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.

Comments:

#1 Heidi Anderson (Guest) on Monday September 21, 2009 at 2:59pm

Dragon Con was incredible. DJ is right that in addition to having wonderful programming (better and more diverse than TAM’s this year), it also prevents skeptics from insulating themselves in the skeptical bubble.

Dragon Con MAKES you get out and see ALL kinds of people, people that you might never have met in another arena.

Thanks to Derek Colanduno and Swoopy for their hard work

#2 Joreth (Guest) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 at 12:20am

The Skeptics Track is what keeps me coming to Dragoncon.  I mean, it’s a fantastic con and all, but it’s the Skeptics Track that really makes it worth my time.  D*C is not the first place I heard about the movement, but it is the place I get updated information, where I strengthen my networking, and where I get inspired by all the work being done by amazing activists like you.

BTW, DJ, I have some pics I took of you at the How To Combat Woo panel.  Since I can’t post a link, you can see it at my website which is the triple W, the innbetween dot net (all one word) slash dragoncon2009 dot html.  If the pics aren’t up when you check this, they will be up soon (I’m building the page right now as we speak and found my way here when I went to look up your URL to link back to you on my site).

#3 Joreth (Guest) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 at 12:36am

Or, rather, I have *a* pic of you ... the rest didn’t turn out so hot since I only had my backup snapshot camera and had to zoom in using the digital zoom to get close enough :-( But you might want that single picture anyway

#4 Conference Centres in London (Guest) on Friday October 09, 2009 at 12:24am

Conference Centres in London

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