Skepticism, Atheism, and Humanism at TAM 2012 (The Amazing Meeting)by Don Lacey on Jul. 21, 2012, under Art & Culture, Atheism, Critical Thinking, Education, Ethics, Freethought, Freethought Events, Logic, Reason, Religion, Sanity, Science, Skepticism
Last Saturday, I was in Las Vegas attending TAM 2012. This was my sixth. It had been a great meeting so far and the late night conversations along with the all day lectures and panels were starting to take their toll. Nancy and I had scored great seats near the front and we were ready for more freethinking goodness.
The JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation) has been putting on these “TAMs” for over 10 years. This was the 10th major one. Altogether there were 14 if you include TAM 5.5, two TAMs held in England, and one in Australia. TAM gets its name from James Randi—The Amazing Randi, a magician and escape artist that decided to quit making his living doing illusions in 1960 and dedicated his time to the exposure of fraudulent claims. He was one of the originators of CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) now it’s CSI (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry). The JREF has an excellent internet presence and much of the work of getting the TAMs together is done by volunteers that communicate through the forum on the JREF Website.
Over 1200 people attended this year. They came from all over. Skeptics that attend TAM are quite a varied lot. They’re young and old, male and female. This year the Richard Dawkins Foundation provided child care so that more families with children could attend.
Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller, literally loves Randi and was there to support him in a big way. Penn and Teller were part of the keynote event where they took questions (yes both of them) from the audience on 38 years of magic. Penn also put on the “Donut and Bacon” rock and roll party. He funded the entire party, wrote many of the songs, played the base guitar, and sang his heart out for the 1200 folks that came up to “rock out.” The theme of the party was “Bring the Stupid.”
I can’t review TAM 2012 without mentioning the superb master of ceremonies George Hrab! This was his second year performing the introduction duties at TAM and he was excellent! George is very talented and seems to be tickled by the opportunity to just be at TAM let alone run the show. This year he wrote a song for each speaker he introduced. If you’re not familiar with George, you can get VERY familiar with him by listening to his most excellent podcast—The Geologic Podcast. Highly recommended!
Skepticism is the name of the game at TAM. It is what it is all about and there are presentations on all sorts of subjects. This year there was even an impromptu protest at the Imperial Palace against the so called psychic and convicted felon Sylvia Browne. There was a famous investigator, Ben Radford that gave a presentation. Eugenie Scott of the NCSE (National Center for Science Education) was there and presented.
I’ve only briefly touched on the happenings at TAM 2012 and there is no way to capture the camaraderie felt while hanging out at the Del Mar bar or the pleasant conversations with a table of previous strangers after loading up our plates at the lunch buffet. The TAM meetings are great and we’re very fortunate to live so close to the meeting location. It took us only 7 hours driving the speed limit to get there and plane rides take less time. Considering the low cost of the South Point Hotel, the $400 cost of the four day conference is not out of line with other conferences and as far as Skeptical conferences, there are none better. See you next year at TAM 2013!