2014 Skeptics Convention in Retrospect

Australian Skeptics Convention 2014

The Australian Skeptics 30th annual convention is over, but the memory of this notable event will linger on for a long time for the more than 450 people who attended.

The second largest Skeptics’ convention ever held in Australia featured presentations from 26 speakers and panellists – the famous and the fascinating, the humorous and the humbling – covering as broad a range of topics as you could imagine. The event took place over three vibrant days in Chatswood, Sydney.

The convention was bookended with presentations by Dick Smith and Dr Steve Novella on what it means to be a Skeptic. We were then off and running, looking at the truth about Ebola, drug prohibition, facilitated communication, scientific publications, science in space and critical thinking in the classroom, the skeptical scene in the UK and the US, handling grief, and presenting climate change to the public and the climate for presenting science in the media.

Two panel sessions by the members of the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe covered their usual plethora of topics, and a panel on consumer protection featured ABC-TV Checkout personalities and government regulators.

And Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and Peter Fitzsimons, two of Australia’s best known commentators, described their personal journeys through skepticism and history.Australian Skeptics Convention 2014 James Randi

One of the highlights of the convention was a surprise visit by James ‘the Amazing’ Randi – the audience was thrilled by the unannounced appearance, and listened intently as he gave a short 15 minute ‘interruption’ to an SGU panel with tales and views from his broad experience in skepticism.

Skeptical musician George Hrab MC’ed the event, opening the Saturday with his being dragged from his shower, and closing late on the Sunday night – very late – with an impromptu performance of songs and satire.Australian Skeptics Convention 2014 George Hrab

The annual Skeptics awards were handed out to wide approval – the Bent Spoon to the new head of the CSIRO, Dr Larry Marshall, for his espousing of water divining; Skeptic of the Year to Peter Tierney for his unstinting pursuit of chiropractic nonsense; and the Thornett award for the Promotion of Reason going to the Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters (NRVS), a grassroots pro-vaccination group of people who live in an area of NSW which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

A special dinner, featuring fine food and a fun fraudster, went down well for the 250+diners, and raised oodles of cash through an auction for the SGU (literally, for the SGU – coffee with Bob, anyone?).

The very busy SGU also gave an interactive performance for 100 … 150 … 200 … they just kept coming, on the night before the convention, and later a very private session for 30 lucky attendees.

The venue – Concert Hall of the Chatswood Concourse – was suitably impressive and the attendees were suitably impressed (as they told us in a survey following the convention). Australian Skeptics Convention 2014

All round, a success.

Some photos from the event are available in the repositories prepared by Mal Vickers and by Ruth Ellison and Alistair d’Silva. Videos of some of the talks are being slowly added to the Videos page and to our YouTube channel.

See you in October 2015 in Brisbane. It’s bound to be another memorable event.