The Amaz!ng Meeting

July 15, 2010

It was Amaz!ng—by which I mean the great annual skeptics venue, sponsored by the Amaz!ng One (via his James Randi Educational Foundation) and this year co-sponsored not only by The Skeptics Society but by my own organization, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, publisher of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine.

As anyone knows who subscribes to Skeptical Inquirer —which devoted its back cover for two issues to the event—The Amaz!ng Meeting 2010 (held in Las Vegas July 8-11) was not only part conference, part fair (there was even a juggling workshop), but its lineup was a roster of many of the great names in the movement.

Speaking of the movement, a highlight for many was a panel, The Origins of the Modern Skeptic Movement, moderated by D.J. Grothe, featuring James Randi, Ken Frazier, Ray Hyman, and Paul Kurtz—a presentation, by all reports, appreciated for its various perspectives. Another stimulating panel, Global Climate Change and the Responsibility of the Skeptics Movement (moderated by Massimo Pigliucci, with Michael Shermer, Donald Prothero, James McGaha, and Daniel Loxton), generated both heat and light. Other popular panels were on grassroots skepticism, paranormal investigation (ahem), and women in skepticism.

There were talks by such major figures (and personal heroes) as medical-quackery critic Harriet Hall (The SkepDoc), psychologist Carol Tavris, astronomer Phil Plait, and many others. Entertainment was ubiquitous, and included a talent show, a stunning performance by wonderworker Michael Weber, and hilarity by actor/comedian Paul Provenza (a standup guy!).

Paul (who made the 2009 presentation inducting me into the Independent Investigations Group's Hall of Honor—and I did not escape his wit unscathed) was kind enough to introduce me to someone I greatly admire: master magician and Las Vegas superstar Lance Burton. (This at the posh James Randi & Richard Dawkins Luncheon.) When Lance recognized my name and said he was "a big fan" of mine for my articles in Skeptical Inquirer , I had an out-of-body experience and remember little after that. (Was I really revived on the floor by ice water and Provenza muttering "Nickell you ¢#*!@¿  embarrassment"?) When James Randi describes Lance Burton (as he did to me) as "a prince," he doesn't exaggerate (like he does when he calls me "an okay guy").

There was much, much, much more, and I did have some additional adventures (which I'll report on in time), but to sum up: TAM 8 was truly Amaz!!!ng!