Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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Science Symposium
Friday–Sunday, June 24–26, 2011 | Beckman Auditorium, Caltech

Our 2011 Science Symposium was a rare opportunity to hear four of the world’s leading Skeptics discuss their experiences fighting irrationality and promoting science, and what you could do to help! Speakers included: Dr. Michael Shermer, James “The Amazing” Randi and special guests: Bill Nye the Science Guy® and Mr. Deity (Brian Keith Dalton).

ORDER the Science Symposium DVDs

WATCH the Symposium Q&A for free

Symposium Summary

Dr. Michael Shermer presented his “greatest hits” from 20 years of adventures in science and pseudoscience, skepticism and critical thinking, including his very best material from his books, popular talks, college courses, television shows, Scientific American column, and investigations conducted for Skeptic magazine. He also showcased new material from his just-published book The Believing Brain which focuses on the reasons we adopt the belief systems that we hold.

Topics included: science and pseudoscience • the psychology and neuroscience of belief • evolution and intelligent design • science and religion • the evolutionary origins of morality • how to be good without God • the Baloney Detection Kit • how beliefs can be changed • how to get people to stop believing weird things.

The day also featured special appearances and presentations by James “The Amazing” Randi from his book, A Magician in the Laboratory, in which he explained how to test paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Also, Bill Nye the Science Guy presented on a skeptical view from our place in space. The evening included a unique appearance of the Deity (Mr. Deity that is) who, at long last, answered Stephen Hawking’s question of why the universe goes to all the bother of existing.

About the Symposium Speakers
James Randi

JAMES “THE AMAZING” RANDI is the founding director of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), a professional magician, investigator of paranormal claims, science educator, writer, researcher, and the author of Flim-Flam, The Faith Healers, The Mask of Nostradamus, The Truth About Uri Geller, and The Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes. As one of the founders of the modern skeptical movement, Randi has been a public spokesperson for skepticism for over 40 years and has appeared on all the top television and radio talk shows and series, including 38 appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, on which he famously exposed the trickery of faith healers.

Michael Shermer

DR. MICHAEL SHERMER is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, Executive Directors of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of numerous bestselling books including: The Mind of the Market, Why Darwin Matters, The Science of Good and Evil, and Why People Believe Weird Things. Dr. Shermer received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991). He was a college professor for 20 years, and since his creation of Skeptic magazine he has appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Charlie Rose, and Larry King Live (but, proudly, never Jerry Springer!). Dr. Shermer was the co-host and co-producer of the 13-hour Family Channel television series, Exploring the Unknown.

Bill Nye

SPECIAL GUEST BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY® is best known for his hit PBS television series Bill Nye the Science Guy, which ran from 1992–1998 and won Emmy Awards for Best Performer, Best Writing, Best Producing, and Best Show. He was the host of the Science Channel’s 100 Greatest Discoveries in Science, and the popular series The Eyes of Nye. He is the author of Bill Nye’s Big Blast of Science, Bill Nye’s Consider the Following, and Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Great Big Dinosaur Dig. He is also an inventor, with patents for a baseball retrieval device, a ball throwing technique training gizmo, and an improved ballet toe shoe. As part of the Mars Athena Exploration Team, he played a key role in the design of the MarsDials, the sundials on Mars. Today Bill is the Executive Director of The Planetary Society.

Mr. Deity (aka Brian Keith Dalton)

Mr. Deity

SPECIAL GUEST BRIAN DALTON is the creator of Mr. Deity, a web show that began as an iTunes podcast and shortly thereafter became a YouTube sensation garnering hundreds of thousands of views and the attention of Sony Pictures Entertainment. After signing with Sony, Mr. Deity aired exclusively on Sony’s “Crackle” website where the episodes were viewed by millions of fans and lauded by likes of Michael Shermer, Julia Sweeney, and Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller). Brian writes, directs, produces, stars in, edits, and composes the music for the show.

Brian is (as he likes to say) a “Formon” — a former Mormon. In his late teens, Brian got religion — “with a vengeance” — and began studying theology, philosophy, and psychology day and night. In the 1980s, he wrote and performed an album of religious music with partner Paul Steenhoek, and toured the Western United States, singing and lecturing about the importance of faith. He ultimately ended up working with Jewish theologian, and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Dennis Prager. But in his mid-twenties, he began to question his devotion to both Mormonism and religion in general. This questioning lead him to a life of skepticism and a deep reverence for science, the scientific method, and the value of free thought and critical thinking.

Brian has an extensive background in Mormonism, Christianity, and Judaism. He is well-versed in skepticism, science, critical thinking, and is extremely passionate about the importance, and governing role of reason in our lives and in our society. He is an award-winning writer, director, editor, composer, and producer and has shot, produced, and edited video for Disney, Clear Channel, Cap Cities, and other Fortune 500 companies.

Order the Lectures and Entertainment on DVD

There are five DVDs available to be ordered:

  1. The Believing Brain, by Michael Shermer
  2. On Science Religion & Morality, by Michael Shermer
  3. The Future of Science, Technology, and Education, by Bill Nye and James Randi
  4. The Belief Changing Kit, a 3-DVD Set with Audience Q&A
    with Bill Nye, James Randi, Brian Dalton, and Donald Prothero
  5. Mr. Deity and Friends, with Brian Keith Dalton
Skeptic’s Science Symposium Q&A

In this discussion panel with audience Q&A, five leading skeptics (Bill Nye, James Randi, Donald Prothero, Brian Dalton, and Michael Shermer) discussed their experiences communicating science to the public. Young audience members took advantage of these experts to ask excellent questions.

This video includes one of the hottest topics in the skeptical community today: What is the most effective approach for educating the public and promoting skepticism, science, and critical thinking skills—confrontation, or a more gentle and respectful approach?

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