Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Not-so-secret Santa!

Christmas is just 19 days away!

I love Christmas. This year I love it even more because I’m going home to Chicago and I get to spend a week with my family and friends who I miss so hard it hurts. And snow… we don’t have snow here in Texas… instead we have fresh sod and blooming flowers. It’s weird. It’s also rainy and chilly. Basically, Christmas in Texas feels like Easter, but with less parking at the mall.

Anyway, because I’m LITERALLY EXPLODING WITH EXCITEMENT (yes, literally… there’s excitement blood and excitement intestines everywhere), I want to play Skepchick Santa. I’m going to send some of my disembodied remains down your chimney and leave skeptical gifts under your trees. 

I was saddened by Googling "lady santa" so I Painted me as Santa.
I'm mofo Santa, yo

2012 is going to be our last  year on earth* and it’s going to be jam packed with skeptical things to do. There are conferences everywhere: SkeptiCAL, NECSS, SkepchiCon, TAM, DragonCon, Skepticon, Women in Secularism and Skepticamps everywhere… and that’s just a sampling of what’s going on in the US alone. It’s simply impossible for everyone to attend every one.

But this is where your Skepchickal Santa comes in! Since it’s the last time you’ll ever be able to attend anything*, you get to pick one conference or event and you will get it, wrapped in a pretty package, with a custom SurlyRamics necklace. Time off from work, travel, food, registration, and bar tab will all be under your tree! AND you get to pick one speaker and/or topic you’d like to see at that event!

The thing is, you have to be good. And to be good, you have to gift a skeptical gift to the entire world. One gift. To make it easy, you don’t even have to make it happen… just put it on a list, and Skepchick Santa will deliver it. You have to choose a piece of woo to do away with or a skeptical tool you think every person needs. You can make me do away with cancer quacks or deliver a complete series of Mythbusters streamed directly into every person’s brain. Whatever you want.

So let me see your lists!

What event do you want to attend that you can’t or won’t? Who would you like to be there, and to do what (if anything)? What do you give the world in exchange?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

*until 2013


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I would give everyone the gift of one solid History and Philosophy of Science course. It not only would teach people the basic concepts like logic but also what famous scientists ACTUALLY SAID AND DID! No more misquote the second law of thermodynamics!

    1. You interest me strangely! I’m involved in setting up a History and Philosophy of Science course, but it’s gotten way out of hand, and the person who intends to teach it is demonstrating a fundamental hostility to science. What to do? If I could get hold of a good syllabus, created by someone who understands science it might help. Have you got any advice/suggestions/syllabi?

  2. I think everyone, including me, could use a full understanding of statistics. Just zap it right into our brains if you will.

    As for my present, hmmm. A trip to tour Skeptics on the Fringe to see Tim Minchin (and if I happen to bump into Stephen Fry while I’m there so much the better). Yeah, that ought to do it. :)

  3. I wouldn’t do away with anything – Instead, I would give the world the gift of critical thinking!

    There is nothing more satisfying than recognizing that something seems off about a claim and then unraveling it for yourself. You momentarily feel like the smartest person ever when you finally hit the answer, with the added bonus that nobody just tells you something is bad and you accept it, you actually figure out why and can apply that recognition to other, similar problems!

    It’s kind of like wishing for more wishes, only it’s got fuck all to do with magic!


        Okay. I’d go to TAM because I’ve never been west of Nebraska (seriously, can I die yet?) and somehow engaging in skeptic activity in the city of debauchery seems just trashy enough to be AWESOME.

        I’d want to see Phil Plait talk about just about anything pertaining to space. I saw the video of the infamous Don’t be a Dick speech, and it’s actually one of the first things I saw that piqued my curiosity to get further into skepticism and reading his blog sparked my growing interest in astronomy – I am slowly building my book collection on space now and can’t seem to get enough :) Plus he just generally seems like a cool dude, so that’s a plus.

  4. I’d have every kid across the globe have a lesson in critical thinking from a super-cool teacher.

    Then I’d like to attend TAM. And I’d like to be in the front row for a Rebecca Watson takedown of Dawkins.

    1. I would much rather have Dawkins just apologize. Then we could read his books and listen to his talks with a clear conscience.

  5. TAM! NECSS! Do I have to choose?

    Rhys Morgan. Randi is truly amazing and I want to hear him as often as I can. He is a treasure and I think we all know that.

    My gift to the world would be a physics class given by a teacher who LOVES the subject. I took physics years ago because I had to. I had no passion or interest in the subject; I just wanted to pass. My father, my husband and my son are all physics major. It took me years but I finally got it! We sit around and talk physics for FUN!!! I give Bob Novella from SGU some of the credit as well.

  6. The Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne. I can’t wait to see Aayan Hirsi Ali, Eugenie Scott, Catherine Deveny, Kylie Sturgess of Token Skeptic, Annie Laurie Gaylor and all the other presenters, but those women the most.

    The World Skeptics in Berlin looks good too! ;) But if there’s one a year, it’ll be Melbourne for me.

  7. The Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne. I can’t wait to see Aayan Hirsi Ali, Eugenie Scott, Catherine Deveny, Kylie Sturgess of Token Skeptic, Annie Laurie Gaylor and all the other presenters, but those women the most.

    The World Skeptics in Berlin looks good too! ;) But if there’s one a year, it’ll be Melbourne for me.

  8. I have a secret plan for improving the Skeptiverse.
    Lots of details to be worked out, but I think if I brag about it, I might get embarrassed enough to actually start working on it.

    A reporter friend asked if our local skeptics group had anyone who knew anything about ghosts, hauntings and other spooky Halloween stuff and would be willing to comment from a skeptical perspective. We didn’t have anyone, or at least we don’t know that we do have anyone (no budding Joe Nickell’s in house), and it was already too late for Halloween by the time we talked about it. Apparently, for reporters, having someone local to talk to is a big plus. It puts a local spin on things and their readers or viewers are more likely to engage with the story.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem, and how to generalize it to other skeptical topics and come up with a system that could be used by other local skeptics groups. (There are lots of issues, including privacy, vetting our “experts”, ensuring that representatives of the press really are that and not shills for Age of Autism, whether this should just be for the press or for anyone, how to maintain our database, ensuring prompt responses to inquiries, deciding the appropriate level of technology, which could be anything from paper and pencil to a full-blown LAMP application, should the system be local or centralized under the auspices of some national or international organization, etc.)

    But the basic idea is there would be an “Ask a local skeptic” web page somewhere (or many somewheres) with a form someone could fill out giving their location, topic they wished to discuss, and contact info) and it would fire off an email, IM, tweet or whatever to someone local (willing to be quoted or just for background), who would respond to them.

    Is this kind of system worth setting up, particularly since its current expected lifetime is only a year and 16 days (until Dec 22, 2012)? Does anyone have any ideas about how it should work? Should I write down what I’ve been thinking about and post it somewhere?

        1. Thanks, MrM.

          I took it as a “I hope maybe she could help” rather than as a promise ;-) Your description of that group sounded vaguely familiar, and I eventually realized I had read about them on Bad Astronomy a while back… Sounds like their doing something similar, but targeting Hollywood (and SciFi writers?) and more geared to science (with volunteer scientists as the experts) than to general skepticism (with us self-proclaimed graduates of Google U as the experts.) But you and I and Elyse have just as many qualifications as Jenny McCarthy and the Ghost Hunters, and we have the awesome power of critical thinking on our side.

          Jenn Creighton: In the remote chance that you actually see this post, I promise not to bother you (or whoever the contact person at the site is) until after the New Year, and as minimally as possible to determine if you have any interest at all in this, and only through the Science & Entertainment Exchange web site contact address, and will only followup if you give the okay. And don’t blame Mrmisconception! Good enough?

  9. I want to give the gift of humility. The woos would benefit from actually accepting they may be wrong, not just spouting claptrap like “Nothing is certain” while closing their eyes and ears and holding on to cherished beliefs like their lives depended on it. Skeptisism would benefit from having more communicators willing to accept their opponents may be genuinely curious and intellingent people capable of engaging in rational debate, rather than close minded blockheads only fit for axe-practice.

    And in return I just want to go to something interesting in the Midwest region, sometime between June 22 and early August.

    1. Or maybe the gift of being able to edit Skepchick comments. Now it will forever look like I can’t spell “intelleg… “intligen… “entillige…

      That word.

  10. I would love to go to DragonCon. One of my friends kept promising to take me and my husband, but then he went and died before we could go. :(
    My gift to the world would be the gift of skeptical thinking. Too many people believe anything they read without questioning. Everyone should question, question, question! And read more!

  11. I would love to go to ANY Atheist or Skeptic conference in Canada. I have always wanted to become more involved in the community but living where I do it has been difficult but I’m hoping with finishing University soon I will have an opportunity to interact more. I’m hoping my boyfriend and I can find one to go to sometime next year when I have more money! :) If I went to any con, I would want my boyfriend to be there because we are both so passionate about skepticism. While I was there I would absorb everything and grow more as a skeptic.

    My gift to the world would be using my new and deeper knowledge of skeptical thinking with my patients. I do my best to encourage it when I am caring for them but I think I can always do more.

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