November 4, 2016
Can one be simultaneously dazzled and disabused?
Indulging in flights of fancy and grounded in reality?
Nostalgic and future-focused?
The evidence suggests the answer to all of these is yes. CSICon 2016, which took place last week in Las Vegas, contained multitudes.
There was a multitude of amazing speakers covering a multitude of enlightening and thought-provoking subjects. Just for a sampling, SETI’s Jill Tarter talked about the very real possibilities for life beyond Earth; Paul Offit took on the scourge of opioid addiction; Bertha Vazquez and Eugenie Scott pushed back against the resistance to evolution education; Maria Konnikova showed how con artists use storytelling to ply their trade; Kevin Folta and Kavin Senapathy fought antiscience fear-mongering in food and agriculture; Ron Lindsay reminded us why it remains so necessary to challenge Bigfoot and UFO beliefs; and Joe Nickell exemplified the conscience of investigative skepticism. And much, much more.
There was a multitude of deep thoughts and key insights. On two separate nights, two giants of skepticism, Richard Dawkins and James Randi, sat for what proved to be fascinating and intimate conversations about journeys of the past, challenges of the present, and hopes for the future.
There was a multitude of laughs, as George Hrab fully mastered all ceremonies with wit, music, and an infectious enthusiasm; folks bravely tried their hand at Weird Al’s craft with parody “skeptioke” performances; and Zombie Donald Trump threatened to invalidate the Halloween party.
One could go on. And CSICon is about more than the events themselves, more than the sum of its parts. It was hundreds of smart, friendly, curious, kind people getting together in a truly fantastical location, and connecting. CSICon was a great success, not just because of the conference itself, but because everyone left wiser, happier, and more enlightened than when they arrived.
For more summaries of many of the great talks, browse through CFI Live at CSICon.