Originally post July 10, 2013
The Amazing Meeting. As noted by the likes of Dr. Steven Novella, it is the premiere skeptical conference in the English speaking (and probably the entire) world. Skeptics from Australia to Norway gather for lectures, talks, panel discussion, and socializing for four days on the outskirts of sin city, Las Vegas, Nevada. A lot of podcast material is typically generated from TAM. The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe records a live episode before a conference room audience. Other podcasts usually engage in prodigious amounts of interview recording if not outright recording their own episodes while the skeptics congress. One can always bank on five or six interviews from TAM being shared on the Skeptic Zone for weeks to months after the event is concluded. Skeptics in blogs and podcast will share how invigorated are their skeptical batteries, and skeptical spirits uplifted by 1500 or so like minded folks sharing a resort for a long week. I suspect this year will not be any different. This is what a successful conference is supposed to do, which is as it ought to be.
As someone who awaits the prodigious amounts of material created at TAM to make its way to the wonderful world of podcasts, I have some optimism that some new and undiscovered or little known attendee gets to spotlight their activity on an already popular podcast. I enjoy hearing an interview of the likes of Drs. Phil Plait or Eugenie Scott, but I am sure out of 1,500 attendees a “Terry Smythe” from “Capitol City” might have a project that is really interesting and deserving of attention and support. I hope the audience question portion of the SGU is not cut but left in on the show and some bright and challenging questions are asked of the Rogues. I expect new projects to be sparked by attendees gathering in person. As far as I can fathom, the Virtual Skepticsare a product of TAM attendees deciding to pull a ‘Hey Kids! Let’s put on a show’ andDoubtful News is a similar product of skeptics who met at TAM deciding to start a website.
I fear, as is the current fashion, someone will get offended at something said at a lecture, or a rousing debate on an actual topic worthy of discussion turns from lively to ugly and unproductive. I hope T.A.M. does not inadvertently catalyze a round of boycotts, requests for resignations, and demands made upon organizations to change their errant ways.
I am well aware that Skeptics are free thinkers. Of course a room full of people who pride themselves on exercising rationalism are going to disagree. The trick is to stick by one’s own convictions while maintaining a bit of humility that you might be wrong and the other person just might have a point. So instead of TAM as an event that spawns blog posts and counter blog posts with long, winding angry threads, perhaps the aggrieved should think twice before pushing the send button. Instead read a book or play with the cat, and take a breather before starting an internet skirmish. These scrapes tend to block out all the positives generated at TAM not just for the attendees but for skeptics who did not attend where it appears that it’s another shit storm fomented by another conference. Anyway, I wish I was attending.