Skepticamp thoughts

Bad Astronomy
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March 24 2008 9:20 AM

Skepticamp thoughts

Yesterday I went to Skepticamp, where people gather to talk about skeptical topics. First off, a few others have already chimed in about: Hot Chicks Dig Smart men, Skepchick, and Richorman (who posted pix), notably.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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The event is a loosely organized series of talks, basically. There were roughly a dozen ranging from 20 minute to the last one, which ran long at nearly two hours but which was fun nonetheless. I think my favorite was from Joel Albietz, a doctor who works at an infant ICU ward; he talked about the total and utter lack of a connection between vaccines and autism. His talk basically vaporizes all the claims of this sad movement which says that vaccines are causing this tragic childhood problem. Joel showed a large number of well-done graphs and statistics showing that autism rates continue to climb even well after thimerosol was removed from vaccines, and still went up for years even after some populations stopped taking vaccines -- and of course, ravaging illnesses made a big comeback after the vaccinations stopped. There's no way to overstate this: vaccinations are one of if not the biggest medical triumph of all time. Smallpox killed more than 300 million people in the 20th century, and it is now gone. Gone.

In general, I think Skepticamp is a good idea. I almost wish it were either more organized, with time allotments more strictly controlled and more specific things to do, or less organized, allowing more interaction and congenial dialogue (though there was some of that). While the talks were good and quite enjoyable, sitting in a chair all day can be tough. I'd like to see more hands-on work too, with people doing things rather than absorbing info.

For example, Crystal Yates-White talked about a fledgling non profit called Fund for Thought, which will be a non-profit central clearing house for skepticism. Her talk was brief, and I wonder if breakout groups discussing ways to grow such an organization wouldn't have been fun and very useful.

But that's neither here nor there. It was a fun and informative way tosp[end a day, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend attending one of these events. If you're local to the Denver area, join through the Denver Skeptics meetup group. There are other skeptics groups as well you can find through that site.

Skepticism individually is great, but multiplies geometrically through contact with others.

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