Many factors drive turnout at a large event like "The Amazing Meeting 8" (TAM8) but this year one emerging driver in particular merits our rapt attention. That driver is social media. It not only has been changing how we interact, but it has been fueling a renaissance in conferencing among skeptics.
Social media can be used to promote events. The buzz surrounding Richard Dawkins and others in the speaker lineup has likely led many to register to attend. At the same time, many of us are attracted to TAM8 not so much to see the likes of Dawkins, but rather to meet and socialize with friends and acquaintances from our growing social media networks. In short, networking is gaining currency among skeptics in a big way and TAM is one of the beneficiaries.
Until only recently, one might expect that skepticism would be entering a "post-conference" era, one in which "virtual" events cannibalize and supplant those which are live and in-person. The time and cost of travel, the growing sophistication of social media tools, and the wide availability of streaming video would appear to justify the decline of conferences, including TAM.
The tools of social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.) are playing a role in this resurgence in conferencing, but how exactly? As mentioned earlier, promotion is an obvious role—the buzz of excitement surrounding events can fuel participation. But social media is more than promotion. It is about interacting in small and large ways with others, including close friends as well as acquaintances you've never met. That daily interaction can drive a desire for human contact—a desire to have a beer with your tweeps, for example. However, that's where social media hits a wall. Having a beer at Virtual Drinking Skeptically can have value, but it is a different experience than sharing a beer in the Del Mar Lounge at TAM. The tools cannot convey a richness of human communication that is only possible through live, in-person social interaction.
In keeping with recent trends for national US skeptical organizations to work more closely together to advance shared aims, the James Randi Educational Foundation is very pleased to announce that other national skeptics organizations will formally be supporting this year's Amazing Meeting, held July 8-11 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For the first time in the history of The Amazing Meeting, both The Skeptics Society, as well as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly C.S.I.C.O.P.), will officially be co-sponsors of the event, providing both financial and promotional support to the JREF for the meeting. Ronald A. Lindsay, President & CEO of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry stated, "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in TAM this year in this official capacity. This collaboration will benefit all skeptics. We appreciate the efforts of JREF to make this possible and are happy to be able to provide speakers and support for this truly Amazing Meeting." Says Michael Shermer, founder of Skeptic Magazine, and president of the Skeptics Society, based in Los Angeles: "It has always been our pleasure to support TAM, which we have done in various ways every year since the beginning. TAM is such a fantastic annual skeptics conference, drawing attendees from around the world. By officially co-sponsoring this year, we only hope to further increase the impact of this amazing event."
James Randi, in celebration of the organizations coming together to support TAM, said: "This will be yet another step forward in the increasing co-operation between major skeptical agencies who share views about rationality and ethics in the treatment of claims relating to occult, supernatural, or paranormal events."
If the anti-gay religious right had a resident intellectual, it would be George Alan Rekers. He’s a kind of anti-Anita Bryant — bookish, quiet, loathe to hog a spotlight, working indefatigably behind the scenes to provide at least the approximation of an intellectual basis for a religiously-inspired dislike of homosexuals. He does this through academic papers by the hundred, books, and lectures around the world. (His preferred speaking subject: “Teen Sex.”)
With James Dobson, Rekers co-founded the Family Research Council in 1983. He is an adoptive father and frequent foster-parent, who testified as an expert witness against gay adoption in Arkansas and Florida. And perhaps most interestingly, at least for the purposes of Swift, he is a board-member of NARTH, an organization devoted to curing gays of their gayness — a pursuit generally regarded by professionals as pseudo-scientific, and which often involves such practices as the "laying on of hands."
For this reason and many more, we were delighted to be present last month at Miami Int‘l Airport, hot-pink camera in hand, when Rekers returned from a 10-day European vacation with a male prostitute.
Summary: When James Randi was a young boy he learned a very valuable lesson from his grandfather. You could almost call it a "pay it forward" lesson. To this day Randi still uses that lesson in his every day life. Helping stranded motorists, helping turtles cross the road and donating to his favorite charities. Why? Well because "It's the way to go folks" as Randi says.
You're now one of hundreds of thousands of people who've seen the "Oriental Yeti" that was discovered in early April. If you Google "Oriental Yeti," you'll come across this article from the Telegraph UK, which tells the "whole story." And an article from Times UK claims that "Scientists Are Baffled." I wonder if there's a number to call to find an anonymous baffled scientist — they seem to turn up quite frequently in these tales.
I'm guessing that like me, you don't think the animal in the video looks very much like the Yeti or Abominable Snowman we came to know and love onScooby Doo. There's a reason for that.
The article claims that the creature was sent to a lab in Shanghai for DNA identification. But a couple of skeptics posited, and a Chinese naturalists confirmed, that this creature is not actually a Yeti. It is, in fact, a coffee enhancer.