Gwine to TAM

I’m not really keen on atheist meetings—I think there are too many of them, and they often feature the same line-up of speakers. But TAM (“The Amazing Meeting”), sponsored by the James Randi foundation, is different: it’s a diverse event loosely centered on skepticism, and with a lot of entertainment and (something I dearly want to attend) Penn Jillette’s Famous Bacon, Doughnut, and Rock and Roll Party.  So I was honored when D. J. Grothe invited me to be a speaker this year; the meeting is in (as usual) Las Vegas, and it’s from July 11-14 (details here).

The theme is “Fighting the Fakers,” or how scientific skepticism can be used to dispel woo, and the lineup is very promising.  Here’s an incomplete list.

The headliner:

Picture 1

Picture 2

And some of the speakers:

Picture 3

Picture 1

Picture 2

There are lots of other speakers, workshops, entertainment, and, above all, this:

Picture 4

I don’t often stay up late, but that’s worth it!

I look forward to meeting old friends and making new ones, and maybe I’ll see some of you there. If you bring a copy of my book (or buy one there; I think they’ll be on sale), I’ll autograph it and draw a cat if you say the secret word (“Maru”).


  1. NewEnglandBob
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    That is am impressive speaker lineup.

    I love bacon and like donuts but I am skeptical of them as a combination.

    • articulett
      Posted February 24, 2013 at 2:02 am | Permalink

      I have been to Penn’s bacon and donut party, and I assure you that they are a worthwhile combination. I saw Lawrence Krauss there, and I’m sure that he would attest to the same.

      • Posted February 25, 2013 at 5:05 am | Permalink

        Bacon and doughnuts makes more sense when there are strippers.

        I’m going to have to bring extra luggage so I can get all my books signed by all the authors there! (Yay!)

  2. Michael
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Small world! I worked with Susan’s son at university. She’s had some very interesting publications!

  3. Bob J
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    See you there! Yes Penn’s Bacon and Donut party is a blast – bee sure to buy the t-shirt.

  4. Diane G.
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink


    You have 6 months to prepare for it, and it looks as if you’ll need about as long to recover…


    Looking forward to the vids.

    • SA Gould
      Posted June 9, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      But… JAC will be addressing folk who *already* believe in evolution! What will he talk about?

  5. Sklarg
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    This year’s TAM will be great, not just because of the great slate of speakers and fun events, but also because of the complete absence of the disruptive and malignant element from the previous year. I’m looking forward to being there!

    • pulseteresa
      Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      “the disruptive and malignant element from the previous year.”

      Who does this refer to?

    • GeorgeMartin
      Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      I was at TAM last year and I’m curious about which disruptive and malignant element you are referring to. I assume this is at least a partial reference to the bitter feminist, anti feminist debate debate which erupted a couple of months before the meeting.

      From what I could sense, very little of that carried over into the actual meeting itself. I heard of or saw a couple or so events that were likely in reference to that, and perhaps one speaker made an indirect reference to the controversy before the meeting. But from I saw, a very enjoyable time was had by almost every one there.


    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted February 23, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      Okay, this discussion will end here, because if it doesn’t it will wind up going to hell in a handbasket.

  6. pulseteresa
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Too many atheist meetings? That’s odd. With the growing number of “out” atheists, we need every chance for community that we can find. I don’t know about TAM, but the other conventions I’ve attended have been just as much about community as education.

    And TAM has plenty of problems. One, it’s prohibitively expensive for most people: $425 for early registration + $100 dollars for the workshops and extra for most of the evening entertainment events. And of course that doesn’t include other rather expensive necessities such as airfare, lodging, and most meals (TAM provides a few). Two, JREF goes out of its way to distance itself from atheism and generally takes the Non-overlapping magisteria approach to religious claims, i.e, they aren’t testable. I’ve read this several times and not just by those critiquing TAM, but by those defending it as well. And I witnessed first hand both James Randi and DJ Grothe repeatedly stating that “The James Randi Foundation is not an atheist organization”* so frequently that that’s what I remember best about their talks at Skepticon 3 (a free yearly skeptic/atheist conference where I’ve seen talks by many of the same speakers who’ve spoken and TAM and other atheist conferences that I, and many others, cannot afford to attend). Three, it’s in Las Vegas (a place I, and several other people I know, have never wanted to be because it sounds like a nightmarescape – an adult Disney World, corny phoniness and all) every year. If it moved around the country at least the travel (and probably lodging) expenses would decrease (driving, especially carpooling, is cheaper than air fare). And I’m guessing, though I don’t know for certain, that Vegas is a much more expensive town than most. Four, TAM has multiple “tracks,” meaning that there’s one speaker in one room while there are other speakers simultaneously giving talks in other rooms. I.e., an attendee cannot actually attend the talks given by every speaker at TAM. Why spend such a huge chunk of money only to not be able to see all the speakers one desires to see?

    Sure, TAM’s speaker lineup is impressive and always is, but that doesn’t do poor skeptics/atheists any good. That’s another reason why there should be as many atheist/skeptic conferences as possible. Because lower priced – or just outright free – conferences in different parts of the country allow far more people to attend. Because of it’s ridiculous cost and location, TAM comes across as an elitist (in therms of money) conference compared to every other one I’ve ever been to or heard of.

    *This was at least partly, or perhaps mostly, due to the JREF losing donations and TAM losing registration fess from religious skeptics (Oxymoron? Sounds like it to me) because TAM has featured some speakers who (gasp!) actually dared to criticize religion.

    Sorry for all the negativity (and the extra long comment), Jerry. It just seems that the JREF could do some things to make TAM more accessible and welcoming to more people. I hope you have a great time! Eat some doughnuts and bacon for me. Oh, and it’d be awesome if you gave a talk on the incompatibility of science and religion. 🙂

    • George Martin
      Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      It should be noted, that one of the purposes for TAM is fund raising for the JREF. That is one of the reasons for the pricing structure. I also went to last year’s CSICON
      put on by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and (nee CSICOP) and the pricing and the pricing structure was quite similar. The lunches were an optional extra cost. If you added the cost of the lunches to the basic meeting, the cost came to about $400.00. And the workshops were extra. The hotel rooms were more expensive than the South Point.

      Only the optional TAM workshops are double track. The main meeting itself is single track.


    • Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      I wrote #7 before I read this, and you’ve convinced me. I agree so strongly about Las Vegas that in 1988, to go from LA to Grand Canyon, I paid extra to transit in Phoenix instead.

      Another downside to Las Vegas is the heavy emphasis on gambling. Apart from TAMers, everyone there is likely to be rich, poor or on the make.

      “If it moved around the country…” Why not the world?

      • bric
        Posted February 24, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        TAM includes a poker tournament . . .

      • pulseteresa
        Posted February 25, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        “Why not the world?”


  7. Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorely tempted.

    Actually, throughout the website it’s “The Amaz!ng Meeting” which is funny because I have frequently had occasion to refer to Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit!” But to get around censorbots (the kind that create “cir***stances” and block “pinprick”) I write “Bullsh!t!”.

    Since it’s widely abbreviated to TAM, this bit of typographical frippery is easily overlooked.

  8. madscientist
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Enjoy. 🙂

    I wonder if Orac’s speech will be as long as his posts …

  9. Posted February 23, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    See you there, Jerry!

  10. shazam
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Clearly the Asshole Activist™ has been sidelined in favour of rational speakers.

    Go TAM!!! Normal people everywhere applaud you.

    • pulseteresa
      Posted February 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      I’m at a loss here. Who is the “Asshole Activist™”? I want in on the joke. 🙂

  11. docbill1351
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    OMG, you’re going to be at a conference with Cara Santa Maria????

    You must get a photo!!

    (pitter pat)

    Uh, that was Kink. He’s a big fan of CSM.

  12. Marella
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could go. 😦

  13. fly44d
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    At the end of last year’s TAM I filled out the survey form and put your name down as a suggested speaker. Therefore I am the reason you were invited. 🙂 Maybe. Damn. I’m not going this year because of other plans. I enjoyed the events last two years enormously, last year’s hallway drama was sad and a major reason I didn’t plan for this year. Have a great convention and enjoy the Krispy Kremes with bacon.

    • pulseteresa
      Posted February 25, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Everyone keeps piquing my interest with these vague references to some sort of drama that occurred at last year’s TAM. Please satisfy my curiosity! 🙂 What happened in the hallway that was so dramatic?

  14. Vaal
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink


    Forget the speakers or anything tickling the intellect: let’s talk donuts and bacon! Penn knows where it’s at!

    That seems a common combo on the “stunt eating” circuit at fairs and such. At our
    Canadian National Exhibition it was all about
    bacon, chocolate and donuts last year. My son had a Krispy Kreme donut burger (bacon cheeseburger using 2 whole donuts as buns – yes I accepted the label of “worst parent in the world” that day for letting him have one, but it’s once a year), while I eyed the
    Mars Bar wrapped in bacon, battered and deep fried. (I went instead for a red velvet pancake triple-Decker with layers of BBQ pulled pork in between, topped by Jack Daniels infused maple syrup. I’m still dreaming of that one…)

    Back to non-food atheist talk…



    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 24, 2013 at 5:28 am | Permalink

      OIC, it’s a “stunt eating” thing. Was puzzled.
      How true it is, I don’t know, but some years ago my sister worked at a pub with a regular “stunt eater” on the regulars list (I was out of the country, so I couldn’t verify this for myself. But aparrently in the late 70s he’d tried breaking the “Doughnut gluttony” record, which according to the Guinness book was 129 in half an hour. He tried, got 123 down his neck in the half-hour, raised a substantial chunk for a local charity … and spent 3 days in hospital.
      While he was there, the Guinness book representative came round to congratulate him, because there had been a typo and the actual previous record was 29 in a half hour, and he’d “raised the bar” by a factor of nearly 4.
      It’s things like that which got Guinness out of the business of recording new “records of gluttony”. They anticipated being in court for something at some point, and that costing them more money than the sales would justify. Which is entirely apart from the disturbing ethics of gluttonous record-breaking anyway.

  15. Harry
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I can only dream of attending this amazing meeting. Hopefully there will be live streams to follow. About Randi, there is a documentary in the making and hopefully it will be finished by then. It’s great to see that Jerry is invited as a speaker among this heathen crowd!

  16. Posted February 23, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry
    I know there are a lot of atheists meetings around the US, but many people in other regions, who are not used to hearing skeptism, rely on them. As an example, I am Canadian and I am so proud of the people who have organized this huge conference right in the middle of Canada’s bible belt! I have linked below, please pass it on!It needs to be publized as much as possible!

  17. Posted February 24, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Where it says “scantily clad people”, does that really imply “scantily clad women”? I’m not keen on Penn’s attitude towards women, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case, though I don’t want to judge prematurely.

    • pulseteresa
      Posted February 25, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      Yes, knowing Penn’s view of women, the reference probably is to scantily clad women, perhaps wearing bikinis made from bacon. 😉

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