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CSI Con Sunday: Education, Pseudoscience, Religion and more!

Ray Hyman performing a seance trick.
Ray Hyman performing a seance trick.Kacey Cornell

CSI Conference 2011

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For my review of Friday, click here.
Onward, ho!

The Enlightenment and Education
Sir Harold Kroto kicked off Sunday’s talks with discussing the damaging role of religion in scientific matters, especially regarding our public education system. One particular quote that may sum up much of what Kroto had to say was, “Algebra is the language of the universe.” He could not stress enough the importance of math education to our progress and future. I was also surprised to learn about his previous work as a graphic designer (since I work within that field as well). He then discussed the importance of utilizing resources, such as the internet, for outreach purposes, educating others.

Next, Richard Saunders dove into pseudoscience and the gimmicks used in advertising to promote products using fuzzy science. As an activist in several skeptical groups, he has used his resources to expose such products as the Power Balance wristbands and has taken them down in Australia. Saunders also showed us, utilizing a volunteer, how the gimmicks used to sell the Power Balance wristbands work. Hopefully this sort of scam hasn’t taken you in, but perhaps you know someone else who has fallen victim? In that case, be sure to share this video with them and watch it for yourself.

The final talk, before the séance, was by PZ Myers of UMM. He discussed the importance and influence of good story telling. Many people consider science to be boring and lacking creativity, which is hardly the case for anyone who has taken the time to learn about various scientific topics and explore them. PZ battles this claim along with other false stereotypes, characterizing atheists as unemotional and lacking consideration for others. From personal experience, this also hardly seems to be the case since nearly every atheist I know considers themselves to be humanists. PZ then discussed the poor taste in story telling found in the Bible, including the obvious disdain for dogs expressed in the Bible. The Christian god “hates puppies.” PZ was quite amusing and very relatable. You can find more from him on his blog; click here.

Finally we’ve reached the Houdini Séance, led by Joe Nickell, Ray Hyman and Massimo Polidoro. James Randi was scheduled to be involved, but could not stay until Sunday. The speakers discussed Houdini’s career and the superstition behind séances. They then went on to perform some tricks used in séances, which we got to participate in. Ray asked the both of us to select a scarf that Houdini would then untie to demonstrate his presence (I selected the green one, on the floor, in the picture). Polidoro had an interesting presentation about Houdini and his tricks that was very informative. The convention concluded with this presentation.

Before we left we were told that they’re already making arrangements to hold next year’s CSI conference in NOLA once again. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

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