What are YOU doing this weekend?

What are we doing?  Well… we were thinking about co-hosting the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism.  That’s right, Saturday is our second… I’d like to say annual, but last year we held it in September so… semi-annual – NECSS.  Last year was full of fantastic lectures, great panel discussions, a live show by the SGU, a concert by George Hrab, and Jamy Ian Swiss confounding us with magic tricks between just about every single discussion.  And this year?  It’s shaping up to be even better.  Why?  Let’s see… … continue reading this entry.

Announcing NECSS 2010: Registration is Now Open!

A packed house listens to John Rennie at NECSS 2009 (photo by Tim Farley)

Saturday, April 17th!

Registration for the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism (NECSS) 2010 is now open! We’ve kept ticket prices the same as last year: $65 general admission, and $40 for students and NYC Skeptics/NESS members. Space is ilmited to [...]

Don’t mess with the sacred cow, but perhaps the chicken is a place to start

There is a question that I hear over and over from the skeptical community whenever there is an opportunity for Q&A at public skeptical events. The question is always some variation on: How do I convince [insert kith or kin’s name here] that [insert sacred cow here] is a bunch of baloney and they are stupid for believing in it… without telling them outright that I think they are an idiot?

There is a somewhat unsatisfying answer generally given to this query, and I have heard the SGU Rogues say this during live tapings of their podcast, and it was approximately the answer given to the audience from the “Why is it so difficult to be a skeptic?” panel at NECSS. The answer is: The chance that you will be able to change the mind of a true believer is slim to none. You will probably never get your friend to stop believing in a literal translation of the bible or that homeopathy works, or whatever. Within efforts to inspire the skeptical movement, this is a disheartening message to promote, and I have an alternate suggestion that I have had some success with in my own experience. … continue reading this entry.

In this cat’s opinion

NECSS, The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism, was my first skeptical meeting. And since I was helping out behind the scenes, I may have a slightly biased view of the event. But I actually came away with a very different impression than that of my fellow blogger, The Quixotic Man (TQM). And since I have the floor today, I figured I would talk about it here instead of adding a comment on his post from yesterday.

Rachael Dunlop and John Snyder as part of the Skepticism & Media Panel at NECSS 2009 (photo by Mark Bellncula)

Rachael Dunlop and John Snyder as part of the Skepticism & Media Panel at NECSS 2009 (photo by Mark Bellncula)

NB: This isn’t the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last time, that TQM and I do not see eye to eye, and that is why it is so much fun to work with him!

I agree with TQM that Paul Offit gave a terrific, informational, and thorough talk on the status of the anti-vaccination movement, which is a very dangerous public health concern. It is true that the bogus claims of the anti-vaxers have been criticized, debunked, chewed up and spit back out by scientific research, medical professionals, and the skeptical community. However, I do not think it is necessarily true that everyone in the audience on Saturday were as well informed on the topic as TQM. The very reason I became interested in skeptical blogging is because I knew it would force me to look deeper into issues that I knew only a little bit about, which is time consuming to say the least.  As he said, TQM only became familiar with the topic of the anti-vax claims because he needed to research the issue for his posts at the HuffPo. … continue reading this entry.

Herding the Cats


Dr. Paul Offit - Pro-Vaccine Luminary (photo by Mark Bellncula)

In case you just stumbled upon this blog and have not checked out the website for the New York City Skeptics in the past several months, this past Saturday we held the first ever Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, the NECSS.  I highly doubt this will be the only post on the blog this week mentioning it, all of us spent an entire day listening to lectures on skepticism, words can’t help but start percolating.

The conference was a huge success.  We packed a 400 seat auditorium, and were having to turn people away at the door.  If you missed it, we’re going to do it again next year, and you have to come.  But anyway, I should move on to something with substance.

Paul Offit is a man I have a great amount of respect for.  I don’t know how much you folks out there have stuck your toes into the waters of anti-vaccination lunacy, but Offit is a man who’s gotten out there and really stirred up the pot.  They hate him.  Really.  I had never actually heard of him until I wrote up a post on anti-vaccinationist nonsense the Huffington Post, and all of a sudden, I was inundated with accusations of being a follower of “Paul Profit;” apparently the only attack they can think of is to claim his doctoring is just for the money.  I say this to soften the fact that I’m about to make a slight criticism of Dr. Offit.  Yes.  I’m getting behind him to stab him in the back.  But just a little. I think his lecture was the weakest of the talks we had.  It’s not that it wasn’t interesting, and it’s not that I didn’t agree with every single point he had, it was the fact that I feel it was for the wrong audience. … continue reading this entry.

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