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Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Skepticism | 1 comment

Conferencing: TAM2014 and the World Humanist Congress

I’m currently in Maryland, on a family visit before heading to The Amazing Meeting (TAM2014) in Las Vegas. Last year was the first TAM I’ve attended, and it was a great conference – as I reported at the time, much of the content was very stimulating, and I had a great time hanging out with old (and making new) friends.

As much as I look forward to it, there are elements of conferences like these that I dread, in that they involve being confronted by the eternal – and eternally tiresome – politics of the skeptical movement. TAM itself was relatively free of drama, at least in terms of official programming, but when a bunch of people who are loosely part of the same community gather, there’s always someone who uses that as an opportunity to dissect some complicated history of an Internet argument, or trash the character of someone who doesn’t get right of reply, thanks to not being there.

I could do without that bit, both because it’s often simply a self-important kind of gossiping, and second because the people who tend to have these discussions usually pedant me into boredom – they remember (or claim to remember) such intricate plot points of blog comment threads, tweets and the like that I either lose interest or simply can’t keep up.

So in short, if you’re there and happen to run into me, let’s not talk about that stuff. There’s so much that’s interesting on the programme that we’d have far more substantial things to discuss in any case. This year, I’ll also be contributing more than in 2013 – I’ll be part of a workshop on Thursday (on skeptical blogging: the good, the bad and the ugly), but also presenting a paper on the Sunday morning, which I’m greatly looking forward to.

My topic there will be “The responsible believer’, in which I plan to discuss some ways in which those of us who make a habit of blogging about skepticism, religion and the like can be prone to some epistemic overconfidence – making claims more boldly than the evidence permits, and in a rhetorical fashion that discourages debate (and encourages pig-headedness amongst ourselves). If the Sunday sessions are recorded, I’ll of course link to it when it’s released.

And then, in August, it will be wonderful to be back in Oxford for the World Humanist Congress (ambiguous: I’ll be back in Oxford, the WHC will be in Oxford – the previous one was in 2011 in Oslo). I really enjoyed the Oslo conference, and fully expect that this one will be equally worthwhile.

I hope to post a few updates from Vegas and TAM, although I’ll not only be presenting, but also officiating my first wedding while there, so time might be short. Elsewhere on SkepticInk, Vandy Beth Glenn plans to blog daily from TAM, so keep an eye on Transubstantiation also. Other SINers might end up doing so also, and you can keep an eye on everything by following the SIN Twitter account or Facebook page.