Countdown to CSICon

Skeptics, this is our moment!

CSICon 2019

Flamingo Hotel Las Vegas

October 17-20

with optional preconference Workshops

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Listen to the Audio Promo!

Speakers


Brian Greene

Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, and is recognized for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in his field of superstring theory. His books, The Elegant UniverseThe Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality, have collectively spent 65 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

Julia Sweeney

Julia Sweeney is a comedian, well known for her years on Saturday Night Live and for her popular character, Pat.  She has created several acclaimed one-person shows, in particular 2006's Letting Go of God which chronicles her journey from Catholicism to Atheism.  She is currently on the two TV shows, Hulu's Shrill, and Showtime's Work-in-Progress.  She is based in Los Angeles.

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.

Britt Marie Hermes

Britt Hermes is a writer, scientist, and a former naturopathic doctor. She practiced as a licensed naturopath in the United States for three years and then left the profession after realizing naturopathy is a pseudoscientific ideology. She now writes to expose issues with naturopathy, the current rising profession in alternative medicine.

Banachek

Banachek is respected as the greatest Mentalist/Mindreader in the world.  It is very hard to find a single mentalist or magician living today that is not using one of Banachek's effects or applying one of his subtleties.  He has put more magic on Television than any other magician in history. Luckily Banachek is also a skeptic and debunker of charlatans and mentalist techniques.

See the Full Lineup

 

Join us at CSICon 2019

October 17-20 at the Flamingo Resort in Las Vegas

People are finally starting to wake up.

  • Anti-vaxxers: Denounced as a danger to public health.
  • Climate science deniers: Exposed as ideological zealots.
  • Celebrity psychics: have been caught red-handed using trickery.
  • Homeopathy: Debunked as fake medicine.
  • Flat-Earthers: …seriously?

Skeptics must seize this moment, as misinformation is colliding with reality in plain sight. Now is the time for the brightest minds in science and reason to come together to turn the tide against pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and alternative facts.

And naturally, we should do it in Vegas. It’s more fun that way.

Schedule


Wednesday, October 16th

The goal of this workshop is to enable the participants to actively practice using the tools that skeptics require to engage successfully in conversation and debate with believers and others who may be undecided about paranormal claims. Such tools include knowledge of paradigmatic examples of such claims as well as skills in using such knowledge in confrontations with believers and undecided individuals. The participants will be assigned to one of several teams.  Each team will work on one or more cases. In a final plenary session, each team will present its findings. Finally,  a general discussion and comparison of these findings will take place.


Presented by

James Alcock

Professor of Psychology at York University, Toronto

Loren Pankratz

Psychologist

Ray Hyman

Psychologist

Thursday, October 17th

8:00 AM | Registration

“It is easier to judge the mind of a man by his questions rather than his answers.” — Pierre-Marc-Gaston, duc de Lévis (1764-1830)

We like answers. We like to know them and to give them. Sometimes we want others to think we are smart or knowledgeable, so we jump to give answers rather than ask questions.  And the questions we do ask are sometimes based more on our personal assumptions and biases than they are about getting to the real answer.

Skeptical thinking is more about asking good questions than knowing good answers. In this interactive workshop, we will practice methods for posing questions that lead to better understanding and new ideas, while avoiding bias and hasty assumptions.


Presented by

Chip Denman

Professor, Statistician

Grace Denman

Skepticism Activist

This workshop is for the skeptic that is interested in making a difference by finding realistic and practical methods of fighting back against the nonsense we see in society every day. Mark Edward and Susan Gerbic are involved in hands-on activism interactions. Focusing on the current results of their activities since CSICON 2018, their successful psychic stings on “grief vampires” will be discussed in detail. For the most recent results visit AboutTimeProject.org and read the section on grief vampires under the Susan Gerbic tab with special attention to the NYTimes article by Jack Hitt and the Holy Koolaid video interview.


Presented by

Mark Edward

Mentalist

Susan Gerbic

Skeptical Junkie, Wikipedia Activist

Our world is full of strange mysteries; ghosts, monsters, UFOs, alleged miracles, and so on. In this workshop, Kenny Biddle and Jim Underdown will share some of the techniques they employ to investigate and solve these extraordinary mysteries. They’ll discuss tips and techniques for investigating, and do a deep-dive into a few case files that demonstrate how these techniques were instrumental in breaking the case and solving the mystery. The workshop will wrap up with a Q&A session, giving attendees an opportunity to pick the brain of the hosts.


Presented by

Jim Underdown

Investigator, Podcast Host

Kenny Biddle

Science Enthusiast, Paranormal Photography Investigator

The workshop will address best practices in teaching critical thinking and rational skepticism based on published research and experience of 19 years teaching multiple sections of general education critical thinking at a California public university. The workshop will emphasize the main teaching strategy of this general education college course-  that of assessing specific examples of pseudoscience with a toolkit of critical thinking concepts and strategies which are developed over the course a semester. The main learning outcome is for each student to demonstrate the ability to distinguish scientific claims and reasoning from those of pseudoscience. Participants in the workshop will learn about recent published results concerning the effectiveness of this strategy and participate in some of the active learning designs used at the college level.


Presented by

Ray Hall

Professor of Physics at California State University

7:00 PM | Opening Reception

How can we make sense of America’s current “post-factual,” “post-truth,” “fake news” moment? By looking to America’s past. All the way back. To the wishful dreams and make-believe fears of the country’s first settlers, the madness of the Salem witch trials, the fantasies of Hollywood, the anything-goes 1960s, the gatekeeper-free internet, the profusion of reality TV….all the way up to and most especially including President Donald Trump. In this fascinating and lively talk, Kurt Andersen brings to life the deep research behind and profound implications of his groundbreaking, critically acclaimed and bestselling latest work. Connecting the dots in a fresh way to define America’s character—from the religious fanatics and New Age charlatans to talk-radio rabble-rousers and online conspiracy theorists—Andersen explains our national susceptibility to fantasy and how our journey has brought us to where we are today.


Presented by

Kurt Andersen

Radio Host, Novelist

Friday, October 18th

8:00 AM | Registration & Bookstore

8:45 AM | Opening Remarks

It is imperative to understand why we fall for bullshit if we are ever to effectively overcome it. I will discuss the cognitive science of human beliefs with a specific focus on political fake news and new-age woo (“pseudo-profound bullshit”). I propose that the all-too-human propensity to reflexively rely on our gut feelings and intuitions in lieu of more analytic thinking processes is the key to understanding why we fall for bullshit.


Presented by

An insider-outsider look at the Facilitated Communication movement—how it works, who really benefits, why critical reviews have not stopped its progress, and what we can do about it.


Presented by

Janyce L. Boynton

Artist, Educator

I lead a team of scientists at Numenta focused on brain theory – specifically, the neocortex, the seat of intelligence in the human brain. We are on a mission to solve one of the great mysteries of science: how the brain learns. In the past few years we have made dramatic progress on this problem. In this talk, I will give an overview of what we now know and what the implications of being an intelligent species might be.  I’ll describe how the brain learns a model of the world, and how our beliefs and perceptions are based on this model. I will discuss what can go wrong, how the brain can form false beliefs and why it doesn’t always behave rationally.


Presented by

Jeff Hawkins

Scientist

10:30 AM | Break

Being a skeptic is not just about correcting others and protesting for science, it is a daily and very personal thing. Professor Troy Campbell looks beyond “the issues” at the rich beautiful existence of being a skeptic. Skepticism is an orientation toward the world, where you just keep asking more questions and looking for more detail. And that orientation makes you a better and more successful person. Professor Campbell talks about how he is skeptic everyday an academic, a creative at Disney Imagineering and Netflix Insights, as well as when interacting with strangers and just planning dinner parties. In a skeptical existence, he says one sees more of existence, because you are constantly asking what else is there. And yes, he says, some non skeptics may perceive that their life is ‘full’ but we know that those people have seen only a few drops of reality. He will close will a call show the world that skepticism isn’t here to critique them but offer them a better and fuller existence on a society but also a personal level.


Presented by

Troy Campbell

Design Psychologist, Former Disney Imagineer

This talk is an overview of the different ways in which forms of junk news and misinformation are propagated as being science-based.


Presented by

David Mikkelson

Founder of Snopes.com

Homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, and subluxation-based chiropractic are all grounded in pseudoscience, yet practiced daily in the U.S. without sanction. Why? Because lawmakers have incorporated pseudoscience into the law, permitting the sale of healthcare products and services that have no plausible basis in science and no evidence of effectiveness to an unknowing public. We’ll look at how these laws are made and operate in practice and what skeptics can do about it.


Presented by

Jann Bellamy

Lawyer, Writer

The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We see them playing out in the daily news cycle, on our television screens, in our newspaper headlines and our social media feeds. Coastal inundation, withering heat waves and droughts, devastating floods, unprecedented wildfires. This is the face of dangerous climate change. It has arrived. As a consequence, fossil fuel interests can no longer claim nothing is happening, and so they have shifted to “soft denial” in their effort to prevent action on climate, engaging in a multi-pronged strategy of distraction and delay. My collective experiences on the front lines of the battle to communicate the science and its implications to the public have yielded unique insights into what steps we can take now and the current challenges that remain in the battle to defend this planet from the ongoing assault by polluting interests.


Presented by

Michael Mann

Professor, Author

Wellness is a multi-trillion dollar industry, primarily marketed to women. From “pH balancing” diets and “yoni” eggs, to “natural” cures. Offered under the guise of empowerment and self-improvement, the modern wellness movement is simply a successful rebranding of pseudoscience and patriarchy for profit. It isn’t filing the gaps left by medicine, it is capitalizing on those deficiencies as well as on society’s inability to have non-sophomoric discussions about sex. Dr. Jen knows the Age of Information is now the Age of Misinformation, and it is her mission to give a source of truth to women and men everywhere. She’ll unpack the pseudoscience, the predatory language, and the societal pressures and shine a light on the dark underbelly of the wellness industry.


Presented by

Jen Gunter

Professional OBGYN on Twitter

If you’ve had a baby in the last few decades, you probably remember hearing one seemingly incontrovertible, science-clad mantra:  “Breast is Best.” But more and more clinicians and researchers are saying that the adage overstates the science. A growing community is speaking out against the pressure for all parents to breastfeed exclusively, and the real harm it can cause to infants, parents, communities, and public health. I’ve covered infant feeding in Forbes, Slate, SELF Magazine, SciMoms, SciShow, and my Woo Watch column. I’ll take you through the history of infant feeding, the formula industry’s predatory practices, what the science really says, and why I’m a champion of informed choice for new parents, including the choice to formula feed.


Presented by

Kavin Senapathy

Author, Public Speaker, Science Mom

3:00 PM | Piff the Magic Dragon Show

3:30 PM | Break / Book Signing

Compare two ways of knowing the world. On the one hand theologians claim that the universe and all that’s in it was divinely made and can be understood through faith and revelation. On the other hand there is science, and the scientific method which extols evidence, and demonstrated, repeatable outcomes.

Science knows a lot, but has the humility to acknowledge what it still doesn’t know, and is working on. Theology, by contrast, has contributed literally nothing to our knowledge, and hubristically makes stuff up.

Science is continually surprising, even shocking. Darwin dealt the biggest shock of all when he showed that the prodigious complexity of life has a stunningly simple explanation. Darwin’s courage should arm us to face the remaining deep puzzles of existence: how did the universe and the laws of physics originate? Why is there something rather than nothing?

Inspired by Darwin, this lecture celebrates the godless world-view as not just scientifically valid but courageous. We need intellectual courage to resist facile non-explanations. And we need moral courage to eschew comforting but empty illusions and face into the cold but bracing wind of reality.


Presented by

Richard Dawkins

Scientist, Author

5:00 PM–5:30 PM | Book Signing

8:00 PM | Presentation of the Balles Award in Critical Thinking

The most awarded mentalist in history is back at CSICon! Described as the “Cream of the Crop” when it comes to entertainers, Banachek is undisputed as the world’s greatest mindreader. Astounding audiences across the globe, his talents are so incredible that he is the only mentalist ever to prove to scientists that he possesses “authentic ‘psychic powers’.” Luckily Banachek is also a skeptic and debunker of charlatans.

Join him for a show full of mind reading, predictions, and telekinesis. You may even learn the skills of a mentalist yourself!


Presented by

Banachek

Greatest Mentalist/Mindreader Ever

Saturday, October 19th

8:00 AM | Registration & Bookstore

8:45 AM | Opening Remarks

In this talk, Dr. Lilienfeld will examine recent psychological theorizing and research, including some from his laboratory, on the poorly understood construct of intellectual (epistemic) humility, which refers to the extent to which individuals are aware of their own cognitive fallibility, including their propensity toward biases. He will discuss the potential implications of intellectual humility for political and religious extremism and polarization, as well as for scientific and unscientific thinking. He will also discuss how intellectual humility may help to elucidate the differences between healthy and pathological skepticism and examine its implications for the skeptical movement writ large.


Presented by

Scott Lilienfeld

Professor, Writer

Dating back to Darwin himself, the “argument from poor design” holds that examples of suboptimal structure/function demonstrate that nature does not have a designer. Perhaps surprisingly, human beings have more than our share of quirks and glitches. Besides speaking to our shared ancestry, these evolutionary “seams” reveal interesting things about our past. This offers a unique accounting of our evolutionary legacy and sheds new light on how to live in better harmony with our bodies, in all their flawed glory.


Presented by

Nathan Lents

Professor, Author

How is so much pseudoscientific junk on store shelves? Why isn’t homeopathy illegal? Nick Little, CFI’s Legal Director and General Counsel, explains the path that CFI has taken to filing consumer protection lawsuits against retail giants CVS and Walmart for their marketing of homeopathic products. The talk will address the limits of the law in dealing with pseudoscience, and how litigation and lobbying together can help skeptics challenge both government policies and private company promotion of pseudoscience — from climate denial to snake oil medical products.


Presented by

Nick Little

Legal Director of CFI

10:30 AM | Break / Book Signing

13-year old Bailey Harris is an author, speaker, and advocate for freethought and human rights. Her Stardust series of science books for young readers are at the core of her mission to inspire a love of science and a sense of wonder about the universe  Bailey’s story of growing up as a secular child in a highly religious community is both touching and inspirational and her passion for science is infectious.


Presented by

Bailey Harris

Science Author, Speaker, Activist

It’s time to open our eyes to the skeptical deeds that evade our awareness. Television shows hosted by skeptics; a university-based office dedicated to protecting the public from pseudoscience; a homeopathy degree cancelled due to skeptics’ engagement with the media…   these accomplishments will inspire you to join an active defense against misinformation!


Presented by

Jonathan Jarry

Science Communicator

Naturopaths have defined their brand of medicine using a set of “healing” principles that sound pleasant, but really describe an archaic and sometimes twisted understanding of medicine. Having been a former naturopathic “doctor,” I can say that the overwhelming majority of naturopathic care relies extensively on dubious alternative therapies, rather than established protocols based on medical and scientific research. When it comes to naturopathy, “nature” always trumps the oath to do no harm. Join me for a deconstruction of naturopathy’s defining principles and what to do about the growing trend of natural medicine.


Presented by

Britt Marie Hermes

Former Naturopath, Scientist

This lunch includes a panel discussion and an opportunity to dine with Richard Dawkins, Julia Sweeney, and John de Lancie.


Presented by

Julia Sweeney

Actress, Comedian, Writer

Richard Dawkins

Scientist, Author

In one of astronomy’s greatest modern triumphs, we now know that there are a trillion planets in the Milky Way.  Roughly one in five may be similar to Earth.  So with so much cosmic real estate, there must be someone out there, right?  Science agrees, and may soon augment opinion with discovery.  But what about the fact that one-third of the public is convinced that aliens are busy visiting Earth?  What does a SETI researcher tell the hundreds of people who phone him every year to report sailing saucers and unauthorized assaults on their persons?  Is logic and a recourse to data the best approach to dealing with the UFO believers, and does it even matter?


Presented by

Seth Shostak

Astronomer, Radio Host

For several decades, I have been manufacturing memories in unsuspecting minds. Sometimes this involves changing details of events that someone actually experienced. Other times it involves planting entire memories for events that never happened – “rich false memories.” People can be led to believe that they did things that would have been rather implausible. They can be led to falsely believe that they had experiences that would have been emotional or traumatic had they actually happened. False memories, like true ones, also have consequences for people, affecting later thoughts, intentions, and behaviors. Can we tell true memories from false ones? In several studies, I created false memories in the minds of people and then compared them to true memories…  Once planted, the false memories look very much like true memories – in terms of behavioral characteristics, emotionality, and neural signatures. If false memories can be so readily planted in the mind, do we need to think about “regulating” this mind technology? And what do these pseudomemories say about the nature of memory itself?


Presented by

Elizabeth Loftus

Professor, Author

My interest in promoting the science of evolution dates back to about 10 years ago when Ed Asner and I toured the country with a show about the Scopes “Monkey” Trial. The script was taken from transcripts of the actual trial, as opposed to the dramatized version in “Inherit the Wind.” I played Clarence Darrow and Ed played William Jennings Bryan. We performed the play throughout the country – mostly on college campuses. I naively presumed that college audiences would see this as a historical event. I was astonished to discover that sizable portions of the audience were more familiar with the 16th-century notions of 4004BC than current scientific thought. That was an eye-opener for me.

Since then I have worked on a variety of projects to educate people on why evolutionary science matters and why embracing current scientific thinking will not, contrary to some opinions, “send you straight to Hell.’

One of my projects is called, God’s Goofs. It’s a series of animated vignettes offering up 90-second rebuttals to Intelligent Design. The other project is a radio play that brings the 2005 Dover “Panda” Trial to life. That trial put the legal nail in the coffin of so-called Intelligent Design, demonstrating that it was just dressed up creationism.

These two projects are what I am able to contribute to reducing the fear and misunderstanding surrounding the theory of evolution. But everyone has something to offer. There is a need for everyone to marshal their talents in this essential cause. I’m attending this convention with the expectation of joining forces with others in promoting, at the least, a 21st century understanding of science.


Presented by

3:30 PM | Break / Book Signing

Julia is doing 60 minutes of her latest comedic one-person show, Julia Sweeney: Older & Wider.  She deals with her daughter growing up and going to college, her daughter’s scary first boyfriend,  and musings about many other things including the Gospels of the New Testament. It’s a combination of stand up and story-telling from an atheist point-of-view.


Presented by

Julia Sweeney

Actress, Comedian, Writer

5:00 PM–5:30 PM | Book Signing

8:00 PM | ’50s Party

Sunday, October 20th

8:00 AM | Registration & Bookstore

8:45 AM | Opening Remarks

The Sunday Morning Papers session recognizes new voices and new ideas and showcases them in the spotlight of the CSICon stage. If you have had success in communicating scientific skepticism, teaching critical thinking, combating pseudoscience, or furthering skepticism in some new and significant way, we want to hear from you! More Information & Submission Instructions ›


Presented by

Ray Hall

Professor of Physics at California State University

11:00 AM | Brian Greene Presentation

12:00 PM–12:30 PM | Book Signing

Updates


Meet CSICon 2019 Emcee Leighann Lord

September 13, 2019

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian from Jamaica Queens, who was the winner of the 2019 Humanist Arts Award. She is an author of several books, including Real Women Do It Standing Up and Dict Jokes. She hosts a podcast called People with Parents, and you can find her at various skeptic conferences as speaker […]

On Intelligence – An Interview with Jeff Hawkins

August 30, 2019

Jeff Hawkins is the cofounder of Numenta, a neuroscience and AI company. Previously, he was the Director of the Redwood Neuroscience Institute and was cofounder of Palm Computing and Handspring He is the author of the book On Intelligence. Jeff will be speaking at CSICon on Friday October 18 at 10 a.m. His lecture is […]

Legislative Alchemy: An Interview with Jann Bellamy

August 21, 2019

Cover Image: While kayaking in Alaska recently, Jann Bellamy was happy to discover some ice is still there.   Jann Bellamy is a Florida attorney who writes for the popular Science-Based Medicine site. She is a founder and board member of the Society for Science-Based Medicine (SfSBM). She will be speaking at CSICon on Friday, […]

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Donate

Help bring local high school students to CSICon! Your donation goes directly toward student registrations for a field trip for a lucky high school in Las Vegas. Donors to this great cause do not need to register for CSICon themselves.

Donate

Other Info

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!

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.

Submit a Paper Volunteer

Hotel

We have discounted rooms available for the conference at the Flamingo ($89-129/night) and Harrah’s ($89-149/night). Links are located below to complete your reservation. We recommend booking early as our conference rooms have sold out in the past.

Accessibility

The Center for Inquiry values full participation at all of 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 policy ›

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