NECSScon Day #1

The Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism opened its doors at about 9:50 AM and I was surprised to see how orderly a queue, brights, radicals, skeptics, and free-thinkers would form.  Phil Plait was the keynote speaker and he seemed off his game as he spoke about addressing the scientific requirement that an idea is never proven vs. the practical requirement that one eventually recognize a fact claim as truth.  He’s otherwise a dynamic presenter and a likeable fellow but the speech he gave was more of the kernel of what will be a good speech.   He did issue the notable line of “the only thing homeopathy cures is thirst”.


Phil Plait

The end of Phil Plait’s keynote had a Q&A section where dumb people asked stupid questions.  This would prove to be a fixture of the weekend including comments from “don’t blame journalism guy”, “postmodernist girl”, and “cogent question man” of which the third almost never appeared.  After a surly lunch, Eugenie Scott gave a wonderful presentation on the recent efforts to wedge creationism into the classroom.  One of her adverts involved a 7th grader saying “why can’t you let me choose what’s true?” to which Ms. Scott responded “because you’re in 7th grade, dear.”


"The atheist" Eugenie Scott

The first panel of the day was “Skepticism and the US Founders” on which Brooke Allen, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Susan Jacoby sat.  Each had done their homework, which was refreshing, and Brooke Allen rebutting Washington’s piety by noting him having used “god” only 6 times in 27 volumes of letters was satisfying.  A questioner brought up Washington’s first inaugural and each panelist scrambled to be the first to say “IT WAS WRITTEN BY HAMILTON”.  The second panel was unremarkable but Dan Gardner’s presentation on imperial skepticism was quite nice.  For next year, I think I’m going to offer to vet questions during the Q&A section during which only two of the 10 didn’t suck.

That evening, I had a 4 lb chicken pot pie at a pub and then walked to the Empire State Building and back.  We were in bed by 11:00 PM.  Us rowdy skeptics.