Sunday, June 29, 2008

Outside of the scientific and skeptic community, TAM6 and some of the names I mentioned in my first post may seem obscure. Most folks know Penn & Teller and Adam Savage (from Mythbusters). A few others might recognize Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson from his work on PBS.

The Amazing Meeting is basically an annual gathering of skeptics preaching the scientific method, understanding and using critical thinking skills, and maintaining a naturalistic world view. It was nice to be with large group of folks who don’t easily accept the existence of ghost, alien visitations, ESP and other ridiculous pseudoscience & supernatural beliefs. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” was a praise thrown around quite a bit.

I know this all sounds a little preachy, but we live in culture in which over half do not believe, or seriously question, evolution. According to a recent poll in Newsweek, when given a multiple choice quiz, 25% of Americans managed not to correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Scientific literacy in this country is an embarrassment, and it drives me batty at times. It was nice to attend the conference to remind myself that there are other rational people out there, and lots of them.

Finally, I was 13 when I saw James “the Amazing” Randi, on prime time television, demonstrate the use of critical thinking and scientific of controls to dispel the so-called physic abilities of a young man claiming to move the pages of a phone book using only his mind (he was blowing). As I mentioned, I credit Randi with planting the seeds of rationalism early on. So, going to The sixth annual Amazing Meeting (TAM6), and getting to meet James Randi in his later years, was a pretty big deal for me.

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