The Skeptical Gamers

Bringing critical thinking to Gen Con Indy

Archive for March, 2011

Audio: Cargo Cult Science Presentation 2010

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 30, 2011

I mentioned in an earlier post that a couple of gentlemen were kind enough to record our Cargo Cult Science podcast last year but that I had forgotten who or what or where.

Well, in digging through my Gmail, I have located the answers to all of those “w” words. The “who” was Kevin Weiser, the “what” was The Walking Eye Podcast, and the “where” is this link right here. That will take you to the page where you can download the audio from last year’s presentation so you have some idea what you’re getting into in 2011. The talk went really well last year and I hope you like it. Here’s a podcast they did that wraps up their Gen Con experience; I haven’t listened to it, but we’re linked on the page which implies that we were mentioned. Give it a listen.

Thanks for putting this together for us, Kevin! Sorry it took me so long to get you your official kudos.

Posted in 2010, Media, Presentations, Talks | Leave a Comment »

2011 Panel: “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

2011 promises to be pretty big for the Skeptical Gamers at Gen Con, and what better way to headline the festivities than with our annual panel?

Back in 2009 we threw our first “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture” panel and had a great time with our audience. In 2010 we revised the format to allow the audience to choose what topics we covered. In 2011 we’re retaining the “Choose Your Own Adventure” format and switching up the topics a bit.

The format: We present you, the audience, four options. You choose an option. We blather on about it for fifteen or so minutes. We do this six times to total one and a half hours. Then we open up the floor for our patent-pending “Stump the Skeptics” Q&A, where you can ask whatever the hell you desire and we will do our best to give you an answer that is both enlightening and hilarious.

Potential topics this year include but are not limited to:

  • Ghosts and ghost hunting
  • Cryptozoology
  • UFOs and alien abductions
  • Crop circles
  • Applied kinesiology
  • The anti-vaccination movement
  • Power Balance
  • Dr. Oz
  • Oprahwoo
  • Paranormal photography
  • Astrology (updated for the new zodiac!)
  • Psychics
  • Bullshit advertising claims
  • 2012 apocalypse!
  • Pseudoarchaeology (e.g. Atlantis, ancient aliens, etc)
  • The curse of Tutankhamen
  • The Bermuda Triangle
  • Spirit possession
  • The Secret
  • Nostradamus
  • Water woo
  • Folk wisdom and suburban legends

Posted in 2011, Panels, Presentations | Leave a Comment »

2011 Talk: “Cargo Cult Science”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

Also returning from an acclaimed 2010 run (of one venue) is “Cargo Cult Science,” presented by myself and Tom Foss. This one even had buzz last year; we were recorded for a podcast, the URL of which I have since lost, so if you’re reading this, podcast guys, please send me the link so I can give you a proper shout-out for being so awesome.

“Cargo Cult Science” looks at the phenomenon of people who believe they are doing science but don’t understand the process enough to actually be performing it properly. Instead they act in almost scripted ways based on their flawed understanding of the method, believing that by going through the motions, their results will be useful.

The metaphor is borrowed from Richard Feynman, who first  used it to refer to activities that have only the outer patina of science without the proper guts on the inside. “Cargo cults” refers, in the most well-known sense, to a phenomenon wherein colonialized cultures misunderstand the actions of their colonizers and begin acting out their “rituals” in ways that clearly communicate that misunderstanding. Of course, as with most things in anthropology, things aren’t quite that simple, so the talk will open with a brief introduction to the phenomenon of cargo cults and why it is such a useful metaphor for pseudoscience.

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2011 Panel: “Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

One of last year’s most popular talks was “Myths, Monsters, and Legends,” delivered by Colin Thornton. Colin has bowed out of Gen Con 2011, and to fill the void of his absence, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, and I are stepping in to give a panel focused on the fun folklore of cryptids and cryptozoology.

We’ll look at Bigfoot, Nessie, Mothman, and who knows what else. We’ll focus on the methods used in the searches for these creatures and the evidence presented for their existence. We’ll look at some real-life analogues and draw connections between mythical creatures and real ones. We will also, of course, crack lots of jokes.

Finally, I’ll tell the harrowing tale of the Bigfoot hunt I undertook in February 2009 across the entire state of Indiana and share some pictures and videos of that incredibly silly trip.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

2011 Talk: “Culture and the Paranormal”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

Back for 2011 after great success and acclaim in 2010 is my one-man talk “Culture and the Paranormal.” It will remain largely unchanged from last year.

“Culture and the Paranormal” will be a cross-cultural survey of paranormal beliefs and occurrences in order to examine the hypothesis “If paranormal events and beings exist in reality and not just in the mind, then they should be relatively homogeneous and not differentiated along cultural lines.”

My main thesis, to answer that hypothesis, is “Paranormal explanations for experiences generally draw almost exclusively from prevailing cultural narratives and fill in perceived holes to help explain the anomalous or extraordinary.” I’ll look at different cultures across time and space, and what they view as anomalous or extraordinary circumstances, and the different ways in which they recourse to paranormal or supernatural explanations for those circumstances.

I’ll also look at how different cultures conceive of analogous supernatural beings, from ghosts to werecreatures to nocturnal visitors. Finally, I’ll bring things forward to the present and look at how modern popular culture affects paranormal beliefs and experiences. Modern pop culture has inundated us with flying saucers, alien abductions, ghost orbs, and crop circles, and there’s scientific evidence that our perceptions of such things are heavily influenced by their portrayal and popularity in the mass media.

This talk will be perhaps the most academic of all of our talks. I’ll be drawing on disparate fields, from cultural anthropology to folklore to media studies, and, with some work and some luck, I’ll pull together the different threads into a wide-ranging and thought-provoking presentation.

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2011 Events Are Final

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

Gen Con has finalized the times and locations for all of our events. You can find a permanent (and regularly updated, should the need arise) schedule at the Event Schedule page, but, to make things easier just at the moment, here is the current lineup:

Date Time Event Presenter(s) Location
Thursday 4 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM Archaeology vs. Pseudoarchaeology Sara Head Marriott, Indiana Ballroom C
Thursday 4 August 2:00PM – 4:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, Sean Bennett, Elyse Anders Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Thursday 4 August 4:00PM – 6:00PM Women’s Intuition and Other Myths Jen Myers and hopefully some other fabulous Skepchicks Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Friday 5 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM Between the Nazca Lines: Archaeology vs. Aliens Sara Head Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Friday 5 August 11:00AM – 12:00PM Cargo Cult Science Don Riefler and Tom Foss Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Friday 5 August 3:00PM – 5:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, Sean Bennett, Elyse Anders Marriott, Indiana Ballroom D
Friday 5 August 6:00PM – 7:30PM Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson Marriott, Indiana Ballroom F
Saturday 6 August 9:00AM – 11:00AM Women’s Intuition and Other Myths Jen Myers and hopefully some other fabulous Skepchicks Marriott, Phoenix
Saturday 6 August 11:00AM – 12:00PM Culture and the Paranormal Don Riefler Marriott, Indiana Ballroom D
Saturday 6 August 3:00PM – 5:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, Sean Bennett, Elyse Anders Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Saturday 6 August 5:00PM – 6:00PM Crazy Conspiracies and Coverups: Secrets THEY Don’t Want You To Know About Don Riefler and Tom Foss Marriott, Indiana Ballroom D

We have lost a couple of talks from last year, but we like to think of it as cutting the chaff and working to our strengths. We’re experimenting with a couple of new talks which we think will go over very well. We’ve also expanded the annual choose-your-own-adventure panel to three events, and that’s always a blast for presenters and audience alike. We’ll see you there!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

2011 Is a Go!

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 9, 2011

Sorry for neglecting things for so long. Grad school is kicking my ass, and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Wheel are turning for a Skeptical Gamers presence at Gen Con 2011, and we may have some big news in store for you soon…

Until then, know that we’re reprising all of our popular talks from last year, cutting the chaff, and generally bringing our A-game all over this bitch. More information once I’ve got all our events tackled and submitted to Gen Con. See you in August!

PS. I do have video of many of last year’s talks. No, I have not edited it down yet. Yes, I know that makes me an asshole. I’ll get to it when I get to it.

Posted in 2011, Plans, Presentations | Leave a Comment »