9:00 a.m. Today is workshop day. I decided to attend the workshop on skepticism in Africa.
James Randi made a surprise appearance to introduce the speakers:
Leo Igwe from the Nigerian Skeptics is telling us about efforts “shine the light” in the activities of witch-hunters in his home country. Slide from a church bulletin “Operation kill the Witches.” His remarks were inspirational. Frankly the work he does is risky and much more important for the people if his country than almost anything skeptics can do here. He may be the most impressive skeptic speaker I have ever seen. He should be a keynote speaker. Among other things he mentioned:
In Africa, asking did proof is often taken as western and “white.”
Recently police arrested a goat in Nigeria for robbery as a shape shifter.
Two women last year were arrested for bewitching women. Leo’s group tried to shine the light on that.
Women in Burkino Faso, witches called “soul eaters” are displaced. They have tried to help them.
Albinos are persecuted because people think their bodies have magical properties to give users of the substances “good fortune.”
A large number of women in Malawi were arrested for witchcraft. Leo’s group helped local activists in Malawi to get many women accused of witchcraft out of jail.
A “hunchback” woman murdered because some believe their body parts are magic. She left behind three young children–they are trying to raise money for they education.
African media is not critical of paranormal claims–much less.
Here’s a photo of Leo and the other speakers:
9:30–it was just mentioned that Leo was arrested last year in Nigeria on false charges. International pressure from skeptics groups helped get him released.
9:38 a.m. Leo is often accused of having an atheist agenda to convert Nigeria to atheism. His agenda is just to help people. He emphasizes the human benefit of skepticism to children and persecuted people. He “makes humanity the emphasis when it comes to my skeptical activism.”
9:50 a.m. In Cameroon and the Central African Republic, judges bring in “witch-doctors” to help them reach their decisions an convict people, even of things like witchcraft, which is illegal in those countries.
10:25 am. My guestimate for this workshop audience, about 2.5 men for each woman.
10:36 am. After attending this workshop, my opinion is that if you are going to give any money to skeptical groups/organizations, it should be to groups like Leo’s in Africa. CFI doesn’t have any need when compared to people like Leo. Thank you Leo. Thank you Jref for bringing Leo here. This was a very inspiring way to start the day. Please google Leo Igwe or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to donate to a worthy cause.
11:05. In the workshop on “Promoting Skepticism on a Local Level” by Brian Thompson of the Jref. Sparsely attended because the “Ask Dr. Google”
Workshop has star power and is a big draw.
Brian Thompson leading the workshop:
The relatively empty room:
11:20 am. Brian Thompson just compared skeptics not challenging their friends on things like chiropractic to Louisiana Giv. Bobby Jindal writing (perhaps falsely) about performing an exorcism and being a good Catholic. I really didn’t follow that logic and it didn’t make the slightest bit of sense to me.
11:30 apart from Brian’s one bizarre comment, this has been a very lively and useful workshop.
11:34. Brian brought up an interesting alternative to skeptics in the pub: skeptics in the park. Seems kind of weather dependent and would only be available in most places during part of the year.
12:05. Brian Thompson does not like the term “skeptics movement”. Think of it more like a public service, like firefighters, putting out fires when they arise. Don’t think in broad terms and shoot for total victory, which we won’t ever achieve, just do what we can on an ongoing basis. This way we will avoid getting dejected by failure to change society totally, and concentrate on dealing with issues as they arise. A very wise and profound observation by Mr. Thompson.
12:10 decided to head over to the Dr. Google workshop. It has about 20 times more people as the local organIzing workshop–but this one has the star power it Drs. Steve Novella, Rachel Dunlap, and David Gorski.
12:34 Wandered into the main ballroom where Penn is recording his weekly Sunday School. This year the Jref decided to sell reserved seating. Finally got a chance to look at it. It will apparently be the first six rows of the entire middle section. About 70-80 seats. Here’s a pic:
One other thing of note–they have brought back the concept of desks/tables in the first few rows, which I think we last saw at TAM7 or 8.
2:00 pm workshop on astronomy for skeptics by James McGaha.
Good point. We often hear about “trained observers” looking in the evening sky (or daytime sky for that matter), who are these trained observers? Who trains them? What training do they receive? Police and pilots make some of the worst observers of objects in the evening sky. Another good point–when you see a moving object in the sky, you really have very little data and grounds for comparison.
The room is pretty full.
2:25. McGaha brought out a monopod and used it with a tool that measures angles. A monopod! At TAM?
3:00 Moved over to the Tim Farley and Derek Calanduno on online activism. About half as many people here as for the astronomy workshop. Tom Farley is talking.
Point: over 700 plus skeptical blogs with over 250 posts per day.
Slightly under 100 skeptics podcasts (and this does not include atheist podcasts). Wow. In 10 languages. Wow!
At least 3,800 podcast episodes.
At least 9,600 skeptical videos on YouTube.
Here is what Tim Looks like this afternoon:
3:15. Been checking twitter. Seems like a bunch of bitter people affiliated with the FtB/Skepchicks axis have been sitting on the #tam2012 hashtag. What bitter, sad, pathetic people.
3:20. Derek Calanduno of Skepticality just got done dropping knowledge bombs about getting noticed online. Really good advice for those skeptical podcasters out there.
3:41 Shane Greenup of RBUTR makes a surprise appearance about his new service. All the way from Australia. A lot of Aussies here. RBUTR is a web annotation service/browser plugin that will put a link to a rebuttal(s) of an article. Available only for Chrome currently. Crowdsourced info, and requested rebuttals. What an amazing idea.
4:00-5:45 went to the paranormal investigators panel, but my phone ran out of juice. And I don’t remember my observations.
8:00. An hour into the opening reception. George Hrab introduced James Randi, who is currently giving a welcoming speech. “I love everybody”
Anyway, that ends live blogging for the day. More tomorrow.