Teresa Giménez Barbat: Skepticism in the Heart of Europe
October 28, 2017


Teresa Giménez Barbat of Barcelona is a member of the European Parliament, and before the attendees of CSICon 2017, she positioned herself squarely as an ally and advocate for skepticism and secularism. Her job, she said, is “to make skepticism and secularism heard in the heart of Europe.” While the issues she works on would …

Eugenie Scott on Changing Minds: Treat People Like a People, Not Symbols
October 28, 2017


You might have heard that it’s pretty hard to change people’s minds. I bet no one knows this better than skeptics who have the unenviable task of trying to dissuade society from buying into false and harmful beliefs that are nonetheless appealing and entrenched. Photo by Brian Engler A true favorite of the skeptic universe, …

Perceptions of Intent: Rob Brotherton on Conspiracy Theories
October 28, 2017


So, my help was suddenly needed at the CSICon AV station for the presentation by Rob Brotherton, author of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories, so I didn’t take notes about his talk, and instead pressed a button to switch camera angles for the video recording. Luckily, it was a really compelling talk that I …

A Real Human Being Named James Randi
October 28, 2017


James Randi couldn’t be at CSICon as planned because of a small stroke, and of course it’s disappointing. But to sate the skeptic appetite for amazingness, Massimo Polidoro recounted some of Randi’s greatest feats from generations ago. It’d be pointless for me to recount them for you here, especially since I can’t write in a …

Ross Blocher: Absorb the Dumb, Plant the Seed
October 28, 2017


Maybe it’s just a hobbyhorse of mine, but I’ve seen enough haughty skepticism that revels in “being right” rather than making things better for everyone. So when I’m exposed to new ways to approach skeptical activism isn’t purely about hostility, conflict, and fist-shaking, I’m intrigued. Even more so if it’s an overtly compassionate approach. One …

Everybody Plots All the Time! – Tanner Edis on Misinformation Outside the U.S.
October 28, 2017


Taner Edis gave a remarkably compelling and sobering talk this morning on how an advanced, modern society can find itself in thrall to conservative religious politics, baseless medical treatments, the institutional embrace of pseudoscience, the diminishment of secular expertise, and an embrace of conspiracy thinking and creationism. Oh, I’m sorry to mislead you. I was …

We Are Not Above Suckerhood: In Which I Present a Critical Thinking Award to Maria Konnikova
October 28, 2017


As I mentioned yesterday, it was my job to present the Balles Prize in Critical Thinking to Maria Konnikova for her book The Confidence Game, and that’s what I did. Oh, but unlike most of the rest of the conference, there will be no video record of my remarks, no historical record of the tears, …

Richard Dawkins and Richard Wiseman: “Jesus Wept!”
October 27, 2017


Richard Dawkins is rather unflappable, but I do suspect he wasn’t quite ready, at least at first, for questioning by Richard Wiseman, who, let’s face it, gets rather silly. Impish? Yes, I’d say so. Now, the conversation the two had on stage at CSICon 2017 was fun and fluid, with lots of great insights and …

Massimo Polidoro: The Ghosts of the Coliseum
October 27, 2017


Okay, so what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “fake news”? The ancient Romans of course! Wow, that was so not fair of me. Actually, the Romans have been the subject of historical fake news for millennia (I assume as much as any other empire), and today we heard …

Michael Mann: Let’s Not Jump Off a Cliff
October 27, 2017


Michael Mann has weathered more than his fair share of slings and arrows for his climate activism, and one year ago few expected that the projectiles would yet increase in size, velocity, and frequency. But here we are, fighting the same climate battle against the same entrenched interests, aided by a federal government that is …