I attended Skepticon 4 a few weeks ago. It was the best weekend I’ve had in a long, long time. More than anything, coming away from the even I felt more motivated than I have in the past year to start being active in the atheist movement. As Ziztur put it on Twitter, last year (which I didn’t attend) was all “Ra, ra, skepticism!”, this year was all “Here’s how to be skeptical.” Sure, there were parts that were just blatant idiot-bashing, like Brother Sam‘s debut of “Revival!”, a parody of fundamentalist revivals; Dave Fitzgerald‘s keen but jovial takedown of Mormonism; and Dave Silverman’s opening talk on how to get more involved in the atheist movement.
But then there was Hemant Mehta telling us how math education in the US is broken and how we can fix it (a topic that I’m very much interested in); Richard Carrier explaining Bayes’ Theorem, perhaps the most important equation any of us will ever know; and PZ Meyers* giving us a detailed look at how the human genome actually works. And, of course, there was J.T. Eberhard closing the convention and bringing more than a few of the several hundred in attendance to tears with his discussion of mental health and what the skeptical movement needs to do about it.
More than getting motivated, I got educated that weekend. I was moved. I came back with a few new Facebook friends, several new Twitter followers/-ees, the motivation to start this weblog, and a desire to start making a difference. Once this semester is over and I have more time to dedicate, you’ll see me writing more here as I seek to find my role in the atheist movement. But until then, watch the above videos plus these other talks from Skepticon 4:
- Greta Christina: “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?”
- Julia Galef: “The Straw Vulcan”
- Spencer Greenberg: “Self-Skepticism”
- Darrel Ray: “Sex and Secularism”
- Panel Discussion: “How Should Rationalists Approach Death?” (featuring Julia Galef, Greta Christina, Eliezer Yudkowski, and James Croft; moderated by Jesse Galef)
- Rebecca Watson: “The Religious Right vs. Every Woman On Earth”
- Jen McCreight: “Skeptical Genetics” (*I’d watch this one before PZ’s)
- Dan Barker: “You Don’t Have To Go Down In My Basement!”
- Eliezer Yudkowski: “Heuristics and Biases” (Watch Richard Carrier’s talk first)
- Joe Nickell: “Undercover! Paranormal Investigation”
(Not all of the talks have been posted. I’ll come back and link them as they are put up on YouTube.)