Addendum: I made a small change to acknowledge that the proceeds for this event go to the James Randi Educational Foundation.
This week, Philadelphia kicks off its third annual science festival. After perusing the program, the top pick goes easily to the April 20 event titled Science, Pseudoscience and Nonsense by James Randi. How can a famed magician and escape artist addressing science be anything but amazing?
What better topic to discuss at a science festival than how to recognize real science in a world of fakers – from “intelligent design” to homeopathy to “therapeutic touch. At the same time many areas of real science involve weird sounding ideas and speculation. Cosmologists often discuss our universe as one bubble in an eternal expanding foam of whole other universes.
The difference often has to do with the way scientists delineate assumptions and speculation from ideas tested with evidence. In some cases they are trying to answer questions that are so difficult that their speculative or weird ideas are still the more plausible than anything anyone else has thought of. Real scientists get things wrong, too, and some are accused of being wrong but triumph in the end by sticking to their guns. Others don’t let go of their wrong ideas in the face of a pile–up of evidence. Needless to say, sorting out good science from garbage isn’t always obvious right away.
Anyone lucky enough to get a ticket to this event can thank our own skeptical organization, which is called Phact (Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking). The organization raised $7000 to bring James Randi to the Franklin Institute. The money goes to the James Randi Educational Foundation. The event will take place on Saturday, April 20.