The first SkeptiCamp Alberta took place at the University of Alberta on July 24. Organized by a volunteer committee of the Greater Edmonton Skeptics Society, the inaugural SkeptiCamp Alberta was attended by over 50 local skeptics and critical thinkers who spent the day listening to talks presented by their peers on science and skeptical topics ranging from skeptical activism to myths about cell phone radiation. It was great to see both familiar and new faces in attendance.
One of the talks was from local University of Alberta professor Marc MacKenzie, who spoke about the myths and misunderstandings of cell phone and power line radiation. He shared the facts about how these pieces of technology work, what kinds of radiation they emit, how much, and cut through the media hype and misinformation to explain what the actual effects of these transmitters and receivers are.
Hans Machel, a geologist professor at the University of Alberta, used his expertise to deconstruct Young Earth Creationist claims such as the age of the Earth. He extended the talk to include another Biblical story which is sometimes taken to be literally true: Noah’s Ark. Dr. Machel also applied geology to claims made by proponents of crystal power.
Local Skeptically Speaking host Desiree Schell teamed up with Trevor Zimmerman to talk about skeptical activism and how to go about getting our voices heard and our points across in media and in politics. One of the more controversial topics that arose throughout the day was the idea of buying homeopathic remedies from local pharmacies or stores, and then returning them opened and demanding a refund when they don’t work. Some people thought this was a great way of pressuring businesses to remove ineffective cures from their shelves, but others questioned the integrity of such acts and thought it was unfair to target owners in the pocketbook.
There was also a panel conversation in response to Bad Astronomer Phil Plait’s controversial “don’t be a dick” TAM 8 talk on tone including local skeptics Brent Kelly, Marc-Julien Objois and Sean Ouimet which was led by Ryan Bromsgrove. Several points were brought up during this panel on attitude and tone that speak to both sides of the argument. How do you deal with hard-nosed believers who will interpret any tone — including genuinely polite ones — as attacks? Aren’t there some believers whose brains are impossible to logic our way into, and thus impossible to win over? How does peer-pressure work when it comes to believer versus skeptical thought, and how best should be use this to our advantage to change minds?
We would like to thank all of our excellent speakers who came prepared to present at SkeptiCamp: without your willingness to share your passion about science and critical thinking, this event couldn’t have been a success. Speakers included Mark MacKenzie, John Woolley, Hans Machel, Twyla Gill, Brian Dupuis, Brent Kelly, Michael Harrison, SkepDad Brad Salomons, Desiree Schell, Trevor Zimmerman, Ryan Bromsgrove, Marc-Julien Objois and Sean Ouimet.
We would also like to thank Reed Esau for creating and sharing the SkeptiCamp model, and Joe Anderson for sending us the SkeptiCamp banners. Their great SkeptiCamp Wiki resource that should be a first-stop for any skeptical group looking to organize a SkeptiCamp of their own.
A special thank you to those who donated money to fund SkeptiCamp Alberta, including Gordon Wolters and another local skeptic who prefers to remain anonymous: without your generous donation, we would not have been able to provide lunch free of charge, which allowed us to keep everyone on location and encourage networking and conversation.
A very special thank you goes out to the University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics, our partner for this event.
Thank you as well to all those who provided various pieces of equipment used throughout the day, including projectors and camera equipment from Redman Technologies and our ever talented photographer and videographer Marc-Julien Objois.
And finally, thank you to all who attended and made SkeptiCamp Alberta a success: without your interest, we wouldn’t have an event at all.
The second SkeptiCamp Alberta is tentatively being planned for March 2011, so stay tuned and start thinking about what you might want to talk about!
With Skepticamp Alberta nearly a week away we’re putting the final touches on some of our marketing and communication efforts. Please check back in the next few days for news regarding confirmed topics and speakers, presentation tips and revised details within our schedule, including the free lunch. Attendance is capped at 150, so please remember to RSVP.
Want to help us get the word out about Skepticamp? If so please feel free to print out the PDFs of any of the posters below for distribution around your office, school, local pharmacy, etc. We also suggest inviting friends, family, and your best-Twitter-or-Facebook-friends; this event is broad in focus and will appeal to anybody with an interest in science, critical thinking, or with any sort of skeptical inklings (even if they aren’t always so skeptical about some other things.)
*Speaking of helping out: the Skepticamp organizing team would like to thank Rachelle Saunders for putting together these fantastic posters.
Next Tuesday (July 20) the GESS is holding an open Board Meeting followed by a Skeptics in the Pub Drinking Skeptically night.
Location: Elephant and Castle, City Centre Mall
Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Topics of conversation will include the upcoming Alberta SkeptiCamp and stories from the Edmonton skeptics who attended the recent TAM 8 event in Las Vegas.
Check out the Drinking Skeptically Facebook event page to RSVP. Hope to see you there!
The first Alberta SkeptiCamp will be held in Edmonton, Alberta on Saturday, July 24, 2010. Hosted by The Greater Edmonton Skeptic Society in partnership with the University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics, this unconference will be held at the University of Alberta (further details to be announced soon). Our goal is to gather together skeptics from diverse interests and backgrounds from Edmonton and across Alberta to share and promote critical thinking at a day-long event.
SkeptiCamp is based off the BarCamp model, where programming is provided by the attendees: everyone is encouraged to come prepared to speak and participate. Each session will be 20 minutes, so interested presenters should time their talks accordingly.
The event is 100% free and a fantastic way to meet new like-minded skeptics in Alberta, so check out the SkeptiCamp Alberta site and sign up to attend. The exact schedule of events for the day is still being worked out so please check back for updates, but we’ve posted a draft version to give you an idea of how the day will go.
For more information on the history and format of SkeptiCamp, check out the wiki at SkeptiCamp.org. They’ve also got a great list of session topic ideas for those interested in presenting but not sure what to talk about.