The Amaz!ng Meeting 2003

Electric Monk - The Meeting Resumes

During the break, the meeting schedule was adjusted, and at 11:30, we resumed.

Dan Garvin
Dan Garvin's Talk on His Experiences in Scientology for 25 Years is Cut Unfortunately Short in Trying to Get Back on Schedule

I admire Dan Garvin's courage. He had to follow Michael Shermer, and the destruction of the Space Shuttle, and was given much less time than he had expected.

Of course, I also admire him for finding his way out of Scientology after 25 years in the elite Sea Org. As he put it, "I started thinking, and got carried away."

I had already read a lot of material critical of Scientology on the internet. I have read A Piece of Blue Sky by John Atack and Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller, as well as personal accounts in the Usenet group, alt.religion.scientology, and elsewhere. Most of what Dan Garvin said was not new to me, but it was the first time that I had heard it in person from someone who had been on the inside. Unfortunately, his talk was cut short by the rearranged schedule. He was able to tell more of his story later on, though, during the speakers' panel discussion.

Garvin's biggest laugh came after he described the story of the intergalactic warlord Xenu, which makes up the upper-level secret information that Scientology sells to its members after several years and about $100,000 of "fixed donations". He followed this by saying that he should probably have warned us that L. Ron Hubbard claimed that anyone hearing this tale without first being properly conditioned by years of Scientology training would die of pneumonia. I suspect that the more likely cause of death would be asphyxiation due to laughter, or perhaps cardiac arrest after realizing that you had spent so much time and money to hear this.

For those who have not seen this information, and who are interested, I highly recommend the Operation Clambake website.

Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait
Phil Plait's Highly Entertaining Planet X Talk

Next, was another highly-anticipated talk: that of The Bad Astronomer, Dr. Phil Plait, on the topic of "Planet X". Once again, I owed my knowledge of the topic to the internet. I had been following the discussion in the Usenet group sci.astro, and on various internet web sites for about two months.

Planet X
Everything You Need to Know...

The basics of the Planet X story are told in Phil Plait's slide in the picture, above. If you like reading about past and soon-to-fail doomsday scenarios as much as I do, you'll love the website "It's the End of the World as We Know It ... Again". Very Funny!

Timetable of Doooooom
Phil Explains the Highly Unusual Planet X Orbit as Described by the Believers

I like people whose wit is quicker than their temper, and on that basis, Phil Plait is a very likeable guy. His presentation showed it. His sense of humor rivaled Hal Bidlack's for top spot at the conference, and I have heard nothing but praise for himself and his talk from fellow attendees. His love for things astronomical was on clear display throughout. He has patiently explained all sorts of problems with the Zetan doomsday, and has been repeatedly been abused and called a NASA disinfo-agent in return. His biggest concern at this point was for the followers of Nancy Leider who have recently been told that they should consider euthanizing their pets, amongst other things.

Hal Bidlack
Herr Professor Doktor Colonel Hal Bidlack (Did I Get That Right?) Explains the Need for Standards in the War on Terrorism

With feelings of foreboding and doom, I watched Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack take the stage again, and not just from fear that some further disaster had struck. Hal had been merciless with puns and one-liners throughout his hosting duties for the conference, and now he was preparing to deliver the first of his two scheduled presentations. (I am reminded, unwillingly, of Drew Carey whenever I see Hal tell a joke, gesture, or laugh.)

His topic here was the need for standards in the war on terrorism. He made the best case that anyone could with the grave handicap of being completely correct about everything.

Jack Latona
Jack Latona on Creating the Future of Skepticism

Jack Latona, lawyer, reformed politician / bureaucrat, local resident, and founder of the Center for Creating the Future (located at the JREF), spoke next on the topic of "Creating the Future of Skepticism". His concepts of purposefully creating the future are quite good, in my opinion. I'm going to spend some time soon to read through the material on his website.

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