Saturday, 3 September 2011

TAM London 2011

The skeptical community of UK has been waiting with bated breath, optimistic that the lack of news about The Amaz!ng Meeting might still be good news.  A few people have ventured questions on forums but there has been no official announcement. 

What is The Amaz!ng Meeting? Well, for several years these meetings have been held in Las Vegas, but then a couple of years ago it started to be an international event.  They bring together some of the best speakers in the world of science, critical thinking, religion, skepticism, and the paranormal. By all accounts they have been very well attended and I have never read a negative report from anyone who attended a TAM.

Last year I very nearly decided to spend my spare cash attending TAM London 2010.  (Click that link to find the only 'news' available!)  London is not very far away, and the fee for the weekend was about £200 (plus either daily travel by train or a hotel in London).  I now regret that (avoidable) family commitments and general meanness were just the excuses I needed to save my money, but as the following months passed and my interest in skepticism has continued to increase, I have read and listened to many of the speakers that I missed at TAM.  I had decided that I was going to go to the next one - definitely!  I registered for news about the sale of tickets.  I followed @TAMLondon on Twitter.  Sometimes I did a google search or looked hopefully on the web site of the JREF (the organisers of TAM).

And . . .


Not even news about nothing!


I am beginning to put the responsibility for the lack of news, for the lack of anything inspiring at the JREF, with the 'new' president, D J Grothe.  Since he took over the presidency in early 2009 the JREF seems to be declining from its position at the forefront of critical thinking.  Isn't that sad?  Even their web site is becoming a little out of date, with the greatest activity being on the forum where loyal fans continue to discuss interesting topics.

You might ask why I blame Grothe (but not his partner Thomas, who he rarely fails to mention).  Well, Grothe is the president so the responsibility does lie with him in the end - even if not the fault.  But there is more to it than that.

Before joining the JREF he was the presenter of a nice (if slightly unexciting) podcast called Point of Inquiry, which he founded (with his partner Thomas).  He says that he had offered to continue to host it even though he would be employed by another organisation, and surprise surprise, the CFI declined his generous offer.  Does this begin to demonstrate how much his attention was focused on his new organisation?  Besides that, the new hosts actually do a better job in many ways (and rarely mention their partners, who might or might not be at law school - as if we cared).  Point of Inquiry goes from strength to strength - well worth a listen!

Once installed at JREF he started a new podcast called "For Good Reason" and in spite of gaining a few star speakers including Randi (twice), Victor Stenger and Richard Dawkins, the programmes seem to have petered out.  There hasn't been a new episode since August 2010, and surprise surprise, there have been no announcements to tell the listeners what has happened to it, or why.  Wouldn't it have been polite to tell us?  You never know, someone might actually have been enjoying them.  (I must admit that I wasn't - and haven't even listened to all of them.)

Are you beginning to see a consistent picture here?

Lack of commitment to the JREF's information flow, lack of focus on its potential supporters, lack of news about what might be happening and what might not (but no lack of news about Thomas wherever you hear Grothe being interviewed). 

What a shame that TAM London 2011 seems to be cancelled - well when I say cancelled maybe I should say 'abandoned' (as someone on a forum pointed out that you can't actually cancel something that was never announced).

Small note:  This is specifically not a homophobic rant, as I can honestly say that I have no concern about the private lives of the minor celebrities, but just a rant about D J Grothe.  For example, I have the greatest admiration for James "The Amazing" Randi who established the JREF.  He has been openly gay and with a long term partner (who's name I do not know).  However, it was not until after his 80th birthday (and coincidentally after Grothe took over the presidency) that he announced the fact to the world.  I think Randi was right in his explanation that he hadn't been hiding anything.  It simply wasn't relevant to anyone else and it was really none of their business


krissthesexyatheist said...

A couple of thingies buddy. first JREF, CFI and Point all have been having some kinda 'political' thingy happening, not sure what it is (and i hate in fighting, there is so much work to do). Second, I call myself a lone wolf atheist. i don't go to atheist or skeptic meetings (my environment is pretty much already that and i have privacy issues. boo hoo for me), but I think you, and anyone else should. Heck, if I were in that area I would go; but it is a long bike ride to London from Sacramento, Ca. If you do go, that is if it happens, be sure to post on it. I'd be interested to hear about it. good luck homie.


Plasma Engineer said...

The "For Good Reason" podcast seems to have been brought back from the dead at last, (and yes, Thomas has had a mention on both new episodes). Point of Inquiry is still better show, in spite of the quality of the recent two star guests.

Our View said...

Just go to QEDCon. That's coming up in February. Lots of skeptical speakers, in Manchester. Their last one had plenty of people. Might want to avoid DJ Grothe, he's one of the presenters this year..... ;)