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What is a Skeptic's Role at a Paranormal Conference? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Reader (and typo-hound) Dave G. reports the following:

There will be a huge convention in Minneapolis come November, where thousands of members of the woo-woo fraternity will congregate at The Edge Life Exposition. In looking at the booth location floor plan, I noticed that booth numbers ending in 13 are absent. Thus they have #100-112, then 114...; 200-212, then 214, etc, which has caused me to wonder if perhaps those people know something to which the rest of us are not privy.

I took a look a their site, and yes, it does read like the anti-TAM. You can learn how to connect with your angels, discover your inner psychic, and even discover how the secret to happiness is in your mouth – namely through holistic dentistry. Dave continues:

Another anomaly: The convention is scheduled for two days- Saturday, Nov. 14th, Sunday, the 15th. However, apparently you can purchase a three-day pass! They do not give particulars, but it is ranked with the Gold Card Pass as far as its privileges are concerned.

I can only assume the 3rd day would be the dreaded Friday the 13th (insert hockey mask), and they just can't bring themselves to mention it.

I find triskaidekaphobia to be fascinating... and advantageous. When I fly, I try to pick row 13 because I'm more likely to have an empty seat next to me. No, I haven't done a study on this, but it sure seems to be accurate. I wonder why hotels often avoid having a 13th floor, but every golf course I've ever seen has a 13th hole. And imagine how much better Spinal Tap would be if their amps went to 13. BTW, I'm writing this from apartment 148.. which adds up to 13. But I digress... now on to the point of this article. Dave G.:

I'm chuckling here, because I just had a great idea for a T-shirt to wear while strolling among the various booths, and especially along the dozen "Intuitive Reader" tables:

Certified Psychic

Do you know where the restrooms are?

or
Where the $%&#**! are the restrooms?
or
"I'm getting a B, or maybe it's an R...
yes, it's an R...
does Restroom mean anything to anyone here?

Dave's idea for a shirt bears some consideration. How should we represent ourselves if we decide to attend conferences like this?

There is much debate in the skeptic community over the best approach for dealing with blind belief. One opinion, shared by Bob Park, Penn & Teller, and apparently Dave G. is that ridicule is good way to expose unsupported credulity. While I can find ridicule amusing (this Onion video was particularly poignant), I tend to take a different approach.

I attended UnivCon this past year. This is a conference dedicated to psychics and ghost hunting, and it was far from skeptical. I could have gone in and challenged the speakers, called BS on their conclusions, and made a general ruckus. But instead, I decided to be silent and just observe. For me, it was a research project and I needed to not influence the system so I could experience it.

On the last night, I let my colors fly. There was a party, and people were talking about ghosts they'd seen, and I revealed who I am. I was warmly received, and people came up to me and said "Hey, I'm a skeptic too!" Of course, their definition of "skeptic" and mine vary a bit, but instead of challenging them, I used the illusion of common ground to try to find some actual common ground. And I did. I was able to get a least a few people to admit that their evidence was weak, and though they really want to see something, they just don't have the proof yet. What more could I ask for?

So I put it to you: should skeptics attend these conferences, and if so, how should we represent ourselves? What kind of t-shirt would you wear? And is ridicule better than trying to find common ground?

 

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Taking on the psychics
written by MadScientist, March 05, 2009
A 'psychic convention' is probably the worst place to ridicule the psychics. That'd be like busting in on a fundamentalist christian congregation and telling them they're going to hell because they've got the wrong god.

Hmm. "Holistic dentistry", eh? I always wondered where that villain in a James Bond movie got the idea of embedding a diamond in his tooth. It's not such a great idea with Bond around though - he might whack your head against a glass panel and attempt to cut a hole.
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written by jonlindsay, March 05, 2009
"should skeptics attend these conferences, and if so, how should we represent ourselves?"

I go for the individualistic approach. Each person should handle it as he/she sees fit. Every approach is good. No single technique will work for everyone. Do what works for you.
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written by Don in Rochester MN, March 05, 2009
Am I the only one who noticed the Hyatt Regency is at 1300 Nicollet Mall? Or isn't that a problem, since it doesn't END in "13"? (I would think 1300 is 100 times worse than 13, but . . . .)
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written by Willy K, March 05, 2009
Here's a T-shirt slogan that might be too subtle for the true believers to understand. smilies/tongue.gif

I AM HERE FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY

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written by Mully410, March 05, 2009
I might check this thing out. I only live about 10 miles away. My approach might be to get a "reading" without saying anything or perhaps throw out some fake "tells." For example, wear a ring to imply I'm married. I might try to go with a friend of mine who believes literally every paranormal, chemtrail, reptilian, and 911 conspiracy. I doubt it would change his mind, but it will give me a chance to give him some crap about it.

All this may not happen, if it interferes with the deer hunting season. I wouldn't miss that for all the UFOs in the world.
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written by Fafara, March 05, 2009
I approve. I'm only a bus ride away from this event, so I may have to go too. smilies/grin.gif

Would it be in bad taste to wear a shirt to this saying "Psychics did 9/11?"
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written by daveg703, March 05, 2009
Re: Fafara
I favor the inquisitive, rather than the declarative, approach:
"Why didn't a single psychic give us warning of 9/11?"
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written by nelson650, March 05, 2009
What about "I knew about this convention 2 weeks before you did"
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Jeff Wagg
written by BillyJoe, March 06, 2009
I wonder why hotels often avoid having a 13th floor...


For hotels with 13 floors or more, there is always a 13th floor.
It's just labelled the 14th floor.
Why are triskaidekaphobiacs fooled by this?
They must know that, when they are on the 14th floor, they are actually on the 13th floor.

BJ
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written by mama1974, March 06, 2009
I wonder if any of these psychics will be able to predict the arrival of the skeptics. Will the "sooth-sayers" ambush the "nay-sayers"? Why don't they use their "gift" to call the skeptics and ask them not to attend. Wouldn't that be the "helpful/positive/peaceful/god-loving/sensitive" thing to do? Surely, with a psychic crowd this large, someone will have a clue and have an answering t-shirt printed with a map that shows where the bathrooms are, right?
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written by pxatkins, March 06, 2009
Jeff: "They must know that, when they are on the 14th floor, they are actually on the 13th floor."

Not necessarily. In Britain, for instance, the ground floor is the first floor, then the one above it is the second, etc. But psychics would know that, surely?

T-shirt: What's in its pocketssssss?"
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written by Newcoaster, March 06, 2009
There's an "alternative health" fair that passes through every year, but I haven't had the nerve to go to it yet. One, they charge $20 admission, and I don't want to give them any of my hard earned money. Two, similar to not going to a congregation of fundamentalist Christians and telling them they are delusional...the ones at these things tend to be believers, and their beliefs will be getting lots of reinforcement and peer support. Your best arguments will fall on deaf ears. Three...I'm afraid how many of my patients, or worse...colleagues I might see there!
I think an individual approach is best, and we are only ever going to have success with the fence sitters, not the faithful.
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written by daveg703, March 06, 2009
Re: Jeff, "And is ridicule better than trying to find common ground?

Hmm...But wouldn't common ground mean the vitiation of the skeptic's stance? As for the other side, wouldn't the same apply to their attitude of belief? We'd have, as in The Wizard Of Oz "a horse of a different color", but hardly one we could hitch our wagon to on the road to enlightenment.

As for the matter of T-Shirt slogans: While the quality of the contributions is admirably high, (as is to be expected), the number of submissions is disappointingly low. What might we offer to encourage the closet wits to reveal their talents? I'll give that some thought.
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written by Femke, March 07, 2009
Well, actually there is a booth 713, on the right. It looks like they wanted to have every line with the same end numbers, and x12 and x13 happened to be in the aisle.
Just my little nitpick.

T-Shirt contest: 'Yep, I know what you're thinking.'
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written by daveg703, March 07, 2009
Another anomaly: The convention is scheduled for two days- Saturday, Nov. 14th, Sunday, the 15th. However, apparently you can purchase a three-day pass!

I feel so foolish, not having realized earlier why I was baffled by this apparent discrepancy. Undoubtedly all the attending psychics that buy one will know exactly why they should do it. smilies/wink.gif
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written by BillyJoe, March 07, 2009
T-Shirt contest: 'Yep, I know what you're thinking.'
Yeah, Wet T-shirt Contest. smilies/smiley.gif

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written by daveg703, March 08, 2009
Yeah, the skeptics will be thinking, "No way are those real!" smilies/shocked.gif
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written by Steel Rat, March 10, 2009
"I knew you were gonna say that. And that too..."
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written by dr pepper, March 10, 2009
I SEE
DUMB
PEOPLE
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written by Fafara, March 18, 2009
On a somewhat related note, KSTP in Minneapolis is doing a story tonight about a possible link between a "natural" doctor and their patient's death. I'm sure the story will be up on http://kstp.com/ after it shows here.
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