Posts Tagged ‘skeptical community’
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 6, 2014
The fine folks at Chicago Skeptics are currently in the early stages of organizing the Chicago Skepticamp 2014 conference, which is scheduled for Saturday April 5th at the Irish American Heritage Center, and one of the things they need most right now are speakers. Please read their latest press release for more information on this, and consider getting involved or at least passing along the news:
Saturday, April 5th
Irish American Heritage Center
Registration will be open through March 1.
This year’s schedule:
10:00 am: Hello!
Here is the part of the schedule where there will be a whole bunch of awesome speakers, just like you!
So much like you, in fact, that one of them could BE you.
Speaker registration is now open! Get those brains a-stormin’. You don’t have to have your whole talk ready, but tell us what you’d like to speak about and we’ll get you signed up.
Speaker sign-up ends on February 1st.
(All final speaker materials must be submitted by March 1)
What is a Skepticamp?
Skepticamp is an opportunity for us to get together to learn about different ares of skepticism from our fellow group members. These talks give an opportunity for individuals to delve into particular areas of skepticism…both the tried and true topics and those that may not get as much attention in the regular blogs and articles. Skepticamps encourage as many people as possible to give a talk…and certainly encourages first-time speakers to try their hand at presenting in a friendly, supportive atmosphere.
For more info on skepticamps in general, visit:
One of the principles of Skepticamp is that everyone participates either by talking or helping in some way. We are already having planning committee meetings, and interested parties can still help. Other ways to help will be announced as we get closer to the date…setup and cleanup crews, distributing publicity, etc. (Nobody is going to be turned away because they don’t have a specific job, though.)
Skepticamp is a participant supported event. If you’d like to help offset some of the financial costs incurred by the organizers, please consider making a donation. We’ll also be accepting donations at the event.
Though Skepticamp is free to attend, there are several significant expenses for making it a reality. If you’d like to help, please click this link.
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: camp, Chicago, conference, meeting, presentation, science, skeptical community, SkeptiCamp, skepticism, speakers | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 27, 2013
This time of year it seems that just about everyone celebrates some kind of holiday. Some are explicitly religious in nature, such as Christmas or Hanukkah, while some secular holidays are being celebrated at about the same time. It is in the spirit (pardon the pun) of furthering critical thinking & skepticism among the population at large that I share with you the JREF’s annual Season of Reason initiative. Whether you are religious or not, I think we can all agree that reason is something we need more of in our society, so I hope that you consider donating to this worthy cause…
The James Randi Educational Foundation invites you to give during our annual Season of Reason fundraising campaign. Over half of our annual support comes during this critical year-end period and we couldn’t continue fighting charlatans and promoting critical thinking without it.
This year, we’re asking you to help us raise a total of $200,000 to support our unique educational mission in 2014. Such support helps the JREF to continue to extend the important work of James Randi, influential skeptic and social critic who has for decades stood against the prevailing cults of nonsense and supernatural charlatans of every stripe.
Every dollar counts! Your Season of Reason 2013 contribution will help us equip more educators to teach students skepticism, support more grassroots campaigns to fight charlatanry, and take on more public figures and celebrities who promote dangerous nonsense. To make a tax-deductible donation to the JREF right now, please fill out and submit the form below.
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: 2013, 2014, charity, donate, donation, education, giving, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, outreach, Randi, reason, Santa, santa claus, season, Season of Reason, skeptic, skeptical community, skepticism, tax deductible, taxes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 16, 2012
In recent weeks, it seems the controversy within the skeptical movement over misogyny and women’s issues appears to have heated up somewhat (that’s putting it mildly, I think). While I do welcome this discussion and the debate it has kick-started, I wanted to comment on the one thing which really, REALLY chaps my ass about the whole thing: misogynistic Internet trolls.
Whether we’re talking about so-called Elevatorgate or the creation of sexual harassment policies by various skeptical conferences (which I fully support, because I think it is needed), it seems to me that these sort of discussions bring out the worst in some people. And by “some people” I mean some men. And by “some men”, I mean, specifically, the misogynistic Internet trolls who are basically bullies who want to slap a woman (or women) down for having the gall to publicly disagree with what they think women should accept.
Some of these men think that women speaking up about issues that concern them is somehow a threat to them, or a threat to what they perceive as their manhood, or a threat to their “freedom” and society in general; and some of these men decide to express their disagreement with these women through the worst kind of insults, ranting, and trolling I’ve ever seen. It is a bully tactic intended to shut these “uppity” women up for having the audacity to hold an opinion contrary to their own.
And it makes me sick. In fact, it makes me so sick that rather than continue in my own words, which would doubtless be laced with rage and profanity at these sorry excuses for men, I would like to reference an excellent source on the issue (many thanks to Jason Thibeault for posting this video on his blog):
While this video isn’t explicitly about the skeptical movement, it is about the broader issue of misogynistic Internet trolls. My favorite part is right at the end of the video (at the 3:21 mark) where Jay Smooth says:
“No matter what scene on the Internet is your scene, if you are a dude on the Internet and you see other dudes in your scene harassing women or transgender people or anyone else who’s outside of our little privileged corner of the gender spectrum, we need speak up, we need to treat this like it matters, we need to add some extra humanity into our scene to counteract their detachment from their humanity.”
You said it, brother. Gentlemen, let’s not allow these trolls, these pathetic excuses for men, these losers speak for our gender and represent us to the wider community. Let them speak for themselves in their sad little corner of the Internet, and let us follow Jay Smooth’s excellent example and call them out for their lack of humanity. Only by enough of us doing that can we hope to bring a more respectful tone to these important discussions.
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: abuse, bully, conferences, cons, Elevatorgate, feminism, feminist, harassment, internet, intimidation, Jason Thibeault, Jay Smooth, meetings, men, misogyny, sex, sexism, sexist, sexual, skeptical community, skeptical movement, skeptics, trolls, video, women | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 10, 2012
I know I’m a little late to this party, but better late than never. I’m very happy to spread the news about a new secular, skeptical organization which will cater to a highly under-served minority in the skeptical community: African Americans for Humanism! Check out their announcement and website, and pass it along…
Black Nonbelievers Are Speaking Out
African Americans for Humanism (AAH) has launched an advertising campaign highlighting the rise in religious skepticism among African Americans. Coinciding with Black History Month, this national multimedia effort showcases religious skepticism in the African American community and features prominent African American humanists from history along with contemporary activists and organizers.
“African Americans who question religion often feel rejected by religious family and friends, and by the greater black community,” said Debbie Goddard, director of AAH. “But there is a rich heritage of religious skepticism and humanism in black history. By featuring the historical faces as well as the modern in our ad campaign, we show people that questioning religion is not new and that there are many of us here.”
The ads began appearing January 30 and January 31 in New York City; Washington, DC; Chicago; Atlanta; and Durham, North Carolina. This week, the campaign is being launched in Dallas and Los Angeles. Advertisements will be found on roadside billboards and in public transit sites. The Stiefel Freethought Foundation provided substantial creative and financial support for the campaign.
AAH hopes that the campaign will bring attention to the presence of and increase in religious skepticism within the black community, encourage those who have doubts about religion to share their concerns and join other freethinkers in their local communities, and educate many about the history of black freethought.
All of the ads display the same message: “Doubts about religion? You’re one of many.” In the ads, images of writer-anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, poet-activist Langston Hughes, and social reformer-publisher Frederick Douglass are paired with contemporary freethinkers. Representing their respective hometowns are activists leading the way for African American nonbelievers, including Mark D. Hatcher of the Secular Students at Howard University, Mandisa L. Thomas of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. (Atlanta), Kimberly Veal of Black Nonbelievers of Chicago, Jamila Bey of African Americans for Humanism–Washington, DC, Veronique Matthews of the Triangle Freethought Society, Leighann Lord of the Center for Inquiry–Harlem, Alix Jules of the Dallas–Ft. Worth Coalition of Reason, and Sikivu Hutchinson of Black Skeptics Los Angeles.
For more information, including ad images, information about historical African American freethinkers, photos, and videos, please visit We Are AAH.
AAH supports skeptics, doubters, humanists, and atheists in the African American community, provides forums for communication and education, and facilitates coordinated action to achieve shared objectives.
In an irrational world, those who stand for reason must stand together.
Please stand with us by making your most generous tax-deductible contribution to African Americans for Humanism today.
Posted in religion, skeptical community | Tagged: AAH, African American, African Americans for Humanism, atheism, atheist, black, Council for Secular Humanism, CSH, Debbie Goddard, humanism, humanist, minority, non-religious, nonreligious, secular, skeptic, skeptical community | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 5, 2012
**Note: for some background you may find reading my previous two posts on this issue to be useful…
Diversity in Skepticism: One White Guy’s Perspective
Note to My Fellow Men at Conferences: Women Don’t Dig Douchebags
Those of us who have been in the skeptical movement for some time have noticed something very interesting happening of late: the movement is becoming more diverse. For example, when I attended my first skeptical conference, TAM 4 back in 2006, I noticed that most attendees were white men (I certainly have nothing against white guys, especially since I’m one of them). By the most recent Amaz!ng Meeting this past summer, a mere five years later, I saw much more diversity, especially in the context of the ratio of men vs. women: about 40% of the TAM 9 attendees were women (while roughly half of the conference speakers were women).
Of course, I see this as a good thing. But there will be some inevitable growing pains within the movement as the skeptical demographic grows larger. Evidence of this fact is readily apparent from seeing numerous online arguments (some say flame wars) regarding various diversity issues within the last year or so. Most of us will remember “Elevatorgate” and the ensuing discussion it set off; then there was the touchy question of how physicist Lawrence Krauss handled a situation regarding a friend’s run-in with the police over questions of inappropriate sexual behavior; and it seems the discussion set of by these (and other) situations shows no signs of abating.
Take, for instance, this recent blog post and related comment thread over at my skeptical colleague Stephanie Zvan’s “Almost Diamonds” blog titled “Dammit, DJ” (tip o’ the hat to Stephanie for letting me know I was invoked in the ensuing comment thread, hence this post). I won’t go into the details here (read Stephanie’s post for yourself), but I would like to make a few quick, general remarks.
First, while some people within our movement seem to want to plant flags or “take sides”, I urge caution in this regard. I have seen some in the discussion of Stephanie’s post come down “on the DJ [that is, DJ Grothe] side” while others have come down “on the Rebecca [Watson, of Skepchick] side”, with many barbs and arrows slung back and forth. I think this is a bit silly, folks. I know both DJ and Rebecca, and I have worked (and partied) with both of them, and I can honestly say that I respect them both not only as skeptical colleagues but as social acquaintances as well. I also think that both of them make valid and invalid points regarding this whole diversity issue; but I am willing to let them get out there and slug it out, because I view that sort of debate as not only critical, but fundamentally unavoidable, as the skeptical movement grows. I, for one, am happy to see people such as DJ and Rebecca on the front lines of this argument.
Now, having said all of that, let me get to my second point: that is about the tone of these arguments. I have seen far too many people act like utter assholes in these kinds of online disputes, to the point of seeing real threatening and insulting language being tossed about quite loosely. It isn’t all one way (such things rarely are), but some of the most disturbing stuff seems to have been directed at women from men, so since I’m a guy I will briefly address that.
What is it about the Internet that brings out the worst in some people, to the point that they say the most foul and irresponsible things? Men (and I use that term loosely) who try to use the Internet as a venue for spewing some of the filth that I’ve seen directed at some women are hardly worth the label of “men”, because that label only applies to mature males who are secure in both their manhood and their relationships with others (specifically, in this context, with women). The douchebags who talk this smack anonymously are simple cowards, because I strongly doubt that most of them would ever dare to speak in that manner directly to a woman’s face in a public setting. In short, the following picture describes these clowns pretty well…
Which brings me to my final point: the fact that these knuckle-dragging goons feel the need to use such thuggish language and behavior towards women illustrates perfectly well the need for more diversity within skepticism. This also illustrates the need for more white guys like me to call out our fellow white male skeptics on this sort of bullshit and argue for more diversity. Thus, I am happy to announce my involvement in a new effort to promote diversity and understanding on these topics via the More Than Men project: a project run by white guys with the purpose of speaking in white-guy speak to other white guys in the hopes that we can “talk to our own” and foster more understanding on these issues. If you would like, I encourage you to check out the More Than Men website and consider making a contribution (not money, but thoughts) there.
So in closing, let me send a message to my skeptical brothers and sisters out there: guys, don’t be ashamed of who you are, but also understand that there is a profound need to understand things from a non-male, non-white perspective; and if you wish to grow the movement you cannot get around this need. And ladies, please understand that it really is hard for some guys to gain this understanding of things from a non-male perspective; it takes time, and sometimes we will challenge you on certain points while agreeing on others. And, quite frankly, on some things some men and women may never be able to see eye-to-eye, but we shouldn’t allow that to stop us from continuing the discussion.
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: aucasian, Caucasian, conference, controversy, convention, culture, debate, discussion, diverse, diversity, ethnicity, female, gender, male, meetings, men, minorities, minority, More Than Men, MTM, multicultural, panel, race, sex, sexuality, Skepchick, skeptic, skeptical community, skepticism, skeptics, society, white, women, Women Thinking Free, Women Thinking Free Foundation, WTFF | 6 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 19, 2011
I just wanted to take a few minutes to pass along to you a fundraising campaign from the James Randi Educational Foundation’s “Season of Reason 2011”. The poster boy for this campaign is none other than James Randi himself, because do you know any other skeptic who looks more like Santa? See for yourself…
Is Santa really James Randi? Hmmm, I’m skeptical, but the resemblance is uncanny… (Images from Wikipedia and the JREF) 😉
All humor aside, I can say that the JREF is one of the most active of all the skeptical organizations out there, and they indeed serve the purpose of promoting reason quite effectively. If you have a few spare dollars you’re willing to donate, please consider making an end-of-the-year tax deductible donation to the JREF – here is James Randi’s letter seeking donations for this worthy cause…
As we near the end of 2011, I’m pleased to say that this has been the JREF’s most productive and effective year on record.
We’ve made some major strides this year in standing up for rational thinking in a world of widespread belief in the paranormal and other harmful claims — our media work including our appearance on Primetime Nightline, our nationwide challenge to proponents of homeopathy and the pharmaceutical chains that peddle it, our zombie horde that made headlines at James Van Praagh’s “Spirit Circle,” our new free educational materials, the grants and scholarships we’ve awarded, our support for local grassroots activism, our new ebooks and mobile apps, the ever-increasing success of TAM, and much more!
None of that would have happened if not for the support we received from concerned and dedicated skeptics and science advocates like you during last year’s Season of Reason. Like most other nonprofits, the majority of our annual donations come in during this critical year-end period, and that largely keeps us going for the following year.
Now we at the JREF are focused squarely on 2012… and it’s beginning to look a lot like reason.
We’re gearing up to enter 2012 with some momentum – and thanks to the hard work and dedication of the JREF staff, we’re preparing exciting new initiatives for coming months, as well as expanding several current projects. But I must tell you that it is only with your generous support that we can possibly do this. …
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: 2011, 2012, charity, donate, donation, education, giving, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, outreach, Randi, reason, Santa, santa claus, season, Season of Reason, skeptic, skeptical community, skepticism, tax deductible, taxes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 8, 2011
I had a recent blog post about my presentation at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9’s “Skepticism in the Classroom” workshop, but that was just a warmup, folks! I’m happy to say that this past weekend, while at the American Association of Physics Teachers summer meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, my skeptical physics colleague, Dean Baird, and I presented a more detailed and physics-oriented version of Skepticism in the Classroom 🙂
Our workshop was about 4 hours long, and we took turns presenting a wide variety of physics lessons that incorporate some aspect of skepticism and critical thinking into them (what I like to call “guerrilla skepticism”). For reference, all of Dean’s lessons are available at this link over at his Blog of Phyz. I share my lessons with you below, so feel free to use, adapt, and share them as you wish:
1. Astrology Debunking Activity and Solutions – This activity allows you to test out the notion of astrology with your students in a controlled manner. It illustrates pretty clearly that astrology doesn’t really work.
2. Bed of Nails – I’ve made a very detailed blog post already on the subject (at the link). However, at the end of that blog post the Youtube video of the moron cutting his arm with a razor sharp machete doesn’t work – try this one instead [warning: not for the squeamish!]
3. Board Breaking & Karate – This is another subject on which I have written before (click the link). However, included in my blog analysis of the topic are some additional materials: an article about the physics of karate and a notesheet that I use in my classes to illustrate the physical principles behind this not-so-miraculous feat.
4. Einstein Cranks – This is a link to a blog post I wrote earlier about how many physics cranks and pseudoscientists abuse physics and the rules of science in an attempt to promote their nonsense.
5. EMF Woo – These are a collection of blog posts I have made over the years regarding the nonsense and pseudoscience surrounding EMFs (electromagnetic fields). These posts – and the lessons associated with them – range from addressing claims of low-frequency EMFs inducing cancer to ghost-hunting woo (and the companies that promote such nonsense).
6. ESP Claims – Here I have collected a couple of lessons dealing with the claims of ESP and psychics. Most notable are the notesheet for James Randi’s Secrets of the Psychics video and an article from Skeptical Inquirer magazine I have my students read on the issue. You can find Randi’s excellent video for free on Youtube…
7. Glasswalking – This is just a blog post and video of why it is that walking barefoot on broken glass won’t cut you, provided you don’t slide your feet. Hint: nothing paranormal or supernatural is required!
8. Haunted Lab – Every year around Halloween I do a special, exploration-based lab that incorporates a lot of cool physics concepts in with some debunking of paranormal claims. It’s great fun!
9. Hot Stuff! – In this collection of lessons I address pseudoscientific claims from the standpoint of thermal physics. Specifically, I have my students learn about how firewalking isn’t paranormal, and I also have them look at the claims that a man uses his “chi” to avoid getting burned when he puts molten lead into his mouth!
10. Magnetic Therapy – This lesson is an article and notesheet regarding this time-honored classic of alternative “medicine” woo.
11. Mega-Woosh Water Slide – A couple of years ago, this Internet video went viral, supposedly showing a man making a near-impossible jump across a valley using a huge water slide. Well, it wasn’t real, but a basic analysis of physics also shows it is highly implausible as well.
12. Neat Tricks – These include some nice, off-the-cuff critical thinking exercises for your students: my “Uncle Harry” card trick, and my self-tying knot trick (the solution is here). Enjoy! 🙂
13. Optical Illusions – This is a really broad category: it includes a PowerPoint I give on illusions and pareidolia, an article I have my students read on so-called “mystery lights”, and some stuff about how spirit orbs are not what New Agers claim.
14. Ouija Board – At the link is a blog post I wrote on a lesson I use involving magnetic fields to get students to question the claims behind Ouija boards.
15. Pyramids & Aliens – These lessons focus on addressing claims by various UFOologists that aliens built the Egyptian pyramids. I have my students read an article from Skeptical Inquirer on the subject, then I give them a lecture on the physics of how humans (using simple technology) can build a pyramid, given time and a large workforce.
16. Movie Physics – In this end-of-the-year lesson, I get my students to think a bit skeptically regarding the physics presented in various movies.
It is our hope that through these workshops we can get more and more teachers to consider pursuing these skeptically-oriented topics in their own classrooms. We have plans to try doing workshops at future teacher conferences, such as the upcoming National Science Teachers’ Association meeting in 2012. Stay tuned! 🙂
Posted in education, physics denial/woo, skeptical community | Tagged: AAPT, American Association of Physics Teachers, Blog of Phyz, children, critical thinking, Critical Thinking Education Group, CTEG, Dean Baird, education, educators, kids, Matt Lowry, National Science Teachers Association, NSTA, physics, phyz, public school, resources, school, skeptical community, skepticism, students, TAM, TAM9, teacher, teachers, The Amaz!ng Meeting, The Amazing Meeting | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 27, 2011
This year at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 in Las Vegas, I had the honor of presenting once again at the Skepticism in the Classroom workshop with my skeptical education colleagues, Michael Blanford of the JREF and Barbara Drescher of ICBSeverywhere.com. Together we put on a workshop for about 200 people, mostly teachers, on the topic of how to incorporate skepticism and critical thinking into the classroom.
After a brief introduction from Michael, I tackled the issue from the standpoint of a high school teacher and shared some of the practical tips and tricks that I use in my classes to “sneak in” skepticism into lessons I normally teach. I really like how my partner in the workshop, Barbara, described my contribution:
Matt recapped the most important concepts from his piece last year and presented more of his fun and interesting demonstrations. I used to think that cognitive psychologists had all of the fun because we study the interesting ways that our brains and minds fool us and can blow those minds by showing them. However, after some thought I realized that the physics teachers I know have the coolest, scariest, ickiest, and most surprising demonstrations. They deal with the physical world and there are almost as many bizarre things in the physical world as there are in the mind.
Matt did not walk on fire or lie on a bed of nails, but he has done those things and has the video to prove it! What he did do is show the audience that getting your hands dirty can be a great way to reach minds.
Barbara then gave a very interesting lecture on the importance of trying to get students to think critically at an early age, such as in elementary school, and how to use the basics of philosophy and philosophical discussion to engage students. I found her points to be very thought-provoking, and I am seriously considering working something like this into my own teaching if I’m able.
I could go on and on about it more, but I think it would be more useful for you to see and hear for yourself. Below is my PowerPoint lecture from the workshop, complete with an audio recording of the workshop. In addition, you should take a few minutes to go see Barbara’s ICBS blog post on the workshop; and while you’re at it, see this link to the resources that both Barbara and I are providing for anyone interested!
More stuff you might find useful:
TAM9 Lecture: Inquiry-Based Skepticism for the Classroom (my PowerPoint file I presented)
Audio of TAM9 Skepticism in the Classroom (Audio file embedded in PowerPoint file – about 1.5 hours long)
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: Barbara Drescher, children, critical thinking, Critical Thinking Education Group, CTEG, education, educators, kids, Las Vegas, Matt Lowry, Michael Blanford, public school, resources, school, skeptical community, skepticism, students, TAM, TAM9, teachers, The Amaz!ng Meeting, The Amazing Meeting | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 19, 2011
I just wanted to pass along to you some news which might interest those of you in the Midwest next weekend: another Un-Psychic Fair! You may recall the first WTFF Un-Psychic Fair in Chicago last year, and we hope that this one will be even more fun, more skeptic-y, and more un-psychic-y!!! Read on for details…
John Edward, un-psychic douchebag, endorses this event 🙂
… This event launches our presence in Indianapolis, a city where we’ve found great skeptics and the potential for a truly bad ass skeptical mofo community. Our only option was to invade Indy and bring some mofos together to help us save them from their little notch on the Bible Belt.
Come out to the Unpsychic fair this weekend and be a part of WTF Indy! We’ll give you all you can eat food and buy your first drink. Then, we’ll be raffling off an entire bottle of alcohol. And we’ll do unpsychic readings… by real fake psychics!
The Women Thinking Free Foundation has arrived in Indianapolis!
Please join us on June 25, 2011 for our first ever Indy event: Mysteries of the Totally Explained, an Unpsychic Faire.
Tarot card readings!
Discover your fate with a oujia board!
You will be amazed at the occasional accuracy of your readings!
We can already sense your presence!
Tickets are $20
and include all you can eat appetizers, cash bar with drink specials and your first drink is on us!
FREE admission for ghosts entering through the Ouija board or other spiritual portal.
We predict an awesome time!
Saturday June 25, 2011 at 6:00 PM EDT
Posted in psychics, skeptical community | Tagged: bar, Chicago, crystall ball, divination, esp, extra sensory perception, feminism, fortune, fun, fundrasier, humor, Indiana, Indianapolis, Indy, mind reading, Ouija, Ouija board, palm reading, palmistry, party, physics, pseudoscience, psychic, psychic fair, skeptical community, skepticism, spirit, spirit board, unpsychic fair, Women Thinking Free, Women Thinking Free Foundation, WTF, WTFF | 3 Comments »