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Report from Phoenix Skepticamp PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Don Lacey, known to chat room and forumites as AZAtheist, recently attended the Phoenix SkeptiCamp. I'll let him tell the story:

The meeting was held in Discovery Hall on the Arizona State University Campus with about 20 people attending. This was the fifth SkeptiCamp based on a conference concept called BarCamp which Reed Esau adopted for Skeptics. Obviously, Jim had put a lot of work into making this SkeptiCamp happen. Due to the sponsorship from Skeptics Society/Skeptic magazine, James Randi Educational Foundation, and Center for Skeptical Inquiry/Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the cost was free. Actually, it was better than free. In addition to the free T-shirts, there were books and magazines available for all the participants.

Jim Lippard began by talking about SkeptiCamp. The first rule of SkeptiCamp is that you talk about SkeptiCamp. BarCamp has 8 rules and the skeptics' version adds 9th rule: "Prepare to back up all stated claims."

There was a live blog being recorded by Tony Barnhart (Magic Tony); replay it and catch all the comments from the Blogosphere that occurred during the meeting.

Notable attendees included: Michael A. Stackpole of the Phoenix Skeptics on "Practical Techniques for Street Skepticism," John Lynch on "Academic Freedom and Intelligent Design," and Tony Barnhart on "Methods of the Pseudo-Psychic."

Briefly, the presentations included:

  • Skeptics for Dummies-an introduction to skepticism.
  • Teaching Small Children-Comparison of an example of how a preschool was doing the right things with a second grade public school class.
  • Street Skepticism-Mike Stackpole relayed how best to keep engaged with non-skeptics.
  • The Difference Between Skepticism and Denial
  • Some Words Important to Skepticism-Skeptic, Critical Thinking, Cynic, Observation, Theory and Paradigm.
  • A Discussion on Skeptical Dating-Desirable characteristics of a dating partner and what might be considered "deal breakers".
  • The Positive Side of Misinformation-an attempt to show how bad information might be beneficial.
  • A Review of Thinking as a Science by Henry Hazlitt
  • Academic Freedom and Intelligent Design-John Lynch compared and contrasted the approaches of Evolution Science and Intelligence Design.
  • Methods of the Pseudo-Psychic-Tony Barnhart talked about the techniques used by psychics such as cold reading.
  • Why I Am a Skeptic-referenced "A New Kind of Science" by Stephen Wolfram
  • Pleasure and Happiness Model-Creating Skeptical Happiness

This was a great crowd and the discussions were lively, educational, and entertaining. I was impressed that the age of the group tended to be, on average, in the recent graduate/graduate student range (with a few outliers like me). It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Thanks for the report Don! Grassroots meetings like this are springing up all over the place, and from all reports, people are having a great time. If you have an event you'd like to promote, drop me a line at jeff@randi.org.

 

 

 

 

 

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Go National?
written by Realitysage, April 02, 2009
Skeptics in every state should organize a Skepticamp. Even one for kids. It might be one of the few places where they could get a lesson on critical thinking. But it's gotta be fun.
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BarCamp is a worldwide phenomenon; Skepticamp could be as well
written by Reed, April 02, 2009
Like BarCamp, Skepticamp is about tearing down the barriers to having events, opening up geographical locations that a typical conference would never reach.

There have been BarCamps in over 350 cities around the world since its inception in 2005. Where ever there are skeptics, be in on a small campus or in a developing nation, a user-driven event should be within their grasp.
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written by nelson650, April 02, 2009
Errrr....You guys don't see the "cultish" aspect of all of this?
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written by Reed, April 02, 2009
Cultish aspect? How so?

Indulge me, as I'm genuinely curious.
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written by lippard, April 03, 2009
I'm with Reed. Which aspects of the Steve Hassan BITE model of cults (http://www.freedomofmind.com/r...s/BITE.htm) or of the Isaac Bonewits Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF, http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html) do you see involved here?

When I planned SkeptiCamp Phoenix, I invited a number of participants who do not consider themselves skeptics, of which one actively participated and asked some good challenging questions. We also had a lively discussion about whether denialists count as skeptics--I argued that to the extent they challenge mainstream views and demand better explanations, they do, but they're not being skeptics when they engage in conspiratorial thinking and refuse to treat their own theories to the same evaluation.

My view of skepticism is that skeptics don't need to agree on much of anything; skepticism is a method of doubt, not a dogma about what to believe. Most (but not all) modern skeptics give priority to the methods, institutions, and body of knowledge that is known as science, but skepticism is all about challenging those things as well, in order to promote further revision and improvement in not only our knowledge but out tools.

I see SkeptiCamp as a way of getting more active participation in skepticism and critical thinking, not more passive acceptance.

So please, elaborate on your concern...
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written by Steel Rat, April 13, 2009
No comment on the content of the article, but about the layout of articles recently.

Why are the quoted sections separated by white sections at the paragraph breaks? Why not keep a single quoted section, regardless of the number of paragraphs, as a single blue block? It's disconcerting to view it in the current manner. Looks like a bunch of quotes just strung together, when in fact it's a single quote. Are you guys using the cite tag instead of blockquote? Cite has the annoying attribute of stopping after a blank line.
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