Skeptics of Oz Conference offers debates

Skeptics of Oz Conference offers debates

Conference-goers Andrew Juby, Ellise Hauth, and Austin Harper attend the Donut Whole's Science Cafe Tuesday talk about skepticism. Photo by Kate Clause

The folks behind the Skeptics of Oz conference want you to fill your free time this weekend by learning about skepticism, or by watching some sweet atheist stand-up comedy.

The Wichita Coalition of Reason — composed of the Air Capital Skeptics, Wichita Atheists and the WSU Atheists and Agnostics — have teamed up for this conference on skepticism, science and atheism. It takes place Friday and Saturday at Wichita State University's CAC Theater.

Austin Harper is the president of the Air Capital Skeptics. He says his group tries to promote science and critical thinking in the Wichita area and to "have some fun while doing it." Harper says last year's conference attracted around 100 visitors, but this year's event has 150 RSVPs and counting.

This is Skeptics of Oz third year in Wichita with a lineup of writers, bloggers, scientists, scholars and educators.

Dr. Caleb Lack, a scientist and psychologist from Oklahoma, will kick things off Friday with an "Intro to Skepticism."

J.T. Eberhard, a blogger, atheist activist and self-labeled opera singer, will talk about how the skeptic community can support people with depression and mental illness.

Air Capital Skeptics vice president Ellise Hauth said she is excited about Eberhard's lecture on mental illness. Hauth adds that Baptist preacher-turned-atheist Teresa Macbain should be a good draw for people who are "new to questioning (religion) and don't know what to do about that."

D.J. Grothe of the For Good Reason podcast will lecture on the enchantingly named topic of "Psychic Charlantry" — how psychics use cold reading, mentalism and other tricks to fool people. There is a lecture on how religion makes sex shameful by Darrel Ray. And there is a session on group fundraising led by Sharon Moss. There will also be a debate between Jamar Martin of Wichita Atheists, Abraham Howell of WSU Atheists and Agnostics and Father James Weldon of the Church of the Resurrection in Wichita.

Conference-goer Andrew Juby of Wichita says he's excited to learn new things at the conference, but also to see his fellow skeptic friends, "many of whom you talk to mostly online, or only online. There's a heavy social aspect to it."

Harper adds that, while they're definitely trying to attract self-proclaimed atheists, skeptics and agnostics, anyone is welcome. "One thing that is important in skepticism is being well-informed and I certainly think this conference will be a great place to do that," he adds.

All events at the Skeptics of Oz Conference are free. More information on the conference is at: http://lanyrd.com/2013/skeptics-of-oz/ .