Law Professor Nadine Strossen is president of the American Civil Liberties Union. She is the first woman and the youngest person ever to lead the ACLU. She also sits on the Council on Foreign Relations. No stranger to public speaking, she is the featured speaker at The Amaz!ng Meeting 4.
Her topic was:
"POLITICIZING SCIENCE: THE WAR ON CIVIL LIBERTIES"
In her debut TAM appearance, Ms. Strossen will express her views on the current politicization of science, and how it has undermined numerous civil liberties, including academic freedom and other First Amendment rights.
Penn & Teller defy labels, and at times, good taste. They’ve performed together for more than 25 years; skewering the genre of magic, their sold-out audiences, and themselves -- very often all at the same time, within one mind-boggling evening. Their Showtime series Bullshit! is currently in its third season.
Up next was James Randi and his special guest, astronaut Ed Lu:
James "The Amazing" Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world's most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.
James Randi presented some anecdotes from his years of testing supernatural claims, and did a brief Q&A with astronaut Ed Lu.
Dr. Krippner has conducted workshops and seminars on personal mythology, dreams, hypnosis, and/or anomalous phenomena in over a dozen different countries. He is a Fellow of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and has published cross-cultural studies on spiritual content in dreams.
His topic was:
“RAPE, WAR, and AIDS: Rational and Irrational Beliefs about the AIDS Pandemic”
This presentation will document the way that the three dozen ongoing wars around the world are responsible for spreading AIDS, and how the combatants are given little or no preventive education. It will also document the irrational and erroneous data about AIDS provided by folk healers in Africa, the Roman Catholic Church, and the U.S. government, especially in its subsidy of "abstinence" programs in public schools. This will be a hard-hitting presentation that names Names and provides solid data. There will be something in it to offend virtually everyone!
Sadly one of my favorite speakers won't be represented here. I'm not sure what happened with the recording, but aside from the first minute of his intro, the rest of the hour is mysteriously silent. If anyone has audio of Prof. Gell-Mann's talk, I would love to have a copy.
I forgot to post an episode of Spaced before heading to Vegas. Sorry 'bout that.
Here's episode 3 of Spaced:
UPDATE: Sorry, due to potential problems with my host, I'm taking these down. You should purchase it at amazon.co.uk, and if you have a cpable dvd player you can watch it that way. Here's a cheap good one that is region-free after inputting a special code. This player also handles the PAL->NTSC conversion on the fly as well, so you won't need a special TV.
Dr. Michael Shermer is the Director of the Skeptics Society, founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine, columnist for Scientific American, and producer of the TV series, Exploring the Unknown. His many books include: The Borderlands of Science, How We Believe, and Why People Believe Weird Things.
Here's the talk info:
"THE SOUL OF SCIENCE – Bootstrapping Meaning, Purpose and Spirituality"
How can we find spiritual meaning and purpose in a scientific worldview? Spirituality is a way of being in the world, a sense of one’s place in the cosmos, a relationship to that which extends beyond our selves. There are many sources of spirituality; religion may be the most common, but it is by no means the only. Anything that generates a sense of awe may be a source of spirituality. Science does this in spades. Dr. Shermer shows how.
The first speaker at TAM4 was Christopher Hitchens; here's his bio from the TAM4 site:
Christopher Hitchens' trademark savage wit flattens hypocrisy inside the DC Beltway and around the world, laying bare the "permanent government" of entrenched powers and interests. He's the author of many bestsellers. From Mother Theresa to Michael Moore, no one is above scrutiny.
A quick summary of his talk (also from the TAM4 site):
"MR. JEFFERSON, SHORE UP THIS WALL!"
TAM4 begins with a BIG BANG as controversial journalist Christopher Hithchens celebrates Thomas Jefferson's Enlightenment views, whilst pillorying those who fabricate "design" and want to tear down the wall of separation."
I sat down to start editing this massive pile of audio, only to find that I need lots more diskspace for Audacity to work with. So I finally break down and decide to put in the 200Gig drive I've had sitting here unopened for at least 6 months. (I hate rebooting)
So I pop in the new drive and power on, only to find that the drive I boot off of (and didn't touch) is now dead as a doornail.
Now in order to not waste the rest of my time off work, I'm installing an outdated version of Ubuntu (it's all I've got on CD) on the NEW drive so I can do all the audio stuff I was planning. It seems like it is taking forever.
Coming through the livestock chute check-in at the airport, I noticed a group of women all wearing identical crush velvet warm-up suits. Upon closer inspection of their chests, I saw insignias implying that they were some sort of bowling team. There's one group of women who know as well as us guys what it's like to carry their luggage through the airport while lugging their balls around.
There's a guy a few seats away listening to his iPod who seems to be operating on Bugblatter Beast-esque logic: when listening to iPod, if you can't hear those around you, they can't hear you either. I keep hearing a raspy falsetto ringing out "I'm lovin' youuuuuuuu.... I'm lovin' youuuuuuu..."
The guy behind me has been on his cellphone for a while, calling various different people. I've been trying not to listen, but I've been largely unsuccessful due to the fact that he talks exactly like Cleveland from Family Guy. I keep wanting to hear if he says anything about Loretta.
It seems as if I've never stayed in a hotel without accidentally leaving something behind. Today was no exception.
Sitting here at the Las Vegas airport I've just realized that I accidentally left 20 or so of my callgirl cards back in the hotel, making my stack a bit smaller than it should be. I had placed them inside the Gideon Bible for safekeeping, and I guess they'll remain there undisturbed for all of eternity.
Or perhaps some Vegas traveller down on his luck will seek answers from the Bible in a time of personal darkness, finding a different and more appealing answer than he was expecting.
So the topic of the very next speaker after my complaint yesterday was addressing the very issue I was complaining about: the fact that this convention seemed to be overrun with Atheism, and how it is really irrelevant to skepticism. I was pretty impressed that nearly 20% of the self-proclaimed skeptics at this meeting felt exactly the same way that I do regarding the disparity between making fun of Deist beliefs and proclaiming that an Atheist belief system is required in order to be a skeptic, giving the speaker a standing ovation. After the talk was over, there was a panel entitled "Can A Skeptic Believe in God?" This panel was just as much a waste of time as Paul Provenza's stand up comedy; the panel was made up of 8 Atheists and one Deist and consisted of all the Atheists espousing the importance of all Atheists "coming out" to their family and friends, so as to create more power in this country in the name of Atheism. Nearly every speaker here at TAM4 was speaking about how bad and annoying it is that religious people have made so much headway in this country, have so much power, and how they're constantly sharing their beliefs with others, trying to prostheletise to those of us that don't believe. Once again, the irony of this was lost on all of them.
James Randi closed the panel by saying that it isn't possible to be both a Deist and a skeptic, which is not only wrong, it's elitist and inflammatory. I'm hoping he gets negative comments about this from more than just me so that next year TAM can once again stand for The Amazing Meeting, rather than The Atheist Meeting -- which is what it stood for this year.
Adam Savage is auctioning off something used in an upcoming episode of Mythbusters: an FCD or Flatus Containment Device. The most asked question on the Mythbusters site is "can you light your own farts", so they shot an episode to determine it. There are two of them, and they still contain Adam's farts. As of this post, the first one is up to $1500. Crazy fuckers.
Today at lunch, the loser table we picked suddenly became the table to be at when James Randi came by and sat down with his lunch. He asked me if I was trying to be a Mythbuster (in reference to the hat I always wear) and then had a short discussion on facial hair styles. I was already kicking myself for shaving off my big moustache before I had an opportunity to meet Jamie Hynemann, but now more so.
I briefly talked to Adam Savage at the buffet table, where I asked him what was served at last nights $500-$1000 a plate fundraiser dinner (where him and Jamie were the most sought after guests to sit with), to which he replied "endangered gorilla" before apologizing for being as inappropriate as possible at all times. I was in line directly behind Kari Byron as she talked to the woman she was trying hard to seem interested in, but then one of the organizers came and informed her that she didn't have to wait in line with us paying guests.
Oh damn, they're currently auctioning off the awesome flag shirt Penn wore yesterday and I really want it. Gaah, $1000. That's too rich for my blood.