It’s Labor Day weekend and that means hordes of science fiction, fantasy, and comic fans have descended on Atlanta for Dragon*Con. Dragon*Con is the largest popular culture convention in the world with over 35,000 attendees and an incredible array of programming options. The weekend means being packed into elevators full of stormtroopers, vampires, and steampunk enthusiasts, countless themed parties, film festivals, a parade, costume contests, endless entertainment, and perhaps the most fertile ground for people-watching found anywhere in the world. As if that isn’t enough, there is also an entire weekend of lectures, panels, workshops, and live podcasts being presented by some the leading thinkers in the skeptical community. This programming is part of Skeptrack. Skeptrack is in its third year of existence as a fan-track devoted to exploring and advancing science and reason, especially related to paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.
Just as skepticism has a rich connection to the history and culture surrounding science fiction, Skeptrack feels like a very natural part of the convention’s line-up. Its schedule offers five days full of chances to meet and learn from some of skepticism’s biggest names. Presenters include: Mythbuster Adam Savage, professional magician and skeptical activist Jamy Ian Swiss, paranormal investigators including Ben Radford & Joe Nickell, JREF president D. J. Grothe, astronomer Pamela Gay and far too many more to mention. The centerpiece of Skeptrack was a lecture by James Randi. Randi spoke to a jam-packed ballroom about misconceptions related to skepticism, his adventures combating the dishonest & delusional, and the dangers of intellectual arrogance. This was a real treat for those familiar with the most important figure in the history of modern skepticism. The goldmine, though, is in the potential for reaching out to those who don’t understand why all of this really matters. Of the hundreds who attended Randi’s lecture, many were big fans and made it obvious with the roar of the ovation as he took the stage. The room was also populated with many who braved the long line out of curiosity. I am convinced, that for many of them, Randi’s compelling message will hit home, and for some, maybe even profoundly shift the way they look at the world. For this reason, Skeptrack at Dragon*Con should be recognized as one of America's most important skeptical events and one of the best tools we have. Learn more about Skeptrack at http://www.skeptrack.org/