On October 23rd, 2010, several dozen skeptics descended on UBC for the second SkeptiCamp of 2010: a full day of science, education, questioning assumptions, and rap. Good times.
The Wisdom of Crowds
Jess Brydle had a jar full of candy corn at the back of the room, and attendants were invited to guess the number, with the closest guess winning a prize (an iPod Touch, I think). Though I tried to estimate the volume of a single piece vs. the volume of the jar, my guess (1050) was way off the actual number (around 770). On the other hand, it was almost bang on the average guess. Go me! Conformity over reality!
Jesse Brydle presented an interesting project: displaying bullshit and woo businesses on Google Maps. As you can see, there are a hell of a lot of them. If you look at the comments, (both on the map and Jesse’s blog post), it looks like it hit a major nerve with some of the local witch doctors—as well it should.
Ian Bushfield presented an idea for a new Vancouver political party: Reason Vancouver. Though I approve of its mission statement of “developing policies based on reason and empiricism,” that still doesn’t tell me what those policies are going to be. Ethics (political or otherwise) is only partly based on reason and empiricism. Besides, I’m not convinced Vancouver needs an explicity secular party, since we all know facts already have a liberal bias. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how this develops.
Hamlet: The Skeptic Prince
Joe Fulgham made a good case for Hamlet being a good proto-skeptic. When the guards tell him they’ve seen a ghost that looks like his dead father, he accepts that ghosts may exist, but grills the guards, asks for details, and withholds belief until he sees the ghost for himself and talks to it. Even then, after he’s told explicit details of his father’s death, he decides to get a second opinion and trick the truth out of Claudius. The theme of Hamlet (as Joe explained, I’m only familiar with the basics) was that giving in to his passions is what destroyed Hamlet. If he had stuck to reason (and yes, skepticism), things might have been different.
I’m not totally convinced of his conclusion that Shakespeare himself was a proto-skeptic, and spoke through his characters, though. C.S. Lewis (just to pick one example) wrote a couple of skeptics in his Space Trilogy, but he himself was far from one.
Baba Brinkman’s Rationalist Rap
Meet Baba Brinkman, “the propaganda wing of skepticism.” He brought the house down with his rationalist anthem, “Off That!” Totally awesome.
I got witnessed to!
When I got back to my car in the pouring rain, I noticed a little soggy piece of paper stuck in my car’s windshield. For a second I was afraid it was a ticket (though I hear parking tickets at UBC are only a problem for UBC students), but it was something very different:
Why settle for “OK”?
And if you read the Bible, you’ll see Jesus is the most inclusive person ever.
Sigh. Just like that hip-hop drive-by witnesser of years ago, here’s a guy who couldn’t help reacting to my “Born OK The First Time” and “Celebrate Diversity” bumper stickers. I’m slightly impressed that he took the time to write his note in the rain, but very unimpressed at his blinkered world view. Well, I didn’t get angry this time, just shared the note with my atheist friends at the pub afterwards and we all had a good laugh.