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SkeptiCamp DC a Resounding Success

Sharon Hill
She Thought, October 5, 2010

Sunday, October 4, was the first Skepticamp DC,  held at the University of Maryland   campus. Skepticamp is an “informal, community-organized conference borne from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. Everyone from casual skeptics to the experienced participate, give talks and get to know each other.”

The D.C. event was sponsored by the Center for Inquiry – D.C., the National Capital Area Skeptics and the UMD Society of Inquiry. The room in the Student Union Building was at capacity with over 60 people and some EXTRA special guests…

As we were just about ready to begin, the crowd gasped and fell silent as a white-bearded, bespectacled wise man walked in the door and sat down in the crowd. We could not quite believe our skeptical eyes that the one and only James Randi had appeared in our midst like magic! He was followed by Jose Alverez and D.J. Grothe of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) along with Jamy Ian Swiss. Mr. Randi spoke briefly before exiting to attend a special function in his honor. Fortuitously, the JREF crew had been in town and had graciously spent some moments with the crowd. Also in attendance was uber-skeptic Robert Park and What’s the Harm’s Tim Farley. Quite the crowd!

Speakers at Skepticamp represent their own ideas, not those of the sponsors. Talks can be a formal presentation or totally informal discussions and on this day, we ran the spectrum. Part of the Skepticamp model is to challenge the speakers, even in the middle of their talk. Participation is required!

Nine speakers presented:

  • Anthony Accetta facilitated a discussion about promoting science and rationalism on YouTube
  • Sharon Hill presented original research results on amateur investigation and research groups, otherwise known as your local paranormal investigators and ghost hunters.
  • Nicole Gugliucci demonstrated some simple science experiments to do at home (with the help of some audience volunteers) and promoted the Dark Skies Bright Kids project run out of the University of Virginia.
  • Seth Goldin provided us with a rundown of the typical cognitive biases that we all have.
  • Ben Trettle talked about why he doesn’t accept any of the arguments made by global warming deniers and how their tactics are flawed.
  • Robert Merciless and Kevin Slaughter gave a dramatic tag-team presentation about rediscovering and publishing an historic book by Henry Tichenor about Satan as a Rebel Hero.
  • Alex Knepper prompted a very lively discussion following his admittedly opinionated speech about his beliefs/ideals as an atheist/Republican.  In the beginning of his presentation, he stated that he felt he would someday be the person on television that would prompt many Skepticamp attendees to throw things at the TV.
  • Curtis Haymore discussed the 10:23 campaign and efforts to support the event in the United States in February 2011.
  • Tana Owens provided a very entertaining overview of woo that pet owners might encounter.

One of the main event organizers, Brian Gregory, was “happy it ran smoothly, very thankful for everyone’s hard work, and thankful for the support of CFI, NCAS, UMD Society of Inquiry and for the JREF,” who was not a sponsor this year but sure made the day extra special.

Thanks to all the volunteers and participants who made this a really special event. Look for a SkeptiCamp in your area and get on out there and participate!