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published by Dave_Clark on Mon, 11/03/2014 - 15:00

One magician presented, in our opinion, the best talk of the convention. Jamy Ian Swiss, a world-renown prestidigitator, spoke about the distinctions between skepticism, atheism and, to a lesser extent, humanism. The crowd of about a thousand skeptics roared with approval when he recounted stories of the harms of faith-healing, the nonsense of non-scientific anti-vaccination proponents and the dangers of replacing a belief in deities with a belief in anything but science. Other speakers shared their views or research about such topics as (to name a few): the dangers of confirmation-bias among practicing scientist, the way society and life have improved in step with the progress of science since the enlightenment, the ongoing creation/evolution fight, and the pitfalls of some of the brain’s perceptual illusions.

It was exhilarating to be surrounded by people who not only love science, but are passionate about using it to help improve the world and protect ourselves and our fellow citizens from the false and oft-alluring claims of pseudo-science and mysticism. Oh, and it was nice to drive there and see the Grand Canyon, the Colorado Rockies and Monument Valley along the way. Sometimes the world is simply awesome to behold.

Later in the summer we three attended the Energy open house at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL. I don’t know how many people were in attendance, but it seemed like a thousand, and we saw cars in the visitor parking lot from several states away. We had a fantastic day, traipsing around the laboratory campus to the various buildings and exhibits. Each building or pavilion had several scientists, often standing next to some fascinating-looking piece of their research, whether a 10-gallon glass jar of diesel-fuel producing bacteria, a fleet of commercial electric and hybrid cars festooned with a mind-boggling array of sensors and probes, or the naked cores of super-cooled electro-magnets extracted from the particle accelerator used to light up the Advanced Photon Source. We were enthralled with the possibilities these dedicated men and women are bringing to light.

Tags : News Letter

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