Over the past week I saw two incredible sights, the first was the Grand Canyon (pictures don’t do it justice) and the second was a gathering of over 1300 skeptics in a Las Vegas hotel. (Or was that three?)
For the past 8 years the James Randi Educational Foundation (aka the JREF) has hosted a gathering for skeptics called The Amazing Meeting (aka TAM). Every year it has grown in popularity to the point where it is now the biggest, and dare I say most important, skeptical meeting of the year. This year was the first year to also benefit from the participation of the United States’ other two national skeptical organization CSI (formerly CSICOP) and the Skeptics Society.
This was the third year in a row that I have attended TAM. Like each year before it I had a blast attending interesting lectures and panels, getting my picture taken with skeptical “celebrities“, meeting new people, and catching up with friends I met online or at previous TAMs.
The purpose of this post is to share my experience of TAM8 and hear from other Canadians (or Canuckophiles) about their experiences. If you couldn’t make it this year, what did you miss the most?
I know that there were a lot of Canadians at TAM this year, I saw a good number of them at the meetup in one of the Casino’s bars. People were also constantly discussing how Canada seemed to be over represented (statistically speaking), yay!
My personal highlights from this year’s TAMs were:
- Being able to meet Simon Singh and thank him for Trick or Treatment, a book that somehow made a family member of mine give up homeopathy. He also gave a great talk about his case with the BCA and his efforts to amend British libel laws, this rightly deserved him a standing ovation.
- The global warming panel on Sunday morning was very educational. Global warming is an issue that has unnecessarily divided people in the skeptical movement. I thought that panel’s supporters of the AGW theory (like Canada’s Daniel Loxton) did a great job supporting the case for global warming.
- Learning to juggle with Joe Nickell. He didn’t teach me, he was just standing next to me at the juggling workshop with me for a couple hours trying to keep 3 balls in the air. Sorry Joe for constantly (but accidentally) throwing my balls at you!
- Meeting Carol Tavris, the co-author of Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me. This book is a must read for not just skeptics, but everyone. It is the only book that I have forced nearly everyone in my family to read.
- Steve Cuno’s presentation on how to influence people. It’s his third year in a row giving a talk about skepticism and marketing and never fails to be one of the best talks of the show. Choice quote: “You don’t turn a light on in someone’s head by using a baseball bat.”
- Meeting Canadian skeptics for the first time like the guys behind the new Canadian skeptic web comic The Placebo Effect and Skeptic North’s very own Ethan Clow from Radio Freethinker.
- Recording a live session of my podcast The Reality Check. Unlike fellow Canadian podcasters Desiree and Ethan, my show is not usually recorded in front of a live audience, so this was a special treat. On Friday night we not only recorded in front of a live studio audience (just like Family Matters) but we were also joined by the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe’s Jay Novella. And look! It’s already available for download, how did that happen?
Another interesting phenomenon at the show was there was more serious chatter about hosting a similar event in Canada. The JREF is about to host their second TAM in London and their first in Australia. Why not Canada?
As a start I think it would help if various cities were to organize SkepiCamps. These are one day conferences organized by ordinary skeptics with talks contributed by ordinary skeptics. Vancouver has already hosted what I’ve heard was a very successful event this year and it looks like Edmonton has one on the way. And if I have my way, Ottawa will have one in the near future too.
What do people want from a future Canadian meetup? Which cities would you like to see host a SkeptiCamp? Should we work to get existing conventions like Toronto’s FanExpo to include a skeptic track (like the one at Dragon*Con)? Can we dare to dream about a TAM Canada?
Share your thoughts about TAM past and future