As an educator I always had to be on my toes, not only to prevent undesirable behavior, but also to be aware of something much more elusive. Teachers are always on the lookout for something called a "teachable moment". They are tricky because they don't appear in your lesson plans, you have no idea where they will come from or when, and they may not even be on topic. Even trickier, you usually have a limited amount of time in which to take maximum advantage. Very often, the next thing you say determines whether or not you let that teachable moment slip by.
I was fortunate enough to capture one with my son just the other day. My father-in-law believes in all kinds of woo, and after talking with him my 9 year old son came to me very excited, his head full of stories about reincarnation, past life regression through hypnosis, and the possibility that after I die I'll come back as his child. Well, you can imagine how I felt. I opened my mouth, fully intending to say "Your grandfather has fed you a load of crap", when it hit me: this was a teachable moment. Instead of declaring those concepts bunk and leaving it at that, we had ourselves a dialogue.
The 'net has been abuzz with reviews and comments about The Amaz!ng Meeting 8. Here's a round up of some interesting ones we've run across. This is by no means an exaustive list, but there's something of interest for everyone here.
Hemant Mehta live-blogged all of TAM. If you'd like to experience TAM as though you were there, or relive the event through the words of Hemant, I recommend you check out his efforts on The Friendly Atheist.
Dylan Keeburg of Woo Fighters gives an indepth daily review of TAM starting with some of the Thursday workshops.
Skeptreview'sKarl also gave an indepth daily report, but with the added benefit of being Michael Goudeau's shadow. If you're a fan of Penn Jillette or Michael Goudeau, you'll want to read this one.
"Homeopathy is safe and has no side effects, yet 'Big Pharama' keeps pushing their poisons on us because they're greedy."
Have you heard this before? I have. If modern medicines have side-effects or aren't effective in 100% of cases, the reason doctors don't stop using them is because so-called 'Big Pharma' makes tons of money off of them.
Well, part of that is true. Pharmaceutical companies do make money from the products they make. Just like McDonalds or Home Depot or.... hey, what's this? Companies that make homeopathic products make money too!
Rick Lax of Las Vegas Weekly attended TAM and was surprised to find what we've known all along – Skeptics aren't the nay-saying curmudgeons that they're made out to be. In fact, he had quite a nice time and has many interesting things to say about his experiences.
He examines in some depth the question asked by a moon hoax afficianado of Adam Savage, and discusses the honesty of skeptics with Richard Dawkins. And he learned the history of the skeptics movment in a hot tub.