• Skepticon 7 (#sk7) wrap-up post

    There are only a few skeptical and freethought conventions which I plan to attend pretty much every year: SkeptOKon, FreeOK, Skeptics of Oz, and Skepticon. These are all within a five-hour driving radius of Oklahoma City, so it’s basically a matter of geographical convenience, give or take some generalized anxiety regarding air travel. This past weekend, as you may well have heard, was the seventh annual Skepticon held in Springfield, Missouri. What follows are a few highlights from the event, from my own subjective perspective. A more quantitative breakdown will follow in weeks to come.

    In terms of unexpected talks, the ideological diversity award goes to Daniel Bier for giving an unabashedly libertarian lecture to a mostly lefty progressive audience. While I enjoy having my mainstream political ideas challenged, not everyone was all that thrilled about it:

    To each his own, I suppose. At least no one heckled the guy as he cast a skeptical eye upon our own democratic processes:

    For a first-time speaker, Daniel was quite smooth and composed. Regional conference organizers, do take note.



    Many of the pro-atheistic talks at the conference could be aptly characterized as firebrand and rabble-rousing, but my favorite one was delivered by Hemant Mehta, who gave loads of practical advice about how to promote freethought in a calm, grounded, and evidential way.


    Indeed, Lola, indeed.



    As to the fields of science and skepticism, Dr. David Gorski gave a solid lecture on the perils of alt med, making him one of the very few I’ve seen on stage at both Skepticon and TAM. Probably the most outstanding talk was from Dr. Melanie Brewster, whose talk ran the gamut from social science to social justice and covered invisible minorities such as unbelievers living on the margins of a religious culture, as well as those living on the margins within already marginalized sexual minority populations. She also took her own field of study to task for generally overlooking the study of unbelievers, which you can read about more in her book.

    I will share and reshare the link to this one as soon as it hits the YouTube, it is fairly representative of most everything Skepticon is meant to be about.

    In addition to giving the most well-rounded science talk of the weekend, Melanie was also selling her own line of custom jewelry at the event:

    What can’t this woman do? Chas and I both purchased some real jewelry for our wives, and it was rather well-received.

    How cool is this?
    How cool is this?



    Sorry to say that we missed most of the social justice talks, in part because of a trip to the Ozarks Beerfest on Saturday afternoon.

    We did hear good things about the talk from Kayley Whalen:

    Lola, by the way, has been making headway in pushing for more trans-inclusivity on a campus somewhere deep in the Bible Belt. This is, of course, awesome.

    We also managed to catch an excellent talk about marginalization and social taboos, which I’m not going to praise any further at the speaker’s request. An odd request, but so it goes.



    As much as we all enjoy rousing lectures on atheism and thoughtful lectures on skepticism, for many attendees the real draw is in the hallways and after hours. So many secular people are all crammed into one place, running the gamut from conventionally wholesome folks from Camp Quest Oklahoma to the conventionally frightening people from the Satanic Temple. (Neither group is actually frightening or unduly wholesome, once you get to know them.) Adam Brown was on hand selling his non-erotic artwork; Chas bought a black-and-white print of secular heroine Ayaan Hirsi Ali to hang up in his study. There was even a freethought theatre group putting on a stage play downtown.

    Not to mention an invasion of surprise furries. Nerf wars. A full blown dino prom! Delicious gelato. Loads of kindly and welcoming people, countless stimulating conversations, and relatively little negativity just so long as you keep your head up and didn’t follow the hashtag too closely. Skepticon remains an enlightening and enjoyable secular/humanist/skeptical event, put on by a cadre of dedicated volunteers who deserve much more praise (and far less criticism) than they actually get. As always, we find ourselves looking forward to next year!

    Category: AtheismConferencesFeaturedSkepticism

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.