Why I am going to TAM

Seeing the title, I bet you thought I was going to join the fray and stick my finger into the current hot topic … but no, I’ll leave that to others. Well OK yes, I’m skating around the edges of it here, but it is not “that” that I wish to get into in detail, many others have done that already.

For those who have no idea what TAM is, I’ll set the scene. It is a popular US conference run by the James Randi Educational Foundation. TAM, or to give it the full title, The Amazing Meeting, focuses on science, skepticism, and critical thinking. Speakers at TAM include scientific educators, magicians, and community activists.

If interested in the details of the next meeting, where it is, who is speaking and what will be happening, click here and yes, if you go, then you get to meet Penn & Teller, but sadly I regret to inform you … you also get to meet me. However, the numbers are sufficiently large enough to enable you to avoid me. But of course if you would like to meet me and my entire blog fan base (all two of them) you will probably find us in the Del Mar.

Now, some might ponder a thought that goes like this … “Gasp … Godless Atheists and Skeptics meeting in Vegas”, and so they dream up visions of hedonistic pagans going wild, however it is not at all like that. I’ve been to TAM several times and can highly recommend it. My experience is that they are the nicest most civil and polite bunch you will find on the planet. So why Vegas? Well because it is the cheapest place to host a conference of that size and it is a town that has hotel rooms at a reasonable rate for such numbers.

So we meet in a hotel that also has a Casino on the main floor … but this is a conference of skeptics, maths educators and magicians, most know the odds and view the games as simply a tax for those that are not all that good at maths, hence most would far rather hang out and network with fellow skeptics.

(Yes … I’m building up to it)

In recent days there has been a rather heated “discussion”. Some might find such “debates” to be a concern, but in fact it is rather encouraging in many ways … let me explain. Like most such gatherings on the planet that involve large numbers, you will find in the mix a couple of predatory misogynistic jerks. Generally conferences tolerate and accept this (I’m thinking of software conventions and the like), nobody speaks about it (apart from the usual gossip) and so some end up finding it all to be a rather distasteful experience.

In recent years most conferences in the community have been evolving and putting in place a policy of non-tolerance for such behaviour. As an example there was some discussion regarding an incident that occurred at the speakers dinner at the last TAM. Initially it was thought to be an instance where some chap was a bit drunk, and at the time when he was identified, he was tossed out on that basis. However, it is since been revealed that his behaviour was far from appropriate, and so a formal complaint has now been registered … he will not be coming again. My intent here is not to discuss this incident in detail, (others have been over it many times), but rather to highlight that inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated and will be dealt with … TAM is a safe environment to be in.

Now, back to the “discussion”.

Bloggers have been blogging and some of the discussions regarding inappropriate behavior have been getting very heated … many good points have been raised and issues that would in the past have been buried, ignored or not talked about are being vigorously discussed … this is good.

So what do we now know?

  • Skeptics like to argue … passionately, dramatically and with vigor.
  • TAM, and other similar conferences attended by skeptics, will be better places because the discussion has raised into public consciousness issues that often get ignored and buried … misogynistic jerks will not be tolerated, but will instead be tossed out on their ear.

I don’t write those conclusions in any official TAM capacity, but rather from the experience of knowing that the majority are decent human beings who, when made aware of issues, strive to do what is right.

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