Last time I covered a few general impressions and takeaways from the conference, this time I’ll try to be much more focused, skeptical, and specific in my takeaways from the event.
- We have tools! – Notably we have the fairly new rebutr and the more venerable Guerrilla Skepticism Project, not to mention all the Skeptools that Tim Farley has been coding and writing about.
- We have comics! – For awhile at the Skeptic Ink table we put out a sample comic book by a friend of mine to see if it would draw any attention. It did, and I managed to give out all of his business cards in a hurry. For more skeptically themed comics, check out Carbon Comic and Ape not Monkey and Mystery Solved. Each of these strips features readily digestible skepticism in a visual medium. I assume you’ve already heard of XKCD.We also have comics in the other sense of the term, people like Dave Deluca, Paul Provenza, Steve Hill, and some redundantly named fellow called Emery Emery. Those are just the ones I ran into at TAM2013, I’m sure there are quite a few more lurking about. Can we safely assume that there is some relationship between making people laugh at our cultural and personal quirks (comedy) and making people think about our cultural and personal biases and flaws (skepticism)? I imagine so.
- We have a drinking problem! – What, you thought this was going to be a total puff piece? Had to put a negative observation in here somewhere. At least we’re not doing ketamine yet, and I was never groped at the bar by anyone I don’t trust.
- We have science-based medicine! – It was bizarre and depressing to hear that SBM (unlike EBM) has not spread much beyond the halls of the skeptical movement, by the admission of the primary advocates for SBM. Moreover, it seems that the difference between SBM and EBM is very much like (and perhaps even rooted in) the controversy between the Frequentists and the Bayesians. (Uninterestingly but relevantly, I’ve been in both camps.)
- We have extraordinary evidence! – Watch Russell Blackford’s talk when it comes out on video. The modern view of the world as free of invisible ineffable minds (souls, spirits, ancestors, gods, etc.) and other magical properties is not intuitive for most people and cultures, it was hard fought and hard won.
- We have ideological diversity! – When I was just getting my feet under me as an unbeliever, the two choices for social groups in my metropolis were Secular Humanists and Objectivists. The former were fairly left-wing and looked at you funny if you supported anything right of Chomsky, while the latter group were, well, Objectivists. It was refreshing to be around a group of skeptics and freethinkers where disagreement is tolerated and there is relatively little expectation that we conform to any given ideological litmus test.
Okay, that’s all I have for now. I’ll be back Friday with a really serious TAM post. For reals, this time.