Jan 19 2007

Reporting from TAM5

At this moment I am attending The Amazing Meeting 5 in Las Vegas, hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation. The theme of the meeting is skepticism and the media – a topic I find both important and interesting.

This is somewhat of a mission statement – but in our society, which is increasingly driven by science and technology, the public understanding of science is critically important. Yet, it seems that the gap of knowledge between working scientists and the public is growing. The theme of TAM5, and the purpose of this blog, is how to narrow this gap.

The reason the meeting is titled “Skepticism and the Media” and not “Science and the Media” is a subtle but important one. The title certainly could have been the latter, but the former is more to the point. Skepticism is the application of scientific methodology and high standards of logic, evidence, scholarship, and honesty to controversial or fringe claims. These types of claims are important to address because they tend to capture the public attention and to beguile the press. Meanwhile, mainstream scientists feel squeemish about such topics and tend to be hands off.

So the public is obsessed with pseudoscientific topics about which real scientists are largely silent. This is the breach into which skepticism and the skeptical movement has leaped.

Well, it’s time for me to go to the first lecture with Dr. Michael Shermer. I will be reporting more from TAM5 over the next few days.

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