The Skeptical Gamers

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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
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Panel: "Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture"

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on February 7, 2010

Today, I’m going to start a series of posts detailing the events that we have thus far planned for Gen Con. I’ll begin with the centerpiece of the whole scheme, our big two-hour skeptical panel titled “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture.”

We ran a previous version of this panel last year and it went far better than we could have expected. We had a larger audience than we thought we would, and lots of people came up afterward and thanked us for running the panel. They said it was most unexpected.

This year, the panel will be reworked and much improved. First off, we’ve altered our lineup. Myself (Don) and Sean will return, and Tom, who had to bail last year to attend a wedding (but did help us with the material) will be taking his proper place at the table. Coming with him is Jon Maxson, who attended Gen Con with us in 2008 but did not help with last year’s panel. Unfortunately, Rob will likely be leaving us to seek graduate studies in whatever state his soon-to-be wife will be living in come August. We’ll miss him, as he complied lots of our alternative medicine and antivaccination information last year, but we wish him the best of luck and hope the panel won’t suffer for his absence.

We’re also changing formats. Last year we went in a sort of serial lecture format, which had a couple of downsides. First off, it was kind of dry; it lacked life and dynamism. Though most of the audience didn’t seem to mind, we want the panel to be as engaging as possible. Secondly, it limited banter and interplay between us panelists and made it less a panel and more of a, well, serial lecture. It also gave us little control over our time restrictions, and as such, we had to lose a lot of our material because we had packed in too damn much.

To help correct all of these problems, this year we’re going with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” model. Instead of us deciding what the audience needs to know, we’re going to let the audience pick what they want us to talk about. We’ll present them with a bunch of options to choose from and then let them have at it. We’ll riff on one choice for a while, and then let them pick another. Our topics are drawn from TV, books, movies, and the headlines; in other words, we’re tearing through as much pop culture paranormalism as we possibly can in two hours.

The topics we’ll cover include (but are not limited to):

  • Ghosts and ghost hunting
  • Cryptozoology (e.g. bigfoot, Nessie, Mothman, etc.)
  • UFOs and alien abductions
  • Crop circles
  • Alternative medicine and those who promote it
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Astrology
  • Psychics
  • Advertising claims (e.g. HeadOn and anything that promises to lengthen “that special part of the male anatomy”)
  • 2012 apocalypse!
  • Pseudoarchaeology (e.g. Atlantis, the Nazca Lines, etc)
  • Crystal skulls
  • The curse of Tutankhamen
  • The Bermuda Triangle
  • Spirit possession
  • Popular quote mines
  • Deepak Chopra, Choprawoo, and What the Bleep Do We Know?
  • Nostradamus
  • Water woo

Once we’ve run through our topics (or hit the 90 minute mark, whichever comes first), we’re going to follow the panel with a Q&A titled “Stump the Skeptics,” where we invite the audience to hit us with their craziest, most esoteric woo-woo claims and see what we can make of them. We hope to be surprised and have a lot of fun, and we hope that the audience does, too. Last year most everyone seemed to.

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