science of EVP.” Suffice to say, it wasn't worth the price (free) and, after a few polite but pointed questions about the nature of their research, we decided that 2009 would see a skeptical response. We organized a panel called “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture,” and spent a couple of hours riffing on logical fallacies, alternative medicine, the antivax movement, bigfoot, and a whole host of other skeptical topics.

We expected to have maybe 15 or 20 people in attendance. We had closer to 40 or 50, and many of them came up afterwards to thank us for bringing some critical thinking to Gen Con. They were surprised and excited to see that someone had put on a panel like ours. Our success led to bigger dreams, and thus, in 2010, we are bringing skepticism to Gen Con in force.

Last Week at Science-Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harriet Hall, MD (The SkepDoc)   
Monday, 22 March 2010 19:59

Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo in medicine.

For Good Reason: Jennifer Michael Hecht - The Poetry of Skepticism PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Monday, 22 March 2010 17:28

Jennifer Michael Hecht discusses art, poetry and literature as an entree into skepticism and critical thinking. As an historian of science, she contrasts the poetic stance with the scientific worldview. She talks about temporal biases within science, and urges scientific humility, as opposed to scientism. She criticizes some forms of skepticism within the humanities that consider science to be just one mythic narrative among many others. And she explores how poetry and ritual may enrich the skeptical life.

Listen at

How To Say It? PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Randi   
Sunday, 21 March 2010 12:37

Well, here goes. I really resent the term, but I use it because it’s recognized and accepted.

I’m gay.

From some seventy years of personal experience, I can tell you that there’s not much “gay” about being homosexual. For the first twenty years of my life, I had to live in the shadows, in a culture that was — at least outwardly — totally hostile to any hint of that variation of life-style. At no time did I choose to adopt any protective coloration, though; my cultivation of an abundant beard was not at all a deception, but part of my costume as a conjuror.

Gradually, the general attitude that I’d perceived around me began to change, and presently I find that there has emerged a distinctly healthy acceptance of different social styles of living — except, of course, in cultures that live in constant and abject fear of divine retribution for infractions found in the various Holy Books… In another two decades, I’m confident that young people will find themselves in a vastly improved atmosphere of acceptance.

Skeptical Evaluator of Alt Med Faces Loss of Funding PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harriet Hall, MD (The SkepDoc)   
Friday, 19 March 2010 16:06

Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, is a former homeopath who saw the light and became a tireless advocate for scientific evaluation of alternative medicine claims. He became the world's first professor of complementary medicine. He wrote (with Simon Singh) the excellent book Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine as well as other books and innumerable articles for the media and for scientific journals.

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