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Skepticamp Ottawa 2014!

By Amanda Armstrong on April 30, 2014

This coming Sunday May 4th, the Ottawa Skeptics will be hosting their 4th annual Skepticamp at the Shopify Lounge in the Byward Market, an all day event for those believe in the importance of evidence-based practices and the scientific method.

The idea for Skepticamp began in Denver, by a critically minded software engineer. Skepticamp events would facilitate dynamic community discussion around the topics of science, skepticism, and critical thought. Following the barcamp unconference model, talks are led by members of the community and audience questions and participation are highly encouraged. After the first Skepticamp was held in 2007, the movement caught on globally, with events being held in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, and – of course – Canada.

It was around the inception of the first Skepticamp that the Ottawa Skeptics began to meet in pubs for regular Skeptics in the Pub talks. In 2008, the Ottawa Skeptics launched The Reality Check, a weekly podcast that has become Canada’s longest running weekly podcast for critical thinkers. With over 294 podcasts and 5000 weekly listeners, The Reality Check is a huge success. In 2010, they hosted their first Skepticamp event at Carleton University. This year, they will host their first full day Skepticamp.

I had a chance to speak with Kyla Cullain, one of this year’s fascinating speakers, on her introduction to the Ottawa Skeptics, as well as her talk at this year’s Skepticamp.

Kyla first heard about the Ottawa Skeptics during last year’s #dropjenny campaign, a movement to remove anti-vaccination supporter Jenny McCarthy from speaking at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation event. A registered nurse who began her career in the Communicable Diseases and Vaccine-Preventable Disease programs at Ottawa Public Health, she has seen several devastating cases of morbidity in unvaccinated individuals and was a keen supporter of the cause.

The #dropjenny campaign was a success and Jenny was removed from the event. After speaking with two of the founding members of the Ottawa Skeptics, Chris Hebbern and Dana Peters, she was encouraged to give a talk about immunization at Skepticamp. This year, she will be doing exactly that.

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Alongside Kyla at Skepticamp this year are 15 other skeptics, who will be presenting on a variety of topics. There are 3 keynote speakers presenting at this year’s event: Katie Gibbs, co-founder of Evidence for Democracy; Michael Kruse, Chair of Bad Science Watch; and Jim Davies, Director of the Science of the Imagination Laboratory at Carleton University. They will be giving talks on the importance of evidence-based policies, why science is important in public health and social welfare, and how people can rally behind bad ideas.

Other speakers will present on a variety of topics, including how our education system has contributed to a lack of scientific literacy, the subject of free will, and why the 12 Step program to treat addiction is flawed.

A detailed list of the speakers and the topics of discussion can be found here. With so many interesting and varied topics, there is sure to be something for everyone!

Skepticamp 2014 will be held at the Shopify Lounge (126 York Street)  from 10:00 to 17:30 on Sunday May 4th. If you would like to join the Ottawa Skeptics at this year’s Skepticamp, you can RSVP to their event on Meetup here.