Skepticamp 2014

This year’s event will be held April 5, 2014

at the Irish American Heritage Center

4626 N. Knox Avenue in Chicago

Eventbrite - Chicago Skepticamp 2014

We are FULL UP! Please join the waitlist and we’ll release any spots that become available.

Why register?

Through general registration, we will be able to ascertain the number of chairs we’ll need to set up, the number of programs to print, and be able to tell the venue how many people to expect they’ll have bellying up to the bar for beverages. We’ll know how many freebies to bring, and how much lunch to order so nobody ends up grumpily staring at a lone bottle of salad dressing. When we know how many people are coming, we can prepare properly so everyone has a great time.

What is a Skepticamp?

Skepticamp Chicago is a free, all-day event consisting of a series of short lectures on topics of skeptical interest. Speakers are everyday local folks sharing their knowledge, and we invite all attendees to ask questions. This informal “unconference” is now in its third (official) year, promoting critical thinking and skeptical inquiry in and around Chicago.

Skepticamp is an opportunity for us to get together to learn about different areas of skepticism from our fellow group members. These talks give an opportunity for individuals to delve into particular areas of skepticism…both the tried and true topics as well as those that may not get as much attention in the regular blogs and articles we read. Skepticamps encourage as many people as possible to give a talk…and certainly encourages first-time speakers to try their hand at presenting in a friendly, supportive atmosphere.

Skepticamp is FREE – you ‘pay’ by helping to organize the event, by giving a short talk on a topic of skeptical interest demonstrating critical thinking, or simply by offering your help on the day of the event. We are already having planning committee meetings, and interested parties can still help. Other ways to help will be announced as we get closer to the date…setup and cleanup crews, distributing publicity, etc. (Nobody is going to be turned away because they don’t have a specific job, though.)

And since Skepticamp is FREE, it is entirely a participant-supported event. If you’d like to help offset some of the financial costs incurred by the organizers, please consider making a donation below. We’ll also be accepting donations at the event.

If you’d like to help, please do!
Donate to Chicago Skeptics!Buy some stuff!

What should you expect at Skepticamp?
Check out videos of some of our previous talks here.
For more info on skepticamps in general, visit:

Questions? Comments? Want to volunteer? E-mail us here!

This year’s schedule:

Talks are 10 minutes, with a few minutes for Q&A afterward. Many of our speakers are first-timers, be good to them! We encourage attendees to ask questions after each talk, and ask that speakers be prepared to provide a source for any claim that may be challenged.

10:00 Hello! Doors are open, come on in!
10:30 Welcome!
10:40 Benjamin Zalisko
The Central Science: The Failure of Chemists to Engage the Public
Why does chemistry seems to lag so far behind the great traditions of public engagement like those in astrophysics, physics, and biology? Chemistry is the keystone of scientific literacy, however there remain cultural and technological challenges in meeting this need. Given its great importance, the resulting public ignorance and disinterest in chemistry yields broad and pervasive pseudoscientific ideas including homeopathy, GMO-phobia, crystal healing, and “organic” foods.
11:00 Abby Durnett
That Thing That Happened Was A Lie
Ever wonder what historians actually do? Come find out what happens in the Ivory Tower and how skepticism fits into historical inquiry. Leave those test tubes behind, and don’t worry, no one will have to write an essay.
11:20 Martin Gannon
Ethics and Skepticism
The skeptical movement has 1) some basic interests, 2) a limited amount of resources, and 3) interactions with other people. This combination forces skepticism to deal with ethics. I want to give an outline for how skeptics can think about ethical problems.
11:40 Paul Gonley
Pseudo Science in the Business World
Companies have attempted to increase employee’s “soft skills” by introducing concepts like colors and strengths to categorize individuals. The hope is that this will allow employees to better understand their co-workers and themselves, but has it helped increase understanding or decreased our appreciation of the complexity of individuals?
12:20 Eve Siebert
When Leif Met Bigfoot: The Myth of the Norse Discovery of Sasquatch
In an attempt to extend the history of Bigfoot sightings, many proponents have sought evidence of earlier encounters in myth, folklore, and literature. Some claim that Leif Eiriksson and the Norse explorers of the New World encountered Bigfoot, thus providing Sasquatch with a provenance that reaches back to the first European visits to the Americas. Is there any justification for these claims, and, if not, where did they come from?
12:40 Adam Chalom
Can You Be a Jewish Atheist?
Some question whether one can connect to a religious and cultural tradition like Judaism while not believing its supernatural claims of revelation and divine intervention. Modern skepticism goes far beyond the questioning allowed within traditional Judaism. Can one find footing in both worlds at the same time?
1:00 Matt Lowry
How Can Skeptics Communicate Better (with Non-Skeptics)?
This talk will be a series of anecdotes (gasp!) and advice based on my experiences on how to (and how NOT to) communicate with non-skeptics. Some come from interactions with my students and family, while others occurred in the digital wilderness of the Internet. Hopefully, you will be able to walk away with some tips on how to have a more productive conversation with that crazy uncle of yours the next time you see him.
1:20 Lunch
2:20 Derrick Bennett
Skeptical Trivia Challenge
A skeptical trivia contest with prizes.
May the most skeptical player win!
2:40 Chris Long
“Personality” is Not Destiny – See Yourself Differently
Personality tests are everywhere, from job applications to Buzzfeed. Do they provide any accurate information, or just random feedback that sounds believable? Chris will present a simple, tested tool that can dramatically improve the way you communicate with yourself and others.
3:00 Mike Jarsulic
So You Think You’re a Realist?
An overview the debate in philosophy of science between scientific realists and anti-realists which attempts to answer whether the predictive success of a theory warrants belief in the unobservable entities (such as molecules and electrons) that it postulates.
3:40 Ivan Phillips
Intelligence versus Rationality
Why do so many brilliant people subscribe to preposterous theories?
There is a difference between intelligence and rationality. It often requires creative genius to invent a theory and to show that the theory is self-consistent, but it takes rationality to show that the theory is probably true.
4:00 Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar Jen Cross
My Vision for 21st Century Humanism The Lone Candle in the Dark
As a huge proponent of religious freedom, I assert that humans have the right to believe and do whatever they want as long as their actions or beliefs do not harm somebody else or limit the freedom of another individual to do and believe whatever he or she prefers. The only way to ensure and maintain religious freedom is to have a separation of Mosque and State or Church and State. Can a Skeptic truly enjoy activities such as martial arts, fire spinning and yoga that are rife with woo and still remain a Skeptic? Well, Jennifer Cross has been doing all of that [and more] for over 15 years, and she doesn’t want to quit! Come listen as Jen will beguile you with stories of how she’s managed to remain doubtful [as well as sane] while immersed in the lands of Chi manipulation and Reiki Healing.
4:20 Dan Price
Unpacking Skepticism: Philosophy and Argumentation for the Doubting
“How do you know?” It’s my favorite question.
In skepticism, we ask a lot of questions. How do we know what to believe or what we know, at all? This is often where you have to start when discussing why you should be skeptical. I aim to discuss some of the philosophy of this area and offer some practical tools for these sorts of discussions.
4:40 Louise Kellar
The Places I Go So You Don’t Have To
Darwin, Hitler, abortion and saddled dinosaurs… why I voluntarily go to creationist events!
5:00 Thank you and good night!

The bar WILL be open after the event, and opens to the public at 6pm. You’re welcome to stay!