Tag: Conference

Conferencing, Twitter-stylz


In what can only be called a piece of ecological terrorism, I am going to Singapore for a day to attend a conference on the status of Rumours. I will spend more time travelling than talking and part of me thinks this is very bad for the planet.

I’ll post details about the conference, the paper and suchlike tomorrow, when I’ve managed to convince myself that the desecration of the planet is a worthy price to pay for my paper on the epistemology of Rumours.

The Presentation

Well, the Skeptics Conference has been and gone. A complaint was made about me (but not really about the presentation); I’m apparently too young to be giving papers at a Skeptics Conference. I should come back in ten or twenty years time.

I would say that this is good evidence that this older member of the congregation needs a bit of critical thinking training.

The talk went well; there seemed to be less overt Climate Change Skepticism at the conference this year and so the slippery slope of the talk went unchallenged ((I’m thinking about giving a talk next year on teaching critical thinking skills; I am tempted to point out to them that the most obvious problem with the talk, the move from Peer Review Skepticism to Climate Change Skepticism, could have been challenged.)).

Still, I’m too young.

You can hear my thoughts on the conference in general on the bFM slot this weekend; I’m too tired at this point to wax lyrical about it. Still, you can enjoy a snippet of the conference by listening/watching the following; it is my talk in glorious black and white with associated mono sound. Due to some incompatibility with the movie plugin for this blog, you’ll have to click here to view (or right-click to download) the (Quicktime) movie.

There is also a PDF here.

And, for further enlightenment, you can listen to my talk (and others) as an MP3 here.

The Slippery Slope of Conspiracy Theories – Skeptics 2009

I’ve booked me tickets (as a posh pirate might say) for me trip to Wellington; Skeptics Conference 2009 here I come! Given the exclamation mark, a ‘thing’ I hardly like to employ in scribblings such as these (my pirate grammar is interfering with me normal speaky-writey transcription) it seems timely to post some more information about the when of the talk entitled ‘The Slippery Slope of Conspiracy Theories.’

The presentation is on Saturday the 26th at the pleasant time of 11:45am ((I say “pleasant” because last time they had me on first thing in the morning.)). I’ll blather on for about half an hour, offending some people (one person quite deliberately) and amusing others, before the brief fifteen minute window for questions (most of which will be used up by people asking overly long questions and get short replies).

Here is the draft programme for the conference; the topic and speakers, on the whole, seem much more interesting than last year’s offerings; I’m quite happy to be on after John Robinson’s talk on unwarranted skepticism in regards to Climate Change, because it feeds nicely into my talk and might even lend weight to a section of it, if the audience reaction goes the way I think it will.

I’m willing to take bets it will.

I’m both looking forward and not looking forward to the conference; I’m not the biggest fan of the so-called sceptics called ‘Skeptics;’ a lot of them are just really big fans of Science who don’t really know how it works. Whilst I’ll enjoy the trip down and the reconnection with the friends I made last time I probably won’t enjoy the predictable, naive empiricist-style questions that will have to be fielded by the other presenters and me.

I should point out that I don’t tend to enjoy attending conferences but I do enjoy presenting at them. I look forward to a world where I can present hologrammatically.

More news as it comes to hand.

On holograms.

And the conference.

Protest or Attend, that is a question

Over at Map’s place (which has a vibrant comments community) discussion goes on about the Uncensored Symposium and the consensus (admittedly not a scientific survey) is that attendance = bad; protest outside = good.

I’m not sure what to think about that.

I’ve never been much of a protester; I can count the number of protests I have been on with the fingers of one hand. In part this is because I don’t like crowds (one explanation for this is that my lack of peripheral vision makes being in a crowd an uneasy sensation) and in part I’m not necessarily convinced protests are the answer. An answer to some questions, yes, but not the be all and end all of reactions to things you don’t like.

Giovanni and Paul both agree that attending the actual forum means giving them money and giving them money is a bad thing.

And I agree. You hardly want to fund these people. That seems intuitively wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people like ourselves shouldn’t attend. It might be a necessarily evil act (or rather, if I am being philosophical, it might be a morally suspicious but not necessarily morally wrong act) to attend but that cost might be outweighed but some perceived benefit, i.e. the chance to debate these people.

A quality debate, however, needs both quality and certain quantity of people; if, say, I went and no one else like-minded did, then I would be the lone nut in the room (I speak from a little experience in re how I was ignored by certain members of the Skeptics after that conference last year) and thus I would be drowned out by the noise.

Ah, the noise of anti-semitism and racism…

I’m fully aware that the debating practices, if they can be called that, of people like DoutrĂ© is based upon the notion of the info dump; if I present a credible critique of his position he will be liable to then list factoid ((I use the term factoid to refer to something that is taken to be a fact when it is nothing of the kind.)) after factoid, drowning out my critique with excessive verbiage ((Which is how Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates work.)).

Which makes me think that attendance may not be the best option in the circumstances and, thus, you could, there is a credible case for not paying money to go; the cost and the style of debate would not be conducive to the aim of people like us ((If you are reader is is not a member of our special ‘academic other’ cabal, I apologise.)).

Yet turning up to the debate rather than simply protesting it seems to be a good in its own right. Doutré, Eisen, Gray; all these people claim that our silence and failure to debate them on the issues they think most critical shows that we are aware our positions are fatally flawed. Protesting will only confirm that view. Attending, even if we are seemingly defeated, may make the more duplicitous members a little more wary about presenting again.

Yet for organised resistance within the symposium to work you will need not just interested individuals but quality debaters; you will need rhetoricians who can play the game. Now, I consider that I am such a person, being both a critical thinker and a trained public speaker (due to years of speech therapy and speech and drama training) but I would, ideally, want a similarly qualified archaeologist, local historian, medical expert, et al. You would then want them to research their particular speaker, look at what they’ve argued in the past and what you would reasonably be expecting them to present at this symposium, et al.

It is, as they say in the trade ((And don’t they say it in the Trades… Thanks “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again.”)), a tall order.

Which is why I’m all for putting as many blocks in the way of the conference, of course. I think Map’s idea of approaching the city council about the use the hall is being put use to is superb and getting the anti-fluoride campaigners off-board, so to speak, could be a wonderful blow.

Maybe what this debate about the symposium shows, at least to me, is that we need an organisation of well-prepared intellectual types ready for the next ‘engagement.’ The ‘Rationalists and Humanists’ are definitely out; the Bill Cooke fiasco shows that they can’t be trusted to provide a spirited defense (and their lack of presence these days somewhat confirms that they are a dying organisation (which also seems to have become a libertarian article clearing house, in re the publication known as ‘The Open Society ((Karl Popper, I suspect, would not be pleased.))’). The ‘Skeptics…’ Well, whilst some of their membership seem on to it (I’m looking at you, Vicki Hyde) others are what I would describe as keen fans of science; they like science but aren’t particularly sure how it really works.

I.e. we should definitely make a secret society of our own. We can have a name, and badges and passwords and everything.

Which is where my thoughts end (temporally). I should probably get back to work; I have a table to make.