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Posts tagged ‘JREF’

TAM 2013 recap episode of the ‘Atheists Today’ show

(Mes amis: yes, I know, this post is a little odd/out of order, as I haven’t yet had an opportunity to write about my (wonderful) experience at TAM 2013, but, considering that the topic of this post is somewhat time-sensitive, I wanted to get it up here as soon as possible. I’ll start working on a TAM recap, soon, though. Anyway, onward!)

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Last night, a few fellow TAM-ers/friends and myself were on a TAM 2013-recap-themed episode of the Atheists Today show, hosted by DW Adams. If you weren’t able to listen live, head over to the episode’s webpage, where you can listen to it on your own time (via the embedded player), or download it directly (.mp3 file), or download it from the iTunes store.

Throughout the show, we had a lot of fun chatting and telling stories, and we also discussed some of the excellent talks and presentations that we saw and how they inspired us and motivated us to do something good, useful, positive, important, real, etc. It’s so important to do something, to use our skills (whatever they may be) in some way and in some context in order to make things happen. We also discussed some of the tools (mostly internet-based) that were brought up in various TAM sessions, many of which “work behind the scenes” (so to speak), providing, in one way or another, subtle but necessary support as we engage in whatever form of skepticism/skeptical activism fulfills our passions and fits us best.

During the show, whenever any of us thought of a talk or a tool that we wanted to make note of, I added the relevant url to the show’s chat box. Later, DW posted them in the episode’s show notes. I’ll add some of them to this post, too, along with a couple of others (these aren’t necessarily in any particular order- they’re just links to/information about *some* of the things that the three of us were most excited by/inspired by/motivated by at TAM this year. I’ll probably write more about a few of these in my upcoming TAM recap, but, for now, here goes):

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Many thanks to DW for having us on. He did a great job and I’m looking forward to listening to future episodes of his podcast. Be sure to visit the Atheists Today website (they have a lot of interesting and useful content/resources there) and also find them on Facebook and on Twitter.

(And I’ll start working on that TAM 2013 recap post soon… (^‿^) ) Thanks!

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My episode of the Skeptic Canary Show

I had a fantastic time on the Skeptic Canary Show today. The hosts, Tom Williamson (blog/Twitter), David James (blog/Twitter), and Paul Hopwood (blog/Twitter), are lovely and intelligent gents who do a great deal of much-needed and important work for the skeptic community, both in the U.K. and online. We had an interesting, fun, and thought-provoking discussion about a variety of topics, including:

  1. Skepticism and skeptical activism
  2. The scope of the skeptic movement (and the difference between skepticism as a movement and skepticism as a methodology)
  3. Applying skepticism to the testable claims made by religions
  4. The crucially important role that rhetoric and effective communication play in skepticism/skeptical activism/the skeptic movement (i.e. determining and making use of the most effective method of informing/persuading/communicating in any given situation and adapting one’s message and argument to whomever our audience happens to be, always making use of the principle of charity, the importance of acknowledging the fact that many people hold on to their irrational/potentially dangerous beliefs for emotional reasons and thus almost certainly cannot and will not be persuaded by facts alone, the brilliance and wisdom of Ray Hyman’s “Proper Criticism“, etc.)
  5. The fact that many of the things that I teach in my rhetoric/composition courses (critical thinking, why it’s absolutely necessary to support all claims and assertions with evidence from quality sources, how to determine whether or not a source is reliable/credible/etc., applying skepticism to everything we read (including our own writing), etc.) can also be valuable tools for skeptics/skeptical activists.
  6. Teaching how to think instead of teaching what to think
  7. Teaching critical thinking
  8. Atheism, how/why/when I became an atheist, and how being an atheist in the U.K. is almost always a very different experience than being an atheist in America
  9. Catholic childhood religious indoctrination and Catholic guilt (and my experience with both)
  10. Skeptic conferences/events (primarily TAMQED, and SkeptiCamp)
  11. TAM 2013 (only a month away now! :) See my recent post about it here)
  12. And, with the help of my favorite Bob in the world, Bob Blaskiewicz (who very kindly took the time to call in during the show), we discussed the Skepticism Across the Curriculum workshop that Bob and Eve and I will be doing at TAM 2013.
  13. (& I’m sure that we talked about lots of other interesting things that I’ve forgotten to include here (I haven’t yet had the chance to listen to the entire podcast of the episode))

And speaking of the podcast: if you’d like to listen to/download the show, it’s available both on the show’s website and via iTunes.

Thanks again to Tom, David, and Paul for having me on! Be sure to listen to the Skeptic Canary Show live each Wednesday (or download the episodes/podcasts) and visit/”like” the show’s Facebook page if you’re so inclined.

TAM 2013!

Exciting!: The Amazing Meeting 2013 is less than a month away. I’m thrilled to be returning for my second TAM (and to be returning to Las Vegas, one of my favorite places). I had an absolutely wonderful time at TAM 2012 (some of my photos are here): I learned a great deal, experienced many thought-provoking and inspiring talks/events and conversations, had so much fun with dear friends, met some of my “skeptic heroes” (forgive the cheesy phrase) including Ray Hyman (an absolutely brilliant and sweet man. We had quite a few one-on-one conversations last year, and I’ll always be grateful to him for taking the time to talk with me), and, most exciting of all, I was on the Skepticism and the Humanities panel (video here).

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TAM 2013

This year, my friends/TAM 2012 co-panelists/Skeptical Humanities bloggers/two-fifths of the Virtual Skeptics/fellow skeptic teachers Bob Blaskiewicz and Eve Siebert and I will be presenting the Skepticism Across the Curriculum workshop. Bob will be moderating, and, among other things, we’ll be discussing the various ways that we practice skepticism and promote critical thinking as educators and academics and how those practices and methods can be applied and utilized in a variety of contexts (both academic and non-academic). Or, as Bob wrote in the description of the workshop (also available here):

While many skeptics seem to conflate science and skepticism, the two terms are not equivalent. Science, it turns out, is just one form of skeptical inquiry that encompasses many academic disciplines, including those in the humanities. This workshop will introduce the audience to scholarship confronting extraordinary claims across the disciplines. Skepticism may be profitably applied to everything from Ancient Aliens’ mangling of art and art history, literary and folklore studies, mythology, and archeology, to young-earth creationists’ vandalism of all forms of textual scholarship, from Beowulf and Arthurian legend to Biblical studies. These and other extraordinary claims can also be used in classrooms to teach the critical thinking skills needed in all contexts and to introduce the disciplines to popular audiences.

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And here are a few links to some of the things that I’ve written/spoken about that are either directly related to or relevant to what we’ll be covering in the workshop (I’m sure that I’ll be discussing rhetoric quite a lot):

Blog posts:  1, 2, 3, 4

Posts on the JREF‘s Swift Blog: 1, 2

(& Be sure to check out my Lanyrd profile)

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of TAM again, and am looking forward to our workshop (and am glad that I get to work with Bob and Eve once more- they’re fantastic (ahem, “Derrida Zombies“, anyone?) )

There’s so much more that I could say about last year’s experience, or about what I’m looking forward to at TAM 2013, but I’ll hold off on that for now. Anyway, if you’ll be at TAM this year, come check out our workshop!

Vegas awaits… ♥

Las Vegas Airport- July 2012

‘Idealism as Intrinsic Motivation’- (my latest post for the JREF’s Swift Blog)

Tonight, as I started to ponder what to write about in my next post for the JREF‘s Swift Blog, I realized that I’d forgotten to share my previous Swift post here. It’s called “Idealism as Intrinsic Motivation“.

A brief excerpt:

However, although idealism is a powerful intrinsic motivator for educators and skeptical activists alike, it is not enough. If we wish to be successful in our attempts to inform, educate, persuade, and promote critical thinking and evidence-based decision making (inside or outside of the classroom) we first need to accept that our passionate idealism is only a start. Idealism is a valuable, admirable, and useful personality trait, one that indicates a principled refusal to succumb to the apathy and cynicism that pervades much of contemporary society. That being said, though, we must also acknowledge that while our idealism motivates us to inform, enlighten, and promote evidence-based decision making (in the classroom or otherwise), in order to turn motivation into action, we must be willing to be both idealists and pragmatists. Idealism alone doesn’t accomplish anything. Although this may not be something we often consider when analyzing our own contributions to skeptical activism, the professional educators and/or skeptical activists who we admire and respect the most are almost certainly the ones who acknowledge (through their words and/or their actions) that pragmatism, discipline, and hard work are just as important as idealism.

The rest of the post is available here.

Thanks for reading!

Derrida Zombies! (Bob and Eve and I giving postmodernist nonsense a smackdown at TAM2012)

For your delectation: my favorite 1 minute and 25 seconds from the “Skepticism and the Humanities” panel at TAM2012.

In this clip, my lovely co-panelists (and friends) Eve and Bob and I give postmodernist nonsense a well-deserved smackdown and manage to be pretty damn hilarious in the process. Think of us as the brainy goofy lovechildren of a one night-stand that the Sokal Affair/Fashionable Nonsense once had with The Three Stooges (Or something. Just roll with me here).

And I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet. Are you ready? Okay, here goes: the best part is the moment when Eve and I collectively coined the term “Derrida Zombies”, which became the hilarious (and apt) coup de grâce of our collective smackdown of postmodernist bollocks.

Alas, because it’s just a short clip from a much longer video, I can’t embed it, but it’s available here. Go! Watch! Giggle away! It’s lots of fun, I promise. (And try not to be put off by the mildly disturbing Tom Waits-esque voice I had that morning (I love Tom Waits, but I don’t want to sound like the chap.) I had a nasty sore throat, and that caused my voice to be a little less girly than usual.)

And, lastly, here’s a screenshot from the video. Funtimes! :)

Me, Eve, and Bob on our TAM 2012 panel

More soon! Thanks for reading.

Video of the TAM 2012 ‘Skepticism and the Humanities’ Panel

TAM 2012 “Skepticism and the Humanities” panel. (Photo by Bruce Press. Click photo to see original.)

Yay!  The JREF has posted its video of the TAM 2012Skepticism and the Humanities” panel.  You may recognize that girl in the middle (^‿^):

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Below, I’ll paste a comment that I originally intended for YouTube. I wrote it out in a text editor, and when I went back to the video’s comments section to post it, I realized that YouTube comments are limited to 500 characters. So, instead of finding a way to cut out 2,500 characters, I’ll post it here instead. Just pretend that you’re reading it in the comments section on YouTube, okay? ;) It will make more sense that way. Thanks!:

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Thanks so much for posting this! I really enjoyed being on the panel (I’m the girl in the middle) & am so grateful for the opportunity.

I do think that there should have been two separate panels, though. In the months leading up to this, I’d been (based on conversations with a few of the others) envisioning and preparing for a discussion of how the skills that we (active skeptics who are also teachers/scholars of various humanities disciplines (rhetoric/composition, in my case)) study and/or teach (i.e. the importance of thinking critically, of research, of supporting our assertions with legitimate (i.e. not anecdotal or personal) evidence from quality sources, of expressing ourselves in the clearest possible manner, of analyzing and critiquing all assertions, including our own, of practicing the principle of charity, etc.) can and should become a part of every skeptical activist’s “skeptic’s toolkit” (for lack of a better phrase). That kind of discussion would have been much more relevant to TAM, as it would have stayed focused on scientific skepticism/skeptical inquiry, skepticism as a methodology, and skills-based skepticism. The humanities fall within the scope of scientific skepticism and are relevant to the methodology of skepticism *only* when the humanities can provide pragmatic tools, thought processes, and skills that all skeptics can put to use. That’s the only justification for including the humanities in a conference like TAM, and I think that a humanities-only panel would have been able to have the kind of productive, pragmatic, and interesting discussion that I outlined above.

Honestly, when I found out that it was going to be an arts *and* humanities panel (this was a few months after initial planning and discussion began), I was a bit frustrated/disappointed, as I knew that the type of panel I’d been envisioning and preparing for wasn’t going to be happening, and I had no clue as to how we were going to include two very different fields/subjects in one discussion, let alone keep that discussion relevant to skeptical activism and within the scope of scientific skepticism/skeptical inquiry. The arts are relevant to skepticism in their own way, and a separate panel on that topic would have been interesting, I’m sure. But meshing the arts and the humanities together like this just didn’t work all that well. I still think that the panel was good, and that some valuable points were made and that some important discussion occurred, but I kept wanting to return the focus to the pragmatic skills and topics that I mentioned above, and that didn’t happen nearly enough, unfortunately. Nevertheless, I am *so* grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in a panel, I loved being a part of TAM (it was seriously amazing and wonderful and so lovely ♥), and would love to be involved again next year. And, again, thanks so much to the JREF for filming and posting these talks and panels. They’re a great resource for both educators and for the skeptical community as a whole.

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More soon! Thanks for reading.

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