Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Discussion Topics from the Gallery

I’m one of the organizers of the Houston Skeptic Society, the local critical thinking group in my town, and I have decided to put together a discussion roundtable for our members.

The idea is, unlike the Skeptics in the Pub gatherings where the topic of discussion can change from minute to minute, the discussion group would focus on a single topic for the entire evening; one that everyone involved would have the opportunity to research and/or think about beforehand.

Now, I have a few topic ideas in mind for the group to explore once I get a time and a location locked down, but I thought it might be interesting to open the floor to you all, and see what topics you enjoy discussing, or that you are simply curious about.

So feel free to list your favorites in the comments. And feel free to discuss them there, if you wish.

What topic(s) would you like most to discuss in a roundtable format? Do you participate in anything similar in your area? How does it work? Who is invited? Do you have a moderator type person? Do you serve sandwiches? Finish with a Conga line? Any secret handshakes or passwords?

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Disabilities, specifically chronic. I’m amazed daily at how poorly societies manage the permanently infirm. Admission: I have Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

  2. We do the same thing in CFI Calgary, It may sound corny but we also have a FSM ball that we throw to each other or have to ask for to be able to speak… This helps get the quieter people to be able to have input and gets people like myself to shut up for a second.

    I like picking a few controversial topics just so there is a real discussion and not just people stating things that everyone already knows.

  3. As a generation we haven’t got the confidence to create our own civilisation.
    We just adapt and tinker around the edges of our very uncool heritage;

    For example the term

    – Race that appears on every census form doesn’t exist My supposed race , Caucasian was inventing in 1800 and based on pseudo science and yet it’s held as valid when assessing peoples needs in planning and appears as a shorthand of white on the census form. They’re making so many assumptions about my needs of I tick that box.

    – The date 2011 is how many years since what?

    – Why is female an adaption of male We say these words all the time every day Why aren’t they 2 equally empowered words.

    Yeah lots of uncool stuff perhaps your round table members could think of more.

    1. Wow. What cool and different ideas! You know I never thought about the term “Caucasian.” I’ve sort of mindlessly clicked on either white or caucasian without really thinking about it.

      But as far as the topic for Sam’s skeptic’s group goes, I would ask for suggestions from his own group. Or maybe pick a skeptical themed book to discuss. I tend to lean toward the medical and religious stuff myself. I known it’s old, but “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer got my non skeptical book club in a tizzy. One woo believer got all up in my face and screamed at me and slammed her fist on the table when I expressed skepticism about religion/woo belief in general. Best…bookgroup…ever!

      By the way, very jealous because I don’t have a local group.

  4. How about:
    How do you talk to your non-skeptic friends and family about skepticism?
    How do you handle those weird, credulous emails from close to you? Do you just delete them,or do you respond,and if so what tone?
    Do you have trouble getting those outsiders to understand what you are all about? Do they think you are some kind of fringe nut?

  5. Here’s another one. I just got back from TAM. My friends and family want to know where I was and what it was about. I say critical thinking, science, skepticism and they look at me with a blank stare. How do I explain? Is it a movement? A philosophy? Just who are we?

      1. I think it’s about applying the scientific method to our intuitive guesses, where we have the luxury of time and contemplation. We get religion because our intuitive guesses or gut feeling is such strong self persuader.

        But :) if the wright bros were so sure they’d invented human flight, then they had to test it to see if it flew.

    1. Hmm. I think I might say “Human beings are really good at fooling themselves. The skeptical community is everybody who is dedicated to helping people avoid fooling themselves. TAM is a summit meeeting for the leaders of that community.”

      And it totally rocked!

  6. We have quite a few groups in the Boise area. Most are you standard atheist/freethinker meetups with incredibly varied topics. One group meets twice a month at a restaurant and we discuss various scientific and skeptical topics. We rotate facilitators/presenters each meeting with the topic of their choice. As far as what to talk about, spend the first few meetings figuring out how people want to do it and then find out what people want to talk about.

    We have a retired geophysicist who’s new hobby is cosmology and string theory, he can make it quite interesting. Some of the more recent topics have included Idaho’s impending water crisis and assistive technologies for people with disabilities.

  7. @Laika RE: Friends and Family
    If I’m pressed for time I say that the Skeptical Movement is the intersection of science education and consumer protection. I think this came from Sam Ogden quoting some other skeptical blogger. For NECSS, I stayed at my Father-in-law’s apartment. I just showed him the video of Storm to explain what the movement’s about.

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