Friday, 20 November 2015

Skeptics have a Conference


The NZ Skeptics annual conference is underway in ChCh and the headline international speaker is
the magnificently-named Dr Karl Haro von Mogel, a science communicator specialising in genetic engineering. This is him, putting the emotion back into science.

Pretty obviously, Dr Karl is not of a skeptical disposition when it comes to GE. He is convinced that GE 2.0 will be just awesome. He might well be right but GE 2.0 is many different things, not all of which have been invented yet. At least for skeptics, the jury is still out. So I'm guessing that Dr Karl is there because he's skeptical about people who are skeptical about GE.

Which just deepens the mystery for me. In fact I'm struggling to understand why skeptics have a conference at all. Are they all just sitting there rolling their eyes and silently mouthing "says who?" or "bull shit" during the speeches? And if not, why not?

I'm a big fan of public argument (as you may have gathered) and would love to hear two of the speakers at this conference (Kim Socha and Mike Joy) sometime. However I confess to being utterly confused by the concept of a skeptics conference

Why don't they host an argument instead? Pick a topic and invite all of the people espousing strong views about that topic. Design a format that exposes those views to rational scrutiny, and let attendees make up their own skeptical minds.

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