Geeking out and reaching out: Dragon*Con grows as venue to advance skepticism

September 21, 2009

My presentation on why skeptics should be more skeptical of skepticism

Once again this year, Dragon*Con, which has an estimated 45,000 attendees, proved to be the place for skeptics to geek-out unabashedly, while also reaching out to new audiences. Like others from the Center for Inquiry, such as Ben Radford and Joe Nickell, I spoke a number of times throughout the four-day weekend, and on a number of panels as part of the "Skeptic Track," founded by Skepticality hosts Derek and Swoopy. I spoke at the future of skepticism panel, a panel on skepticism in education, and the "how to combat woo" panel with Phil Plait, Jeff Wagg, Naomi Baker and Maria Walters, among other panels. (For an account of the combatting woo panel, check out the Swift Blog ). I found all of the conversations to be what you would expect: inspiring, thought-provoking, and worth a much wider audience.

But the real fun for me was spending a weekend with fabulous skeptical friends, enjoying hotel room parties, late-night revels, networking galore, and eating up all that D*C has to offer the comic book and sci-fi fanatic: panel disucssions on topics like gay themes in the Dr. Who universe, Battlestar Galactica, voice acting, animation, the Marvel Universe, video games, and a great interview with Patrick Stewart, along with discussions featuring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, and getting a chance to meet authors and comic book artists I follow. (Another exciting development: Pyr , which is the science fiction arm of Prometheus Books , the largest science/atheism/freethought publisher in the U.S., was at D*C in full force).

I think things like D*C represent the real future of skeptical outreach.  Relatively inexpensive compared to national skeptical organizations' conferences, with an opportunity to reach many more people than a conference just for skeptics, D*C allows for engagement with those who believe unskeptically, as well as for connecting with skeptics who don't yet know an organized (or organizing) movement exists. In fact, a number of people I have met over the last couple of years at Dragon*Con stated they first learned of the skeptical movement by wandering into the "Skeptic Track," one of dozens of specialized tracks at the convention. Of course, there is still a vital need for the national organizations' conferences, since they provide more in-depth explorations of skepticism, as opposed to annual repeats of "Skepticism 101"-type discussions. But how fantastic it is for Derek and Swoopy to create a space for skepticism boosters to make a splash in the larger sci-fi and fantasy subculture. The skeptical movement owes them a great deal.

To see some of the pictures I took over the weekend, check out my D*C album on Facebook. And consider coming to next year's Dragon*Con. It just keeps getting better and better.