Sunday, July 29, 2012


Committee for Skeptical Inquiry | CSICon New Orleans 2011 - Where Meeting Awesome Skeptics Is As Easy As Saying ‘Hello’

Indre Viskontas and Karen Stollznow take a break from skepticizing to smile for the camera. (Photo: Adam Isaak)
Indre Viskontas and Karen Stollznow

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry held its CSICon New Orleans 2011 conference October 27–30 at the New Orleans Marriott. It was a welcome resumption, after an eight-year hiatus, of CSICOP conferences.
It featured a dozen symposia on everything from conspiracy theories and UFOs to evolution versus creationism and skepticism in the media; special talks by skeptical luminaries; an awards banquet; and a host of social and entertainment events. The latter included a “Smarti Gras” parade and New Orleans Halloween Party Saturday evening at a French Quarter bar after the special conference address by Bill Nye “The Science Guy.”
Read more about CSICon and register for 2012’s CSICon Nashville at the CSICon website.

Even before CSICon 2011 in New Orleans officially began, I was already having great conversations with skeptics from all over the country. While helping at the registration table I met Skeptical Inquirer readers and supporters from as close as a few blocks away from the conference hotel to as far away as the United Kingdom. It was amazing to see people from so many places convening in one place to celebrate reason, science, and skeptical inquiry.
Indre Viskontas reminds us immediatley dismissing someone’s story can be counterproductive to skepticism.
Indre Viskontas

It sure is something to be surrounded by so many like-minded people. Dorion Cable, who authored a great write-up on CSICon 2011 on her Detroit-based blog (, com­men­ted that she recalls no place other than CSICon that people have actually recog­nized her Flying Spaghetti Monster necklace. But even some non–conference-goers had their interest piqued by the high concentration of skeptics. One hotel employee remarked, “You guys have the guy from the X-Files and Bill Nye the Science Guy? My nerd self just freaked out.”
The first session after opening re­marks on Thursday was “The In­vesti­gators” panel with stellar talks from Joe Nickell, Massimo Polidoro, Karen Stollznow, and Ben Radford on various investigations they’ve undertaken. Be­cause the topic of women in the skeptics movement is of particular interest to me, I was happy that I was able to ask Karen Stollznow during the Q&A session after her talk if she has noticed any advantages or disadvantages to being a female paranormal investigator—a minority within a minority. She answered that she hasn’t noticed her gender making a big difference either way but that many of the people she meets tend to assume she is a believer.
PZ Myers sports a CSICon T-shirt during his talk on Sunday.
PZ Myers

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