Next month, in Toronto, the science-fiction/fantasy fan conference Polaris 25 will feature a small skeptical track sponsored by the Centre For Inquiry and its Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism. The four speakers will present on a range of skeptical topics and it will serve as a small experiment into outreach to a broader community of science enthusiasts (only three are listed on the site because of delays in publication). This has been very successful at Dragon Con in Atlanta for the past several years and CASS hopes to continue this trend up in Canada.
The speakers include: University of Toronto Biochemistry Professor Larry Moran, author of the very popular Sandwalk blog, who will speak on “What’s the Difference Between Science and Science Fiction,” University of Waterloo Computer Science Professor Jeffrey Shallit who’s expertise in the creation/intelligent design debate will be brought to bear in his talk “”Misinformation Theory: How Creationists Abuse Mathematics,” biologist Chris Hassall, who joins CASS from the Merseyside Skeptics, the creators of the 10-23 campaign, will speak on “The Evolution of Superstition: People, PCs and Pigeons,” and Alex Manafu, a PhD candidate from the University of Western Ontario specializing in the philosophy of science will ask the question “”Could Science Prove the Existence of God? (Or, Must Science Be Naturalistic?)”
Polaris 25 takes place from July 15th to the 17th at the Sheraton Parkway North in Toronto. 25 years ago the event was inaugurated to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Star Trek series on television and was names Toronto Trek. Since then, it has been renamed Polaris, and has expanded to include all aspects of the science fiction and fantasy genres.
While skeptical writings and promotion can exist in a large echo chamber of like minded individuals, CASS feels it is important to bring the message of the benefits of critical thinking and the scientific method of inquiry to the larger public and events like Polaris give us this opportunity. As well, Polaris takes place at the same time as The Amazing Meeting 9, TAM9 from Outer Space, in Las Vegas, so it will give Toronto skeptics a chance to have a smaller gathering if they are unable to attend what has become one of the largest gatherings of skeptics in the world today.
It was convenient for CASS to stage this first outreach project in Toronto as that is where the majority of members are from, but it should not stop other CFI branches or individuals in Canada from organizing a skeptical track for their own local fan conferences in order to reach out to the broader public. If you would like help in organising these events, please contact us at CASS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original Image of Polaris by Velo Steve via Creative Commons