I’m pleased to announce (on Canada Day, donchaknow!) the release of my 2011 Keynote speech from Edmonton’s LogiCon, in both audio and video formats. The audio version is presented on the Canadian broadcast radio program Skeptically Speaking (preceded by my conversation with host Desiree Schell). The video version (handheld video, in four parts) appears courtesy of the Greater Edmonton Skeptics Society (the hosts of LogiCon).
It’s a very personal speech, which uses my own life and family as an illustration of its theme: “While every human deserves scientific literacy, it’s not something we’re born with. It’s something we must be taught.”
A Seamless Continuation
Scientific skepticism turns a critical eye on paranormal and fringe science claims, so it’s usually framed by narratives of tension or conflict (as X-Files audiences will recall): either the stubborn, reductive skeptic versus the open-minded, intuitive believer; or, the responsible, science-based thinker versus the foolish kook.
But I have been both, and my experience did not fit into that story of conflict.
I was a believer in everything (a Fox Mulder if ever there was one!) who eventually became a “professional skeptic.” And yet, my life as a skeptical investigator is a seamless continuation from my paranormal enthusiasm: from inquisitive nerd with a passion for weird mysteries, to inquisitive nerd with a passion for weird mysteries. Nothing changed, except the information I had to work with.
As a young paranormal enthusiast, I was very fortunate to discover forthright, honest, kind voices for skepticism: in particular, the work of Barry Beyerstein and Carl Sagan. Sagan and Beyerstein are both gone now, both lost to us too soon. But they had time to speak to people like me with respect and kindness, and with something of value to offer: “Want to see something really cool?”
Thanks to Sagan and others, I learned that science embraces deep mystery. This is the story of how my universe came to look much, much bigger, and how I was taught the value of scientific skepticism—a skepticism that does not scoff, but discovers.