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Skeptimedia is a commentary on mass media treatment of issues concerning science, the paranormal, and the supernatural.

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Amaz!ng Meeting 8

26 Feb 2010. Today, the amazing lineup for the 8th Amazing Meeting was announced. The list of speakers is long and strong. I'll begin with Sean Faircloth. If you read your morning newspaper today, you know that Mr. Faircloth is the executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, a group that met today in Washington with some of President Obama's people. Yes, White House officials met with leaders of the atheist community to discuss the "privileging of religion" by the government "that harms real people," in the words of Faircloth. This was an amazing first.

Faircloth told the news media that they would address three items: "religiously based child abuse issues" involving so-called faith-healing and religious child care being exempt from some health and safety laws; the "pervasive" religious atmosphere in the military and ways in which troops "with nontheistic views are made to feel unwelcome"; and faith-based initiatives. According to Secular Coalition president Herb Silverman, the values expressed by the coalition are "American values. It's not religion bashing or Christian bashing" as some in the media have claimed.

This is the second bone President Obama has thrown non-theists. In his inaugural address he acknowledged that non-believers are part of the fabric of America.

The Secular Coalition of America is an umbrella group for American Atheists, the American Ethical Union, the American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance International, Camp Quest, The Council for Secular Humanism, the Institute for Humanist Studies, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, the Secular Student Alliance, and the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

Faircloth was the majority whip in the Maine state legislature, where he served for a decade. He is a strong advocate of separation of church and state.

The headliner at TAM8 will be Richard Dawkins. One can only hope that he will talk about evolution and not theology. We can also hope that Michael Shermer will not lecture us on economics.

Donald Prothero, the author of an excellent book on evolution, and Daniel Loxton, the author of a new text on evolution for youth, will be there. So will Massimo Pigliucci, another evolutionary scientist (who also has a Ph.D. in philosophy). If anyone is going to talk about whether the existence of God is a scientific issue, it should be Pigliucci, not Dawkins. Dawkins may be a good scientist and a great science writer, but he's not much of a philosopher.

The alt med critics will be represented by Simon Singh whose troubles with the bunko chiropractic establishment in the UK have been well documented.

In the spirit of reconciliation, I suppose, several leaders from Paul Kurtz's organization have been invited to share the podium, including Paul Kurtz himself, Barry Karr, Ken Frazier, Joe Nickell, my hero Ray Hyman, Massimo Pigliucci, and Debbie Goddard who has replaced D. J. Grothe as campus organizer at the Center for Inquiry. Randi recently returned to CSI as a fellow, after having left many years ago over the handling of Uri Geller's lawsuit. Grothe, the newly named president of the JREF and longtime Kurtz associate, will also address the amazing crowd. Some of you may have heard Grothe interview Jennifer Michael Hecht on Point of Inquiry. She is a welcome addition to the cast of thousands (seemingly).

Of course, many of the usual suspects will be there: Randi, Phil Plait, Adam Savage, Penn & Teller, Jamy Ian Swiss, and my personal favorite Mac King. Even Martin Gardner is going to appear through the wonders of video.

There will be a half-dozen workshops and nightly entertainment, as if Las Vegas doesn't have enough activities to keep everyone from getting bored. The rogues from Skeptic's Guide to the Universe will be there, as will new Point of Inquiry host Karen Stollsznow and Richard Saunders of Skepticzone.

There's more, including Hal Bidlack as MC, but words fail me. You'll have to read about them yourself at the Amazing Meeting website.

So, mark your calendars: July 8-11, 2010, at the South Point Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

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