Speakers


Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller are perhaps magic’s most legendary duo. In their humble beginnings they were busking on the streets of Philadelphia. Today, they have hosted acclaimed sold-out runs on Broadway and are the longest running—and one of the most-beloved—resident headline acts in Las Vegas history. Penn & Teller continue to defy labels—and at times physics and good taste—by redefining the genre of magic and inventing their own very distinct niche in comedy. The duo has its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The controversial Showtime series Penn & Teller: BS! was nominated for thirteen Emmys and was the longest-running series in the history of the network. The show highlighted the pair’s ardent skepticism by tackling the fakes and frauds behind such topics as alien abduction, psychics, and bottled water.

Penn & Teller
Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is one of the most respected scientists in the world and an internationally best-selling author. Among his books are The Selfish GeneThe God Delusion, and his autobiography A Brief Candle in the Dark. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Society of Literature.

Richard Dawkins
Naomi Oreskes

Naomi Oreskes

Naomi Oreskes is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. She is an internationally renowned earth scientist, historian, and author of both scholarly and popular books and articles on the history of earth and environmental science, including most recently* Why Trust Science? (2019) _and* Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Do and Don’t Know about the Ocean (2021). Her opinion pieces have been published in leading media outlets around the globe, including _The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times (London), and the Frankfurter Allgemeine. _In 2015, she wrote the Introduction to the Melville House edition of the Papal Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality, _Laudato Si.

Naomi Oreskes
Mick West

Mick West

Mick West is the author of Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect. A retired software engineer, he is the creator of the site Metabunk, which utilizes crowdsourcing and technical analysis to investigate UFO cases. West uses his background in coding 3D graphics, physics, and linear algebra—honed by decades in the videogame industry—to create custom tools to recreate, simulate, visualize, and analyze UFO videos.

Mick West
Seema Yasmin

Seema Yasmin

Seema Yasmin is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, medical doctor, author, and Director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative.

Seema Yasmin
Paul Offit

Paul Offit

Paul A. Offit, MD, is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as well as the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

He is a recipient of many awards, including the J. Edmund Bradley Prize for Excellence in Pediatrics from the University of Maryland Medical School and the Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development from the Infectious Disease Society of America. Dr. Offit has published more than 160 papers in medical and scientific journals in the areas of rotavirus-specific immune responses and vaccine safety. He is also the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, recommended for universal use in infants by the CDC in 2006 and by the WHO in 2013.

He is also the author of ten medical narratives, including Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All (Basic Books, 2011), which was selected by Kirkus Reviews and Booklist as one of the best nonfiction books of the year; and Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine (HarperCollins, 2013), which won the Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and was selected by National Public Radio as one of the best books of 2013.

His newest book, Tell Me When It’s Over: Living with COVID in a Post-Pandemic World, is expected from National Geographic Press in 2024.

Paul Offit
See the Full Lineup
Flamingo Hotel Las Vegas

Join us for CSICon 2023

Had enough of the tin foil hat stuff?

We wake up every day, and almost immediately we’re confronted by misinformation, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theories. Whether it’s scary stories about tracking chips in vaccines, or cancer-causing windmills, or social media “influencers” pushing completely worthless, “all-natural” homeopathic junk…it’s everywhere. And it’s exhausting.

But you have the power to help make it stop.

You have the ability to stand up for reason, and science, and critical thinking.

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has been doing it for nearly 50 years. And we know lots of people just like us—just like you—who are tired of the nonsense and looking for the best ways to push back.

The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. Join CSI, Skeptical Inquirer magazine, and an amazing collection of scientists, skeptics, and investigators from all over the globe for CSICon 2023, October 26th through 29th at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel.

Stop drowning in misinformation and nonsense. Get the tools you need to float above it – and help the rest of the world ditch the tin foil hat stuff, too.

Schedule


Thursday, October 26

8:00 AM | Registration

Join veteran investigators Jim Underdown and Kenny Biddle as they share their decades of experience in this split workshop focused on mysteries and superpowers! The world is full of mysteries, and with over half our population still holding onto various paranormal beliefs, we need all the tools we can get to investigate, test, and solve them. When it comes to claims of haunted houses, ghostly photographs/video, monsters, and aliens, where do you start? Kenny Biddle, CSI’s chief investigator, will go over the methods, tips, and tricks he uses to not only investigate paranormal claims but to solve the mysteries. But what about those individuals who claim to have superpowers beyond those of mortal people? That’s where Jim Underdown shines. He’ll go over the processes and detail-specific methods he and the CFI Investigations Group employ when designing properly controlled tests for the CFIIG $500,000 Paranormal Challenge, which happens to be the largest such prize in the world.


Event Location

Laughlin 1

Presented by

Join Richard Wiseman, Ray Hall, and Massimo Polidoro as they undertake a three-part journey into the fascinating world of magic and skepticism. In the first part, you will discover the key psychological principles that magicians use to astound their audiences and find out how to perform several mind-blowing miracles. In part two, you will be invited into the mysterious realm of scientific sorcery and learn physics-based stunts that can be used to both educate and entertain. Then, in the third and final section, you will go backstage with the psychics and uncover some of the tricks of paranormal trade. Together we will take a deep dive into deception, psychology, science, skepticism, and the paranormal. This will be a hands-on and highly interactive session in which you will discover how to perform amazing card tricks, read minds, predict the future, transform a tea towel into a chicken, and much more.


Event Location

Laughlin 1

Presented by

Join us for CSICon's opening reception


Event Location

Scenic Ballroom

Presented by

The lecture will extol science as perhaps humanity's greatest and proudest achievement. That invites accusations of “scientism” and arrogance. Science knows what it knows (a lot) but it also humbly knows what it doesn’t know (also a lot). There may be questions too deep even for science. But if science can’t answer them, no other human endeavor can either. Given that we were designed simply to survive and reproduce, the wonder is that we have produced the geniuses that we have.

Science comes under attack from the fashionable belief that it is no more true than indigenous tribal myths and alternative, subjective “ways of knowing.” These attacks are influential but easily rebutted. Science has well-developed methods—for example, the double-blind trial—to eschew subjectivism.

The human benefits of science need no listing. But they're not the main reason I would stand up for science as a sublime triumph of our species up there with Shakespeare and Beethoven. We uniquely know how, where, and why we came into existence.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Friday, October 27

8:00 AM | Registration & Bookstore

8:45 AM | Opening Remarks

You overhear people on the street, and you want to say, “Qu’est-ce que sais?” and run, run, run away. Even more disturbing, they overhear you and want to do the same. Could you both be right? If reason is our most powerful tool for staying alive and achieving fulfillment, why is it so hard to use, and why is there so little agreement about what it is? Psychologist Stuart Vyse—a sometime talking head but never a psycho killer—will describe the science behind many of our common irrationalities and offer suggestions that will help you start making sense.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

What is a science communicator? The era of once-a-decade outliers such as Carl Sagan is long gone. In this current era of internet-borne disinformation and science denial pandemonium, science communication has emerged as a vibrant and painfully necessary field, with an army of science scholars focusing their expertise exclusively on informing the public. Charlatans and anti-science propaganda have never been more prevalent, and the stakes have never been higher. As the existential challenge of the twenty-first century begins to materialize, how do we help people know what is true? This talk will clarify the issue and players involved, as well as highlight important strategies that can be implemented toward winning this war with ourselves.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Investigations into dubious claims have provided a lot of valuable information. Based on the books Investigating Pop Psychology (with Richard Wiseman) and Pseudoscience in Therapy (with Cara Santa Maria), this presentation explores investigations into claims related to psychological pseudoscience, fringe science, and controversies. While it’s true that pop psychology poppycock invades our lives on a regular basis, science-based psychology provides a strong defense against persistent myths and misinformation.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

10:30 AM | Break / Book Signing

Rina Raphael is a journalist who specializes in health, wellness, tech, and women’s issues. She covered the wellness industry for Fast Company magazine and has also written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and New York Magazine, among other publications. Her wellness industry newsletter, Well to Do, covers trends and offers market analysis. Previously, she served as a senior producer and lifestyle editor at TODAY.com and NBCNews.com.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

What grosses you out? Human beings may have the most highly tuned sense of disgust on the planet. We seem almost hardwired to avoid anything icky that could make us sick. But disgust can also lead us astray. Many medical myths, misconceptions, and irrational fears about our health relate to things we find gross and to magical thinking that leads to fears of contamination. For instance, it’s been very easy to sell expensive treatments that promise to help people “sweat out” toxins, despite a resounding lack of scientific evidence for their efficacy.

In her book Gory Details, Erika Engelhaupt uncovered many fascinating stories about medical treatments involving urine, feces, sweat, and blood, all while exploring the concepts of disgust and magical thinking. She’ll discuss these and more—including the more extreme example of delusions of infestation, in which people become convinced that insects have taken over their bodies.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Come join us for this VIP Luncheon featuring special guests Richard Dawkins, Naomi Oreskes, and Paul Offit. Be sure to choose it when registering if interested. Seating is limited.


Event Location

Reno 1 & 2

Presented by

Critical thinking and science literacy are essential for surviving the infodemic but can be difficult skills to learn and apply. The FLOATER toolkit was developed to provide a structured and systematic way to think through claims. The toolkit’s seven key principles—Falsifiability, Logic, Objectivity, Alternative Explanations, Tentative Conclusions, Evidence, and Replicability—can save you from drowning in a sea of misinformation.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

After a series of court cases—including, most recently, the 2005 Kitzmiller v Dover intelligent design trial—creationists have mostly abandoned organized campaigns to teach creationism. Teachers still are approached to deemphasize or omit teaching evolution, but the concerted efforts seen in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s largely have ceased. Then in June 2022, the Supreme Court decided in Kennedy v. Bremerton that a high school football coach was permitted to pray on the fifty-yard line and overruled an earlier Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman. This changed the ground rules in the seemingly perpetual struggle to keep good science in, and creationism out, of the public school science class. Legislation is starting to creep in. Alas, creationists may indeed be back for another run in the schools.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Only three states—Delaware, New Jersey and Texas—require media literacy in all K–12 classrooms. Eighteen states have enacted some form of legislation promoting media literacy in schools, but the standards are highly variable from one state to another, and what happens in the classroom can vary widely. Nonprofits advocating for media literacy to be mandatory in K–12 curricula say it can take upwards of five years to push legislation through at the state level, and even then, the result might be just one unit of media literacy during a student’s high school career. So, what’s going on? Are students denied media literacy, digital literacy, and critical thinking lessons simply because state legislatures are slow and bureaucratic, or is there an agenda to prevent children from growing up into critical thinkers who are able to separate fact from fiction?


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

3:30 PM–4:00 PM | Break / Book Signing

College students believe all sorts of crazy things. Unfortunately, vague institutional commitments to critical thinking appear to have minimal impact on this woo in the U. Instead, post-secondary learning produces many highly skilled professionals who use astrology to find romantic partners. A panel of four professors uses science and personal experience to promote the development of rational skepticism in the undergraduate classroom. The panelists also contend that refuting pseudoscience and pseudohistory directly benefits contemporary students and society more broadly. Educators and noneducators are welcome to learn about the most common paranormal beliefs held by undergraduates and what educators and concerned citizens can do about it.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Virulent: The Vaccine War explores the highly contentious, emotionally fraught firestorm surrounding vaccines, charting the collision between scientists and charlatans, truth and lies.

We put a human face on scientists and others in the trenches, including Dr. Paul Offit, one of the world’s preeminent virologists and the project’s medical advisor; Dr. Peter Salk, polio inventor Dr. Jonas Salk’s public health–expert son; Arthur Caplan, PhD, who founded NYU’s Division of Medical Ethics; New York Times columnist Kevin Roose, who writes about how disinformation spreads online; and high school senior Ethan Lindenberger, who made headlines when he had himself vaccinated against his parents’ wishes.

The film shines a harsh spotlight on leaders of the anti-vaccine movement, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who disseminates bad science to African Americans who hold the Kennedy name in high esteem.

Virulent: The Vaccine War is an invitation to think again, exposing the myths and laying bare the facts about vaccine science, its history, and what it will take to eradicate the world’s most deadly diseases.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Saturday, October 28

8:00 AM | Registration & Bookstore

8:45 AM | Opening Remarks

With an average of ninety-five minutes per day spent by each user on social media apps such as TikTok, social media has become the “new TV.” Psychics have found an easy way to reach and influence millions of people (including the young and impressionable) with their self proclaimed “abilities.”

Fame and fortune can be found by charlatans more easily than ever before in this new age. Hashtags such as #telekinesis, #witchtok, and #psychicmedium are on the rise with millions of views for each. But about three years ago, Dean started to battle these with #debunktok.

Dean uses his experience as a mentalist and magician to not only challenge these claims but to replicate and expose how these abilities are easily faked.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Facilitated communication (FC) is a discredited communication technique that speaks falsely for nonverbal persons and has generated false sexual molestation accusations. Syracuse University’s Center for Disability and Inclusion continues to train people to practice FC. Craig Foster’s assistant recently attended one of these workshops, and what they learned will be shared in this talk.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

10:30 AM | Break / Book Signing

This panel brings together four highly knowledgeable speakers to discuss effective ways of engaging with younger minds. How can comics and graphic novels be used to convey skepticism in a new and exciting way? What resources really make a difference in the classroom, and how can teachers use them to nurture a sense of curiosity and wonder? What’s the best way of promoting inquiry-based learning and critical thinking in college students? Why is it so important to teach skills, not facts, and how can this fascinating approach help schools and educators foster better thinking? Each panelist will bring their unique perspective and expertise to these important questions as they reflect on the future of skepticism.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

12:30 PM | Lunch On Your Own

Many people think that anti-scientific attitudes arise from superstition, general ignorance, or scientific illiteracy, and some of them do. But in the United States today, anti-scientific attitudes align most strongly not with education levels but with political ideology and party affiliation. Polls consistently show that self-identified conservative Republicans are far more likely than Independents or Democrats to reject climate science or to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. The latter has had tragic consequences, as data now confirm that Republicans were more likely to die of COVID-19 post vaccine availability.

Why do Republicans reject science more often than Democrats do? In our new book, The Big Myth, Erik Conway and I argue that part of the answer can be found in the long history of pro-market, anti-government ideology promoted by business conservatives since Herbert Hoover. These conservatives opposed government action in the marketplace on the grounds that it was a threat to freedom. For most of the mid-century—particularly in light of the multiple, cascading market failures of the Great Depression—market fundamentalist beliefs did not take hold. It seemed clear to most Americans that government was needed to correct business cycles, prevent monopolistic practices, protect workers (including children) from exploitation, and reduce industrial pollution, among other things.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Conspiracy theories have become a topic of much concern given their involvement in political violence and other recent events. But what do we know about these things we call “conspiracy theories”?

Are beliefs in them increasing? Are conspiracy theories driving deleterious political and medical behaviors? Who is to blame for our current state of affairs and what should we do about it?


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

After a couple of days of conferencing, conversing, and contemplating Very Important Things, your brain needs a break. Enter Skeptical Inquirer Presents host Leighann Lord. This former CSICon emcee (2019) is here to offer something completely different: standup comedy! She has enlightened and entertained audiences worldwide and now VEGAS BABY! Plus, Barack Obama follows her on Twitter. You should too.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Penn and Teller broke box office records on Broadway, performed to packed houses around the world, created award-winning television shows, have been featured in The Simpsons, and are the longest-running headliners to play at the same hotel in Las Vegas history. This celebratory interview will explore their fascinating thoughts on magic, skepticism, James Randi, creativity, success, and much more.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

8:00 PM | Halloween Party - Groovy 60s

Sunday, October 29

8:00 AM | Registration & Bookstore

8:45 AM | Opening Remarks

CSI awards the Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking each year. The $2,500 award is given to the "creator of the published work that best exemplifies healthy skepticism, logical analysis, or empirical science." Robert P. Balles, "a practicing Christian," established this permanent endowment through a Memorial Fund. Center for Inquiry's "established criteria for the prize include use of the most parsimonious theory to fit data or to explain apparently preternatural phenomena.”


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Paper Session - Ray Hall Moderator Natalia Pasternick

The Sunday Morning Papers session will recognize new voices and new ideas and showcase them in the spotlight of the CSICon stage. These are people who have had success in communicating scientific skepticism, teaching critical thinking, combating pseudoscience, or furthering the mission of CSI in some new and significant way.


Event Location

Vista Ballroom

Presented by

Info


Hotel Information

Discounted rooms are available at the Flamingo starting at $109/night. Links are located below to complete your reservation. We recommend booking early as our conference rooms have sold out in the past. Cutoff to book with the Flamingo at these special rates is 10/3/2023.

Stay at the FlamingoMore Hotel Information
Accessibility

The Center for Inquiry values full participation at all its events, including participation from individuals with disabilities. Requests for reasonable accommodation may be made by contacting Barry Karr at (716) 636-4869 ext. 217 or bkarr@centerforinquiry.org.

Policies

Policy on Hostile Conduct / Harassment at Conferences: View Harassment Policy

Call for Papers

The Sunday Morning Papers session will recognize new voices and new ideas and showcase them in the spotlight of the CSICon stage. If you have had success in communicating scientific skepticism, teaching critical thinking, combating pseudoscience, or furthering the mission of CSI in some new and significant way, we want to hear from you!

Submit a Paper

Volunteer Information

CSICon Las Vegas needs your help! We are seeking a number of volunteers to help support the event, whether with speaker support, registration, event management, PR, merchandising, outreach, tabling, or other opportunities.

Volunteer Instructions

Apply for the CSICon 2023 Scholarship

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is accepting applications for CSICon 2023 Scholarships, generously funded by the Wadsworth-Sheng Fund.

Students Apply Today