This week I’ll be attending The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 (TAM9) in Las Vegas, Nevada. TAM9 is the annual conference of The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) that brings together skeptics and critical thinkers for several days of talks, panels and myriad activities. Each year TAM gets bigger and bigger whilst expanding content, diversity and attendance.
This year’s schedule contains two keynote addresses that are open to the general public. The first is given by Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of Nova ScienceNow and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Dr. Tyson brings a passion for astrophysics and a strong, persuasive message of the necessity for science education and communication to the general public. The second keynote is Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, prolific bestselling author and director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation. Dawkins is a foremost speaker on the importance of evidence-based thought in science and public life. He has the distinction of being perhaps the world’s best known public atheist.
The rest of the TAM9 schedule is the most varied and diverse yet. Included are artists, poets, scientists, activists, journalists and television personalities. The full schedule is here. The program covers immense ground in critical thinking, from Phil Plait to Jennifer Michael Hecht to Carol Tavris to Sarah Mayhew to Bill Nye to Adam Savage to Elizabeth Loftus to Skepchick bloggers to the hosts of MonsterTalk, and many, many more. The schedule is full and appeals to a wide variety of skeptics, not just serious scientists and intense science enthusiasts. This program emphasizes critical thinking for people across disciplines.
Beyond the official TAM program, there’s a full slate of fringe events which emphasize the diversity that TAM represents this year. Side trips are planned to Red Rocks and the Grand Canyon as well as daredevil activities. There are meetups for myriad subgroups, including various nationalities, vegetarians, LGBT folks and others. The most notorious of the unofficial events is Penn Jillette’s Bacon and Donut Party, which is a fundraiser for JREF.
The diversity of the official and non-official schedules of TAM9 elucidates the changing face of skepticism. No longer are cries of the skeptical movement as a bastion of privileged white men accurate or productive. This year’s Amaz!ng Meeting holds promise to be one that moves beyond talk of inclusion into one of outreach.
TAM9 will be held at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa from July 14-17. I will be posting daily blog updates from Las Vegas throughout the conference. If you have any particular questions for interviewees or issues you’d like me to address, please leave me a comment here or through Twitter.
This entry is cross-posted at SheThought.