Playing Gracefully with Ideas: Stephen Fry, Evolution, and Da Vinci at CSICon 2018
October 20, 2018


Massimo Polidoro described a certain someone as “a precious jewel” of a person, someone whose company and insights were sought by the wisest of leaders. This person “swam upstream,” eschewing fads and seeking to discover the truths and communicate those truths to others. This incredible human being exemplifies the term “Renaissance person.” Now, Polidoro was …

It’s Always Been a Matter of Trust: Tokens of Efficacy at CSICon 2018
October 20, 2018


Who do you trust? I suppose the default response of a skeptic could be “no one,” at least until particular claims can be verified. I may go without saying, however, that the answer “no one” also applies to conspiracy theorists and others who buy into various forms of pseudoscience. They also probably think that they …

Improving the Narrative: Enlightenment and Illusions at CSICon 2018
October 20, 2018


I want to believe. Not in UFOs (okay, I want to believe in them a little), but in the power of enlightenment and the better angels of our nature. I want to believe that humans have the power to overcome the limitations of our narrowly focused senses and use our squishy little brains to bring …

False Beliefs Handled with Care at CSICon 2018
October 19, 2018


As the Friday morning presentations came to a close at CSICon 2018, our ebullient emcee George Hrab commented, “I love that the theme today is understanding.” I had been thinking the same thing. This is a thing with me, it’s like some lobe in my brain is triggered to deliver squirts of dopamine whenever its …

Outside-the-Box Skepticism: Welcome to CSICon 2018
October 19, 2018


CSICon is always a big deal. We wouldn’t crow about it so much if it wasn’t. We call it things like “the premier skeptics’ event” and whatnot because it happens to be true! So even given the cascade of well-earned superlatives we (okay, I) use to describe CSICon year after year, it’s already obvious that …

Joe Schwarcz, Your Friendly Neighborhood Skeptic
October 29, 2017


There was something about Joe Schwarcz that I couldn’t quite put my finger on as I watched his presentation today, in which he recounted some highlights from his career as a science communicator, spanning four decades. I have only a passing familiarity with his work, and I’ve never even seen him give a talk before, …

The Chats That Matter: Wrapping Up CSICon 2017
October 29, 2017


I’m missing the final day of CSICon activity, because I must return to my home planet of Maine in the Nova Anglia system. And those are very long rides, what with the limits of physics and whatnot. But now I have a chance to reflect on the conference. Coming into CSICon 2017, there was a …

Kavin Senapathy on the Food Babe and Fear Mongering
October 28, 2017


Kavin Senapathy came to talk about fear. First of all, she made sure we knew that Kavin is pronounced like “coven,” as in a coven of witches, so, more fear. But Senapathy is less concerned with being afraid of mispronouncing her name than with the fear that enriches food-purity zealots like “Food Babe” Vani Hari. “Fear …

Sheldon Helms on Gay Conversion Therapy: “This Shit Doesn’t Work”
October 28, 2017


It’s genuinely upsetting when one is reminded of the cruelty visited upon gays and lesbians who are forced or coerced into conversion therapy. Experimental psychology professor Sheldon Helms came to CSICon to educate us about this gruesome phenomenon, and remarkably was able to do so with remarkably good humor, but without dismissing the gravity of …

A Conversation, Not a Lecture, with the Science Moms
October 28, 2017


Alison Bernstein in Science Moms The attendees of CSICon 2017 had the privilege of being the first audience for Science Moms, a new documentary that illustrates the challenge for mothers who want to do what’s best for their kids, but are beset by pseudoscience and paranoia about things like “chemicals” and GMOs. Through interviews with five such …