I recently attended the 'Origins' conference at Cal Tech sponsored by Michael Shermer and the Skeptics Society, along with a little seed money from the Templeton Foundation. PZ has opined that their participation taints the affair some what, and I have to admit that there was a profound difference in the character and utility of the 'debates' sponsored by the latter in the afternoon session as compared to the morning's scientific lectures. It was a weird and unsettling experience, which I will post about soon enough. There were kooks present in the afternoon on both sides of the science-religion divide, as well as a need for better fact-checking.

Anyway, I thought it would be helpful to blog about the various parts of the conference, and I'm hoping to get some of the great minds involved to forward stuff about their presentations which I can then link to in my posts. I had originally intended to attend with a skeptical friend of mine, one of the officers of CVAAS* , but this became impossible for my friend due to other commitments, among them attending and supporting James Randi's lecture at CSU Fresno on Thursday, October 2nd. I had the good fortune to join members of CVAAS in having breakfast with the magician and founder of JREF at the Marie Callender's across the street from CSUF on Thursday morning, and a good time was had by all. Randi was a colorful and engaging personality, and he had a lot of good stories to share about past and present friends and foes of skeptical thinking. A fellow CVAAS member snapped a picture with both of us in it, and I present (in the interest of complete disclosure) a slightly-tweaked version of that below: **

*If you live in the Central Valley of California, why not click on this link and consider checking the organization out?

** It was originally a lot bigger image, Randi was more in the foreground, and I had a flower coming out of my head courtesy of the print on the wall.


jean paul said...

Hello I am loking for the lectures of the conference(Origins) ever since october.
If you Know were I can find them please tell me. My email is jeankawas70@hotmail.com

Doppelganger said...

Hi Scott,

This comment is more or less irrelevant to the post, but I just read your comment on Jason's blog re: tree rings and information and I thought that this post at least mentioned creationism, so....

I agree that tree rings do indeed contain "information", and 'coded' information at that.

However, in my experience, when I have mentioned tree rings in discussions with creationists who have convinced themselves that they know all about information theory, they dismiss the argument out of hand, for the information in tree rings does not meet the criteria laid out by, well, someone (they can never say) indicating that the information THEY are talking about must meet certain conditions. It boils down to tree rings do not contain the same kind of informaiton they think exists in DNA, which to them is just like the information in computer software (if the person has a background in computers, english language if they do not).

They want to control the argument in order to make sure that they 'win'. This always seems to impress the lay creationists who are watching.

What is your experience with it?