The Amaz!ng Meeting 2003

Electric Monk - Sunday - Reaching Out

Sunday, the final day of the conference, dawned, and once again I was too late for the good doughnuts. My big concern of the day, though, was that I would not be able to stay to the end. The original schedule had called for the meeting to wrap up at about 2pm, which worked fine with my 4:20pm flight. Unfortunately, the schedule was then changed to end at 3:15, and I really had to leave for the airport no later that 3pm. Clearly I was going to miss something. I could only hope that the iron schedule discipline imposed by our esteemed Lt. Col. Bidlack was up to the challenge.

I had successfully checked out of the hotel, despite the best efforts of my in-room checkout system to convince me that it was too busy. (Gee, were there a lot of people checking out on Sunday morning?) I stowed my luggage in the room thoughtfully set aside by the hotel for this purpose, and joined the throngs awaiting the morning session.

Hal Bidlack and plaque
Bidlack Presents Himself a Plaque: Could Not Be More Deserving

We began with Hal Bidlack correcting a gross oversight by presenting himself with a plaque honoring him for his contributions to the A!M.

Andrew Harter
Andrew Harter Shares Insights Into Teaching Critical Thinking to Kids

Our first speaker of the morning was Andrew Harter, who addressed himself to the topic of teaching children. He argued that children have an undeserved reputation for short attention spans. As counter-examples, Harter offered the repeated-videotape-watching, and videogame-playing abilities of young children.

Andrew's plaque
Hey! My Name Is Not Spelled 'Hal Bidlack'!

Clearly it is vital to start teaching children as early as possible the types of thinking skills that will allow them to make good decisions when they grow up. An entire generation of critical thinkers could make an enormous improvement in the world. I applaud Andrew's efforts in this cause.

Skeptic groupies
Lisa Goodlin Leads a Panel to Discuss Starting Local Skeptical Groups (L to R: Lisa Goodlin, Andrew Harter (visible only in the infrared), Alan Koslow (Iowa Community Science Initiative), Eric Kreig (Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking), Chip and Grace Denham (National Capital Area Skeptics)

Next up was Lisa Goodlin's panel discussion on starting local skeptics groups. The panel was in general agreement on several issues. First, that the word "Skeptic" in the name of a group tended to scare people away, while using "Science" or "Critical Thinking" would attract a wider audience. Due to this, the Central Iowa Skeptics had recently changed their name to the "Iowa Community Science Initiative". Another issue was how to handle skepticism of religion. This is always a touchy subject, and the opinion of the group leaders was that drawing a clear distinction between challenging testable claims made by religions and challenging the untestable faith-based claims of believers was critical to successfully reaching the wider community with the need for critical thinking.

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