CSICon - Schedule
This is the full schedule, including speaker names, presentation titles, and abstracts. Want to check the schedule quickly while at CSICon? View quick schedule »
Thursday, October 25
Registration & Bookstore
Preconference Optional Workshop: Skepchicks: Applied Skepticism: Everyday Nonsense and What You Can Do About It with Elyse Anders, Amy Davis Roth, Debbie Goddard, Heina Dadabhoy, and Maria C. D’Souza Walters
Preconference Optional Workshop: Conducting Investigations with Ben Radford, Joe Nickell, and Jim Underdown
Paranormal investigators explain how to get to the bottom of perplexing mysteries, including...
Investigative Strategies: Spirits and Hauntings with Joe Nickell
Investigations and Techniques: Monsters and Miracles with Ben Radford: Drawing from dozens of investigations into monsters and miracles, Benjamin Radford will discuss the principles and techniques behind some of his most famous investigations, including lake monsters, chupacabra, and miracles.
$50,000 Challenge Testing [of Paranormal Claimants] with James Underdown: For the past 12 years, Jim Underdown and the Independent Investigations Group have been testing applicants for their (now) $50,000 Paranormal Challenge. The IIG has tested dowsers, telepaths, telekinetics, clairaudients, alternative medical treatments, a psychic dog and many more. What is involved in a process which spans the initial contact with someone making a claim all the way to arriving at a conclusion as to whether or not the person has demonstrated paranormal ability? How many have tried to fake their way through the procedure? How are protocols designed? This workshop will answer all these questions and more.
Opening Reception & Remarks (cash bar) with Ronald A. Lindsay, Kendrick Frazier, and Barry Karr
Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: Live Broadcast! with Steven Novella, Bob Novella, Rebecca Watson, Evan Bernstein, and Jay Novella
George Hrab: Geologic [mostly] Live!
An unexpected mix of song, storytelling, comedy and cooking show, all with a nerdy, skeptical perspective. (Note: There will be no cooking at this performance due to Nashville's draconian BBQ statutes. Geo will however play his guitar with buttered hands.)
Friday, October 26
Registration & Bookstore
Teaching Pseudoscience in Medical (and Other) Schools with Kimball Atwood, Harriet Hall, David Gorski, Eugenie C. Scott, and moderator Amardeo Sarma
Pseudoscience has been progressively infiltrating our medical schools and other institutions under the guise of "alternative medicine" and "integrative medicine." How did "quackademic medicine " get started? What is its current status? What societal and psychological factors contribute to its acceptance?
The Science of Ghosts with Joe Nickell
A former stage magician and private eye who became (says D.J. Grothe) “the premier skeptical paranormal investigator alive today,” Nickell presents over 40 years of searching for ghosts and spirits. From his new book The Science of Ghosts—described by Michael Shermer as “the definitive book on ghosts from a scientific perspective”—Nickell relates going undercover to expose Spiritualist deceptions, employing forensic techniques, studying the psychology of “haunted people,” and much, much more.
Memory & Belief with James Alcock, Elizabeth Loftus, Indre Viskontas, and moderator Ray Hyman
When it comes to our understanding of how the world works, we often turn to personal experience to shine a spotlight on the truth. But how accurate a guide is our memory for the past? Discussing evidence showing just how reconstructive remembering can be, the panelists demonstrate that memory is more like an ever-changing Etch-a-Sketch than a trustworthy roadmap. And the relationship between memory and belief is a two-way street. Including...
James Alcock: Different beliefs are at the heart of the debates between believers and skeptics, theists and non-theists, environmentalists and climate-change deniers. But what is a belief? How do beliefs come about, how are they maintained in the face of overwhelming evidence that opposes them, and what approaches work best in successfully challenging erroneous beliefs. These are some of the questions that will be addressed.
The Walrus Was Paul: The Psychology of the "Paul is Dead" Hoax with Massimo Polidoro
Do you believe that Paul McCartney died in a car crash in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike while The Beatles, feeling guilty, revealed the scam through subtle hints and clues hidden in their songs and album covers? If you do you are wrong... but in good company. The "Paul is dead" myth is one of the more persistent and ever growing urban legends in rock and roll. Instead of vanishing and decline as time passed and McCartney showed to be a real musical genius and not just someone looking like him, new clues kept on popping up and apparently "serious" forensic studies appeared. On the occasion of The Beatles' 50th anniversary, Massimo will lead you in his lecture through the maze of visual and sonic hints of this amazing conspiracy theory to discover how our brains can be deceived into seeing, hearing and believing the impossible.
Science Fandom: Creating Skeptical Heroes with Sara E. Mayhew
Using art, comics, and movies to promote critical thinking.
Discussion of CSI Roadtrip with Richard Wiseman, Jon Ronson, and Rebecca Watson
Outdoor Courtyard Barbeque (cash bar)
Halloween Costume Party with Live Music, Moonshine Tasting, and MC Rebecca Watson
Saturday, October 27
Registration & Bookstore
Gender Issues & Science with Elisabeth Cornwell, Richard Lippa, Carol Tavris, and moderator Ronald A. Lindsay, including...
Should We Be Skeptical about the “Gender Similarities Hypothesis”? with Richard A. Lippa: In recent years, many psychologists have embraced the “gender similarities hypothesis” – the notion that most psychological sex differences are small. I suggest that we subject this hypothesis to thoughtful skepticism, partly because of methodological limitations in the study of sex differences and partly because of clear evidence for a number of large psychological and behavioral sex differences—e.g., in many kinds of real-life aggression; in many kinds of sexual feelings, attitudes, and behaviors; in key dimensions of occupational and leisure interests; in participation in STEM fields; in susceptibility to various mental illnesses; and in at least some kinds of cognitive ability. I illustrate the existence (and complexity) of psychological sex differences using examples from my own research. After reviewing the evidence, I conclude that although many psychological sex differences are indeed small, some socially significant sex differences are moderate to large in magnitude. Both researchers and lay people should be skeptical about blanket statements concerning sex differences, and they should remain open to the possibility that psychological sex differences vary considerably in magnitude, depending on the domain under study.
Studying the Study of Sex Differences with Carol Tavris: In this commentary, I will take a bird's-eye look at the study of sex differences over the years: what questions have changed, what findings have changed, what issues remain the same. Of course, at any given moment in time, women and men differ, on average, in many ways, from work preferences to fondness for romance novels. Where do sex differences come from? Why do they change? What questions should skeptics ask when we hear about yet another hardwired sex difference? I will try to show how we can accept findings from evolutionary psychology and biology without resorting to biological reductionism.
Why the Tennessee Academic Freedom Act Matters to YOU with Eugenie C. Scott
In 2012 the Tennessee legislature passed an “Academic Freedom Act” which called for teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of allegedly controversial subjects such as evolution, global warming, origin of life, and human cloning. Rather than being just an oddity in the state of Tennessee, more than 40 of these laws have cropped up in state legislatures in every region of the country. Because they are patently injurious to science education, citizens need to oppose the passage of these bills – as well as contend for a basic level of science literacy that would make such bills impossible to contemplate.
Science & Public Policy with Chris Mooney, Ronald A. Lindsay, Daniel Kahan, and moderator Kendrick Frazier
Mass Hysteria: Madness, Myths, and Truths with Ben Radford
For many people the term mass hysteria (also known as mass sociogenic illness) conjures up images of widespread public panic such as what (allegedly) occurred in Orson Welles’s 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio play. But mass hysterias are far more common than people realize, and their nature is widely misunderstood. Come discover what mass hysteria really is, and hear about bizarre historical cases. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Research Fellow Benjamin Radford investigated—and solved—one of the world’s most famous cases of mass hysteria, the Pokémon Panic in 1997, which was published in the peer-reviewed Southern Medical Journal. He is completing a Masters degree in education and is co-author of two books about mass hysterias, including The Martians Have Landed! A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes.
The Rise and Fall of Placebo Medicine with Steven Novella
Placebo effects are the new snake oil. Now that science has largely demonstrated that the favorite "alternative" treatments are nothing more than placebos, proponents are touting the amazing healing power of placebos - but is this just more hype or the next wave of modern medicine?
Weapons of Fraud: How con criminals scam the public and what we can do about it with Anthony Pratkanis
Every year Americans lose about $100 billion in fraud crimes. In this talk, we debunk the myths about fraud (it isn’t about the nature of the victim), describe how fraud crimes work (fraud criminals use social influence as a weapon), and state what can be done to prevent fraud (interventions that emphasize critical questioning).
Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Dinner $95 Proceeds to SGU (Not included in Meal Plan Ticket)
Downtown Honky Tonk Bus Trip (dinner on your own)
Starry, Starry Night Hosted by the Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society (Refreshments)
Held on or near Halloween since 1996, CSI’s Houdini Séance is hosted by Joe Nickell (former Resident Magician at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame). Will this séance—which will frame entertainment regarding the great escape artist—finally succeed in contacting his elusive spirit?
Sunday, October 28
Bookstore / Breakfast Buffet
Will Christmas Come This Year? with David Morrison
There is widespread fear, especially among children, that our world will be destroyed on December 21. The dread of this Winter Solstice is fed by thousands of conspiracy theory websites and YouTube videos, abetted by lurid doomsday “documentaries” on cable TV. Opinion polls suggest that one in ten Americans is concerned that they will not live to see Christmas this year. I will analyze this doomsday hoax, which is distinguished from most past episodes by the absence of any evidence to support it, and no sponsorship by an organized church or other group. It is pure fantasy, the creation of our modern communications that are directly available to anyone with an internet connection.
How to Think About Weird News: People Really Believe This Stuff with Sharon Hill
Weird, sensational, and manipulative news reporting has always been part of our modern culture. The internet has been instrumental in the hatching and propagating of ever more of these news stories around the world within hours. From alternative treatment miracle mongering to promises of paranormal proof, the promotion of the implausible is here to stay. What's a critical thinker to do when Mom panics over the coming 2012 apocalypse or your coworker raves about the amazing psychic who helped solve a crime? Many people really believe this stuff and that affects how they think about the world. Doubtful News is a website for everyone who wants to keep up on all the latest paranormal, pseudoscience and anomalous news stories making waves in the media. Being well informed about what is out there is the first step to critically evaluating what might really be behind these stories.
Scott O. Lilienfeld
Coffee & Conversation with the CSI Executive Council with James Alcock, Kendrick Frazier, Ray Hyman, Amardeo Sarma, Benjamin Wolozin, Leonard Tramiel, Eugenie C. Scott, Dave Thomas, Scott O. Lilienfeld, and Elizabeth Loftus
©2012 Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Opinions expressed at this conference are those of the individual speakers and do not necessarily represent the views of CSI or CFI. Program subject to change.