TAM7 – Part 2

About 10 minutes into Joe Nickell’s workshop, we began to hear a disembodied voice. It was, though, immediately obvious to everyone that a technical malfunction had occurred and we were simply hearing the audio from the workshop in the next room (it helped that what we first heard was the voice of DJ Grothe thanking Jamy Ian Swiss for his introduction). This didn’t stop Joe, or anyone else, from having fun with the malfunction. Comments about poltergeists brought laughter and Joe glibly noted that ‘you can’t fake evidence like that – if you could, why would you?’

Nickell’s workshop focused on investigative strategies with examples from some of his investigations over his 40-year career as an investigator (not debunker) of the paranormal. The general theme was that skeptics need to be respectful, thorough investigators who resist the temptation to quickly reach conclusions. Addressing the burden of proof and the all-too-common argument from ignorance, he urged skeptics to avoid the trap of shifting the burden of proof.

Nickell is a well-respected investigator, an engaging speaker and someone I have a great deal of respect for. I’m not sure that we see eye-to-eye on a few things, but that’s probably because we’re different people working on different things. If I were busy investigating paranormal claims, I can think of no one better to emulate.

There’s a reception tonight at 5 and then we’ll be going to the Jamy Ian Swiss/Mac King/Banachek show at 8pm…and, I’m sure there will be plenty of partying later this evening.

TAM7 – Part 1

I arrived around 7pm on Wednesday night but Beth was forced, by weather, to take a later flight, so I headed over to the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa and got us registered. I had a couple of hours to kill and I found myself at the Del Mar lounge in the hotel with a few dozen of TAM’s early arrivers. A few fans of the show pulled me aside and we had a great time talking about TAM, The Atheist Experience, magic and a few other subjects. Daniel (Gizmo in the Non-Prophets chat) was there and graciously offered to drive me to the airport to pick up Beth (saving me a few dollars and making me a very happy man), and that was the end of the (public) Night One festivities.

We registered this morning (Thursday), a quick and painless process thanks to some hard work on the part of the organizers. We got our information packets, badges, tickets to events, a T-shirt and a JREF Sharpie. Some people might not be very excited about a Sharpie, but I was.

As I write this, Beth and I are sitting outside the Sonoma conference room, waiting for the doors to open so we can attend our first workshop: DJ Grothe and Jamy Ian Swiss discussing skepticism and magic. This was one of two workshops that I was really looking forward to…unfortunately, the other workshop that I was most looking forward to (Joe Nickell) was scheduled for the same timeslot.

I went back and forth on which event I was going to attend and finally decided that, despite the fact that I’d be seeing Jamy several times over the week, I’d go to that workshop. As it turns out, I waited too long, forgot to register us for the workshop ahead of time, the workshop with DJ and Jamy was sold out and so we’re just starting the workshop with Joe Nickell.

I’m not disappointed, as I wanted to go to this workshop as well…but there’s a lesson to be learned about planning, though I doubt I’ve actually learned it. :)

And now, I turn my attention to Joe…more later.

Attention, every atheist alive: Why aren’t we ignoring Ray?

“For frak’s sake, what’s the point?” That’s all the reaction I can muster to the news we’ve been getting from a jillion folks via email, to the effect that Ray Comfort, The World’s Stupidest Christian™, has agreed to debate noted science YouTuber thunderf00t. No disrespect to thunderf00t, whose videos are among the best I’ve seen. But really, bud, talk about tilting at windmills.

That thunderf00t will clean Ray’s clock is irrelevant, because Ray is the most egregiously dishonest person alive. What will happen will be the same thing that happened when Ray and his pal Kirk Cameron debated the Rational Response Squad on ABC some time back. Ray will make inane points, thunderf00t will decisively and unequivocally refute them, and then Ray will simply ignore everything thunderf00t said and repeat the limp arguments that were just blasted to smithereens by his opponent. Of course, Ray and Kirk looked like the dumbasses they are coming out of the RRS debate. The point is, they didn’t, and couldn’t, notice.

Ray, apart from being The World’s Stupidest Christian™, is, more succinctly, a narcissist and a liar. And as he himself, perhaps ironically, has pointed out, the only reason he has any prominence at all is due to atheists. The unplumbed depths to which he allows his fractal wrongness to sink have been red meat to us, and a lot of us have bitten. But the net result of that has been to give Ray the validation he wants. If atheists are so fierce about attacking every moronic utterance Ray spews, then, obviously, that means he’s got us scared and circling the wagons! Right? Uh-huh.

So, frankly, any “debate” with this supreme idiot will be a farcical waste of time, because Ray isn’t interested in truth (as in the “verifiable, objective facts” definition of the term), just his own brand of fundagelical truthiness. And these little charades simply pump up his ego by reinforcing his ego-gratifying need to believe that the simple fact atheists want to take him on proves he’s right. The content of the debate is irrelevant. That it’s happening at all is, to him, victory.

So can we just forget this cretin already? He ought to be relegated to the obscurity he richly deserves. Let him end up evangelizing at one of those non-denominational congregations that meet in half-empty strip malls in the dodgy part of town. It’s where he deserves to be.

TAM7 on the horizon

The Amaz!ng Meeting 7 starts in one week and I will, finally, be in attendance!

My flight is scheduled to arrive in Las Vegas next Wednesday evening and while I haven’t tried to get myself invited to all the best parties, I’ve managed to book the key events and make preparations to try to make a few blog posts while I’m there.

Some of my more grandiose plans have been shelved as my Real Job (TM) has managed to suck up all of the time I would have used to arrange them; but I’m thrilled that my first week-long vacation in many years (maybe 15?) will be spent at my first TAM. As if that wasn’t already sweet enough, it’s also the first ‘proper’ vacation with my girlfriend.

I found out that the Thursday night event has been changed. Originally, the event was a double-billing of magic and mentalism with Jamy Ian Swiss and The Great Tomsoni & Co. The magic geeks out there already know how good this show would have been. John Thomson is a legend (and not just for his hair) and Jamy Ian Swiss is a true master of his craft.

I was really looking forward to watching two of magic’s elite performing together. Unfortunately, Johnny Thomson had to cancel. I would have been perfectly happy to watch Jamy perform alone but, to my great surprise, they’ve managed to fill the vacancy with not one, but two of my favorites: Mac King and Banachek (of Project Alpha fame…for you non-magic-geek skeptics out there).

I was already planning on taking Beth to see Mac King (and we’ll still go…I never miss his show when I’m in Las Vegas) but this triple-threat show is one I’m really looking forward to.

And while we’ll also be going to Penn & Teller’s show on Sunday night, the entire week won’t be spent hopping from one magic show to another – we’re going to be at the premiere skeptic’s convention. There will be plenty of educational and entertaining talks and workshops, a talent show, a live testing of an applicant for the million dollar challenge, plenty of partying and socializing (check out the event schedule)…and Beth and I have a full day on either side of the conference to relax, explore and enjoy.

Yes, I’m boasting…and I don’t feel the slightest bit bad about it. You should come!

If you’re at TAM and happen to spot me, don’t be shy! Come on over and say hello – even if you hate the work I’ve done on our shows. :)

Obviously I can’t promise to give regular updates (I might be having too much fun encounter problems with internet access), but I’m going to try.