My Psychic Scam Letter to CSICon: Presenting the Balles Prize for Critical Thinking
October 23, 2019


On Friday night at CSICon 2019 in Las Vegas, I presented the Balles Prize in Critical Thinking to reporters Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken for their book A Deal with the Devil, which was about the infamous “Maria Duval scam,” in which a fake psychic scammed people out of millions of dollars through very personal-seeming …

Julia Sweeney Opens Up at CSICon
October 19, 2019


The last presentation of Saturday at CSICon 2019 came in the form of a monologue from the delightful Julia Sweeney, the beloved actor and comedian who recently joined the board of the Center for Inquiry. It was only the first half or so of the complete production, time limitations being what they are, but it …

The Belief Barrier: Moving an Immovable Object at CSICon
October 19, 2019


After his presentation at CSICon 2019, the great actor John de Lancie referred to Q, the cosmic superbeing he played in the Star Trek franchise, as “a god with clay feet,” an entity of incredible power but lacking the character to use it in any meaningful way.  It’s a telling observation on de Lancie’s part, as I …

Skeptics of CSICon: A Tight and Clever Pack
October 19, 2019


Many skeptics know what it is to feel alone. If you’re the only parent in your social circle who accepts the science of vaccines, or you’re an atheist in a deeply religious family, or you’re the bubble-burster to refuses to concede that your friend spoke to their dead relative through a psychic medium, a skeptic …

Flaws, Courage, and Conviction at CSICon
October 19, 2019


If nothing else, to be a skeptic is to be willing to accept the universe as it is. That’s not the same as being apathetic or content with the status quo, but it does mean that we have to start with the facts as they are, not as we would have them be. So if …

Don’t Blame Yourself: Exposing Deflection and Shame at CSICon
October 18, 2019


Did you know that it’s all your fault? For women, if they’re not living their best life, it’s because they’re buying unwholesome, unnatural products. Also, any hardships their children face are because they didn’t breastfeed them enough. Oh, and climate change? That’s also your fault because you took a plane to get to CSICon. On …

Kickstarting the Inquiry at CSICon
October 18, 2019


I have to admit, it’s hard to feel any sense of joy about being a skeptic when you think about the fact that fake news and misinformation pervade the media and drive our national discourse, and that fake medicine and fake doctors are being legitimized by the government at every level.  No one knows fake …

Who is Doing the Pointing? CSICon Watches the Watchers
October 18, 2019


Who watches the watchers? The morning session for CSICon 2019 featured three speakers who all, in their own ways, asked us to consider where the information we take in is actually coming from and what it is we’re doing with that information once we’ve got it. The implications are incredibly significant.  Behavioral scientist Gordon Pennycook …

CSICon 2019 versus the Fantasy-Industrial Complex
October 18, 2019


In Post-Truth America, at a time when “modern secular government is in greater jeopardy than ever before,” as CFI board chair Eddie Tabash put it at the CSICon 2019 opening reception, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The kickoff of this year’s CSICon was a kind of diagnosis of …

The Substance of CSICon
October 17, 2019


The opening reception of CSICon takes place tonight, Thursday night, but despite it being the “official opening” of the conference, much of the substance of CSICon will have already been well underway. Naturally, most of the splashy attention surrounding CSICon focuses on the big presentations and events in huge ballrooms, but for the folks who …