SkeptiCamp NYC 2009: Share the apple of knowledge

Current Home Page | 2009 Home Page | Photo Gallery | Resources from Presenters | The Schedule | FAQ and Presenter Guide | Took place on December 6th, 2009.

The "Final" Schedule for SkeptiCamp NYC 2009

The 2009 event is now over. This schedule page is available for archival and reference purposes.

If you spot any errors, please let us know!

Opinions of SkeptiCamp's presenters do not necessarily reflect those of its organizers.

TimePresenterTitleDescription Category
10:00 AM - 10:15 AMMitch Lampert Welcome Speech and Ground RulesMitch wanted this to be an ultra-fast, 1-minute thing. But, he was advised to make it longer to add some important stuff. 
10:15 AM - 10:45 AM Jeff Corey Critical Thinking for Dummies

Teaching critical thinking is difficult for a number of reasons, the most potent one being the telepathic influence of our cephalopod mind masters from the planet Zagron and Fox News.

To fight these evil forces, I propose to provide a number of hands ( or tentacles) on exercises for use in teaching critical thinking in classrooms all around the galaxy.

Copies of materials I have used in teaching Critical Thinking for twelve years will be provided to attendees. Even if you don't want me to present them, I'll send them in anyway.

The So-Called Skeptical "Movement"
10:45 AM - 11:15 AMTim FarleyPromoting Skepticism via Wikipedia

Like it or not, Wikipedia is a first stop for many web surfers when researching many topics. In fact, the Wikipedia article on a given topic is very often the #1 result for related searches in Google, making it extraordinarily visible content.

This of course includes the skeptical bread-and-butter topics such as pseudoscience, alternative medicine, cryptozoology, paranormal events and so on. As a result, we have to realize that many non-skeptics will get their knowledge of our topics from these articles. Because Wikipedia allows anyone to edit, this is an extraordinary opportunity to affect the public's perception of these topics through careful editing. However, one must tread carefully, as Wikipedia has voluminous rules and a culture all its own.

I'll talk about the efforts I've made in Wikipedia over the last year to both improve the skepticism in various articles and also to document our own movement. I'll give tips on what to do and what not to do, including: how to edit articles in ways that avoid disputes; how to navigate deletion and notability disputes; where to find articles that need work; and so on.

11:15 AM - 11:45 AMScott StafiejStrength in Numbers - Skeptic CommunityI plan to discuss community building within the skeptic movement. The basic outline for the presentation falls into four parts and will be as follows:

- Human Need for Community - a look at evolutionary and sociological reasons humans need community.

- What we can learn from Religion? - a look at religious communities in general, the rapid growth of Mega-churches, and what we can learn.

- Can secular communities exist? - a look at successful secular communities and movements?

- What is the future of the skeptic community? - one of the potential futures for the skeptic movement viewed through the eyes of a community builder.
11:45 AM - 12:15 PMMichael De Dora Jr. Skepticism Includes Atheism (So Deal With It) With the general movement for reason and rationality gaining more coverage, there has seemingly been a trend of skeptics tending away from criticizing religion, specifically avoiding any endorsement "atheism" on tactical grounds that skepticism doesn't deal with religion (to be sure, many humanists also avoid endorsements of "atheism," usually on grounds we should be for something, not against -- but this is a conference about skepticism and talks are brief). Of course, skeptical inquiry in not necessarily about religion and morality (though it does deal with specific religious claims), and moreover, we all have our own interests. But it's becoming somewhat apparent this division will effect the larger movement, and so there are questions to ponder: What is a skeptic (or skepticism), and what is an atheist (atheism)? Does skepticism entail atheism, or are they outside one another? Is there room for a god -- perhaps of the deist type -- within skepticism? And if the skeptic avoidance of atheism is tactical, is it wrong or right?
12:15 PM - 1:00 PM Everyone!Lunch We are not providing lunch (only refreshments), but several nearby restaurants will happily serve you some great food. 
1:00 PM - 1:30 PMJoshieThe Rant of a Hasidic AtheistYour entertainment for the afternoon includes this fresh, young stand-up comedian.

(We might also have a skeptical music performer share this time slot, but we don't know, yet.)
1:30 PM - 2:00 PMMichael RoschAnti-Vaccine Movement Fallacies and TacticsI intend to discuss some of the problems with the most common arguments I've encountered by the anti-vaccination movement since co-founding the website Some examples of what I intend to discuss are the Big Pharma Shill Gambit; mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, squalene, antifreeze, and other "toxins" in vaccines; common H1N1 vaccine myths; The Arrogance of Ignorance Gambit; The Anecdotal Evidence Trumps Carefully Controlled Studies Gambit; the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, etc. Applied Skepticism
2:00 PM - 2:30 PMAnthony LeottaPersonal GenomicsCompanies are already claiming that if you send them a DNA sample, they will determine your risk factors for diseases. Should you send them your money? What are your options? What works, what does not? What are the current state of the art technologies that are really leading to medical breakthroughs? In this talk, I'll explain the various types of DNA tests and what types of data they generate. I'll address issues of ethics, privacy and balance the hype with the science.

About me: I work at a local molecular biology research center where we study cancer and autism. I create ways to organize, visualize and interact with large volumes of genomic data.
2:30 PM - 3:00 PMLisa BauerEvaluating Claims by Research Design Analysis Knowing the difference between experimental and non-experimental studies, and what can and cannot be inferred from the different kinds of data collected, are important skills in improved critical thinking about research. In this presentation, I will discuss design methods, including appropriate/inappropriate procedures, hypothesis testing(and associated errors), and the limits of potential conclusions of a study. Basic concepts of experimental design (extraneous variables, controlled variables, P values) will be reviewed throughout the presentation. Participants will be offered additional resource material to aid their continued study of experimental methods. The Skeptic's Toolbox
3:00 PM - 3:30 PMGregory LopezStupid Bayesian TricksSkeptics are often familiar with the major mechanisms of deduction and deductive logical fallacies. However, what may be less clear is how and what kind of inductive reasoning is proper and how much strength certain evidence lends to inductive arguments. The goal of this talk is to give some qualitative rules of thumb stemming from Bayesian epistemology in order to judge the strength of inductive arguments. Some probabilistic fallacies as well as a Bayesian view of deductive fallacies may also be covered.
3:30 PM - 4:00 PMPage Van MeterHow to Read an Academic Journal Article I will go over some simple steps to reading and gleaning information from the academic or medical literature. We will talk about author order (What does it mean to be first author?), what you can and cannot get from an abstract, reading methods and results sections without getting bogged down, and summarizing conclusions. If there is enough time, I can also talk about how to get some of these articles without having institutional licenses.
4:00 PM - 4:05 PMMitch LampertClosing CeremoniesMitch will thank a lot of people, etc. But, He'll keep it short and to the point.  


The following "alternate" sessions would have taken place, if any of the above sessions were unable to proceed, but that never happened:

Mitchell S. LampertA Practical Approach to Debating Creationists
(Or: Why There is No Such Thing as "Applied Intelligent Design")
Here we will discuss a strategy for debating "scientific" creationists and Intelligent Design proponents, that I have found to be fairly effective: Hitting them with the practical stuff!
I will provide examples of how the Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection has changed our world, from medical research to animal conservation; and how to present them in a manner that evolution opponents can't seem to answer to. There is, in fact, no such thing as "Applied Intelligent Design". And, that is an important clue that I.D. proponents are not really conducting science.

No, Mitchell will not be discussing his own crackpot ideas about how the mind works, during this conference.

Contact us with questions or comments: