Society for Secular Humanists in Calgary


The Amazing Meeting 2 Wrap Up

Because of our early Sunday morning departure, we did not stay for the final presentations. I'll do what I can to mention them here. As well, I'll talk about those things not mentioned elsewhere.

The only speaker that we actually missed was Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer. Dr. Beiersdorfer has been described as both a geologist and a lunologist. His specialty is the study of the geology of the moon. His presentation involved talking about the rock formations of the Vegas area and comparing earth rocks to moon rocks. As well, he discussed the New Age (rhymes with sewage) claims of the healing powers of crystals.

Although he was not a scheduled speaker, Jerry Andrus was a prominent feature of the meeting. He had a display area just outside of the main meeting room and during the breaks would encourage everyone to check some of the optical illusions that he had set up. He can very deftly rub all our noses in the fact that our eyes and brain will readily deceive us. After being so easily tricked by all of the high calibre magicians at the event, it was rather humbling to realize that even your own senses could conspire against you.

During Day 1 and Day 2 there were also panel discussions that I did not go into any detail about. These discussions consisted of 8 to 10 of the conference speakers fielding questions from us great unwashed masses. The topics ranged from the "Brights" movement to "South Park" to politics between JREF and CSICOP to everything in between. Another issue of discussion was the JREF fundraising efforts. Johnny Carson, very generously, donated $100,000 to the foundation.

Among the those attending the conference was Calgary's own Larry Thornton. Larry is an Amazing Meeting veteran (which means he attended the first one as well as this one). For those of you who are interested, he has an excellent write up of the first Amazing meeting here. He is also an accomplished magician in his own right and could be seen doing tricks for the skeptics during the breaks. Larry is also a member of the Alberta Skeptics.

During one of the panel discussions, we were shown two videos. One was of a cold reader scamming his victims into believing that he could talk to their dead loved ones. It was cleverly done and was able to show the audience just how vague a cold reading really is and how much information the victim unwittingly gives the reader. It also demonstrated many of the other more subtle techniques of cold reading. The other video was of the first card trick in space featuring astronaut Ed Lu. At the time Ed Lu was on the International Space Station with an unopened deck of cards. He can be seen unwrapping the cellophane, shuffling the cards, and picking one out at random. Meanwhile, on the ground James Randi does the same thing with his deck. Both cards are revealed to be the same.

I guess one of the most important things I learned at the conference was the importance of admitting to oneself "I don't know". This attitude, while humbling, is truly the closest we can sometimes come to truth. It admits our limits, and frees us to ask the questions which will push back the boundaries of our knowledge. It is in pretending to know all of life's answers that we fall prey to the invented fictions of scammers, spiritualists, theists, and other nonsense.

And thus endeth my report on the Amazing Meeting 2.

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3