#NZSkepConf – The Show Begins! Keynote By Dr Pamela Gay

Here we are chatting before the show begins, with lots of coffee. Big thanks to Dell for the coffee!

Very small attendee. Could be a hobbit. I did ask a parent for permission to take the photo; his name may be Bilbo.

No teleporting from the venue in case of earthquakes! James gets us started; he is the official cat-herder for the day.

Actual questions during the Q&A – speeches are for SkeptiCamp only! Nice rule to have.

Dr Pamela Gay begins the day, with the null hypothesis. How does this relate to reality? The lack of relationship between gas giants being near stars – it wasn’t disproven.This is where we get into types of errors and the kinds that exist – errors by ignorance of statistics; type one errors (false positives); type two errors (false negatives).

“We think with our stomachs, our hearts – more often than we should”.

She discusses the belief that Vitamin C helps with colds – and how babies birth are more likely to correlate to being after holiday seasons, not the full moon. Oh, she’s talking about chocolate and how dark chocolate has medical efficacy in regards to diastolic prehypertension – I’m so glad that type two error exists in that regard.

We have a choice to believe or not believe in things that are not testable. What does it mean for something to be testable? Must test the sources and the people whom we’re getting the information from. Where we are is nothing special – we have no special vantage point on the universe. We can’t understand why certain parts of the our current understanding of the universe, but learning more all the time. “String theory -not testable. How many books, films, documentaries on string theory? It’s not science – it’s pretty math” - is it predictive? Is there underlying theory? Can it be tested? She’s going to Tweet an example of a Daily Show episode that reflects attitudes towards peer review, and how misunderstanding of it threatens science. We need multiple lines of evidence, models and instances to know if a prediction is true.

“Who do we trust? One thing above everything is the miracle that we have the ability to understand this universe, using the scientific method – to make testable predictions that explain our reality, from the big bang to today. It can be understood.” A very inspiring and rather wonderful talk.

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.


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