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Chicago Skeptics Gather to Question Conventional Wisdom at Skepticamp

By Patty Wetli | February 28, 2013 12:51pm

IRVING PARK — If Skepticamp, a day-long gathering of Chicago's skeptics, sounds like a platform for conspiracy theorists to perpetuate their claim that the moon landing was a hoax, well that's what you get for making assumptions.

"We believe in the scientific method, logic and critical thinking," said William Brinkman, a member of Chicago Skeptics, which is hosting the third-annual Skepticamp, March 2, at the Irish American Heritage Center.

"I think there is a misconception that skeptics are overly-critical and believe in hoaxes and inside jobs. Actually, we pretty much believe in the scientific method. We look at the evidence. We are critical of conspiracy theories," he said.

Galileo was a skeptic, said Brinkman. So was Carl Sagan, who's best known today for popularizing science, but made a name for himself challenging the prevailing wisdom of planetary studies.

"Skepticism has brought man science and an understanding of our universe," Brinkman said.

Current hot topics among Chicago Skeptics, which boasts more than 800 members on the group's meet-up page, include homeopathy, a form of alternative medicine that uses small amounts of substances that cause adverse symptoms in an effort to cure illnesses.

"We're very much con" on the matter, said Brinkman. "It's all wet."

Expect homeopathy and vaccinations — another Skeptics bugaboo — to crop up during Skepticamp, which offers speakers and attendees the opportunity to debunk various myths and misconceptions.

Presentations are scheduled every 20 minutes, with speakers laying out the foundation of their argument and fielding questions. Subjects include "Creationism, Evolution, and Our Communication Gap," "Investing Skeptically" and "A Not Boring Talk About Statistical Significance."

In addition to Skepticamp, Chicago Skeptics gathers regularly for social and learning events, field trips, salons and movie nights. Members run from scientists to musicians. About 120 people have attended the event in recent years.

"It's really a mix," Brinkman said. "It's all about coming together and learning from each other."

Skepticamp will take place March 2, 10:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. (doors open at 10 a.m.), at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave. The event is free, but registration is recommended.