Sharon Hill On #TAM2010 – “Let’s Get Stuff Done”

A great post, over on her site – she also quotes something I didn’t know Jamy Ian Swiss said (well, when you’re only getting second-hand accounts, it’s understandable!):

The world is full of atheists who are not skeptics.”

Jamy was fired up. I admit he took me right along with him. I am also angry that certain factions have dominated the discussion and told me what to think, who to follow and what I should be doing. I’ve been around a long time (not as long as Jamy) but by observing the public, listening to their preconceptions and concerns, I know what’s important to audiences and what needs attention.

I’m not an atheist advocate, I’m a critical thinking advocate. So, I would hate to see TAM turn into an solely “atheist” conference instead of a skeptical one. I’m glad it hasn’t. There already are conferences for that. I’m all for TAM staying neutral and encouraging sound activism for changing people’s minds about ALL nonsense ideas.

BTW – if you like that post, you may also like: What Do I Do Next? 105 Ways to Promote Skeptical Activismavailable in PDF version here and short version online here. Steve Novella also has a blog post about his experiences, at Neurologica Blog.

About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.

  • http://onefuriousllama.com One Furious Llama

    I am being a little facetious when I say this but, isn’t the number of atheists at a conference like TAM a measure of how successful the promotion of scepticism actually is?

    When everybody is properly sceptical won’t they all be atheists?

    But yes, the sentiment in what Sharon said is good I think.

    • Kylie Sturgess

      No – there’s no ‘properly skeptical’ as you put it. Certainly not if you check what scientific skepticism entails:

      Scientific Skepticism, CSICOP and the local groups | Steve Novella & David Bloomberg, August 1999 

      Also listen to Novella’s lecture on Skeptical Activism at NYC Skeptics. I think you’ll find that he summarises precisely why religion isn’t getting a pass, but is definitely up for analysis when proponents make empirical claims.


      ‘What Matters’| Barbara Drescher, ICBS Everywhere blog

      Mission drift, Conflation & Food for Thought| Barbara Drescher, ICBS Everywhere blog

      • MichaelD

        The problem comes from something a little bigger then that. Its that skepticism and critical thinking are not synonymous. While they over lap in a lot of areas scientific skepticism has more narrowed view to the physical world. Critical thinking however can be applied to a range of things like philosophy and ethics outside of skepticism’s purview.

        This isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for skepticism or conferences like TAM to focus on it (specialization can be advantageous). However I do think you’ll continue to see this people confusing the two since they are generally not well delineated in our communities.

        • Kylie Sturgess

          Yes, once can be a critical thinker about a lot of things, but it doesn’t necessarily make it skepticism, I agree. And yes, there’s a lot of overlap, but I think the last TAM demonstrated a stronger move towards ‘there’s plenty in the shades of grey’ – just from seeing what friends have said!

  • tarian

    Sharon Hill is not a blogger/speaker I know. I am therefore kind of squinting at the “don’t ask about the events above, I’m not after blog hits” line. It reads like another rehash of the you’re-just-discussing-misogyny-for-the-blog-hits topic, which is still kind of ouchy. Could someone who knows her verify that’s not what she meant? I don’t really want to barge on into a blog I don’t normally read and get somebody all defensive, if this was intended as irony.

    • Kylie Sturgess

      She’s absolutely genuine about that, I would say. There’s lots of rumours that went flying around about lots of people on lots of topics (hell, apparently I had lies being spread about me at the event! And I was even asked to present on the Education panel at TAM10 and just chose not to go because I did the GAC and World Skeptics already! Sheesh…!) and she doesn’t want to go into those kinds of things, that’s all. After hearing nonsense about me, I can understand why.

      “Ouchy” is something I think we all want to avoid, so please don’t get defensive. It’s not intended to be as such.

    • Kylie Sturgess

      Oh, and if you want to see her work, I highly recommend:

      Sounds Sciencey

      and
      Doubtful News.

    • sharonhill

      I’ll try to clarify a little about the two situations. Had I wanted to make a big deal out of them I could have blogged about it. Since they involved well known people, they would have generated a FLOOD of comments from supporters. But I felt the issues were better handled offline and not in front of an audience.

      I received several comments at TAM that confirmed this was the better way to handle things. So I highly recommend that option.

      • tarian

        Ah, I can understand that. Adding details will indeed run the risk of getting flooded one way or another. Given recent experiences, the bit with the blog hits just sort of raised a flag. Thanks for the clarification.

  • MichaelD

    Sure I’m ok with that. I’d rather have a skeptic who supports critical thinking and just happens to believe they were visited by psychic bigfeet then a non skeptic atheist.

    • Kylie Sturgess

      “I Was Visited By Psychic Bigfeet And All I Got Was A Sense Of Disillusionment When I Saw ‘Harry And The Hendersons’ and Some New Friends When I Went To Help Protest at Jenny McCarthy’s New AntiVaccination Tour In My State”.


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