The Amazing Meeting (TAM) London starts officially on Saturday October 16, 2010 (tomorrow) but Martin Robbins (from The Lay Scientist blog which is part of the Guardian Science blogs site) started live blogging the event this morning (October 15, 2010). Here’s a brief description from the Guardian Science Desk’s blog,
What do comedians and scientists have in common? Often, it’s a love of all things geeky, and nowhere is that more obvious than at TAM London, the UK’s biggest conference celebrating science and critical thinking. Now in its second year, TAM (short for The Amazing Meeting) has been described by Jonathan Ross as “the best event ever!!!” and arrives this weekend with a line-up of speakers including Richard Dawkins, comic book legend Alan Moore, Graham Linehan and Stephen Fry.
TAM London is a fundraiser for the James Randi Educational Foundation, home of the Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, which promotes critical thinking and scientific literacy.
TAM events originated in the the US. The James Randi Educational Foundation’s (JREF) 8th TAM meeting took place in July 2010 and you can find out more abut the US TAMs here.
As for the London TAM, I went to their website and found this,
TAM London 2010 is a world-class fundraising conference which this year is being held on 16 – 17 October 2010 at the Hilton London Metropole hotel. Join amazing speakers and over 1000 like-minded delegates for a fundraising celebration of science, critical thinking and entertainment in the heart of the city.
PLUS delegates have the chance to buy exclusive tickets to the premiere of Tim Minchin’s Storm movie and spend Saturday evening being entertained by Tim and special guests. A totally unique opportunity!
And if that wasn’t amazing enough, we’ve also arranged for a very special performance of Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories on Friday 15th October just for TAM Delegates, with £5 off all tickets!
It all sounds very interesting and exciting but I checked out James Randi very quickly and found this essay about him on Wikipedia,
The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is a Fort Lauderdale, Florida non-profit organization founded in 1996 by magician and skeptic James Randi. The JREF’s mission includes educating the public and the media on the dangers of accepting unproven claims, and to support research into paranormal claims in controlled scientific experimental conditions.
The organization offers a prize of one million U.S. dollars which it will pay out to anyone who can demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria. The JREF also maintains a legal defense fund to assist persons who are attacked as a result of their investigations and criticism of people who make paranormal claims.
This is an agenda which I would not have guessed at from reading information on the TAM London website. From the About TAM London page,
TAM is ‘The Amaz!ng Meeting’, the fundraising conference of the James Randi Educational Foundation. TAM London 2009 was the first of these conferences to be held outside the USA and sold out in just one hour. The 2010 event continues this amazing success and is in addition to TAM8 to be held in Las Vegas in July 2010. Previous TAM speakers have included Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, magicians Penn and Teller, Prof Brian Cox and dozens of other noted scientists, entertainers and academics. You can expect a warm welcome from the hundreds of like-minded people who attend TAMs, from all walks of life and backgrounds but with a common interest in critical thinking.
It becomes more clear if you find the About JREF page,
The proceeds of TAM London support the work of JREF and its mission of education and combating pseudoscience.
The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is a Florida-based non-profit organization founded in 1996 by magician and skeptic James Randi. The President of the JREF is DJ Grothe.
The Foundation’s goals include:
* Creating a new generation of critical thinkers through lively classroom demonstrations and by reaching out to the next generation in the form of scholarships and awards.
* Demonstrating to the public and the media, through educational seminars, the consequences of accepting paranormal and supernatural claims without questioning.
* Supporting and conducting research into paranormal claims through well-designed experiments utilizing “the scientific method” and by publishing the findings in the JREF official newsletter, Swift, and other periodicals.
* Also providing reliable information on paranormal and pseudoscientific claims by maintaining a comprehensive library of books, videos, journals, and archival resources open to the public.
* Assisting those who are being attacked as a result of their investigations and criticism of people who make paranormal claims, by maintaining a legal defense fund available to assist these individuals.
* The JREF offers a prize of one million U.S. dollars to anyone who can demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with having an agenda but it wasn’t obvious from the the Guardian’s Science desk posting about the event,
Organiser Tracy King said: “The focus is on entertainment and education. People come to TAM because they want to learn and hear from leading speakers on subjects which interest them, but they want to have a good time doing it. Our mix of academics, comedians and writers ensures an incredible event where the public can meet like-minded people without feeling like being into science or geek stuff makes them a minority.
“With science funding under threat, it’s more important than ever for TAM London to reach the public with its message – that science, technology and rational thinking are essential to the healthy future of the UK.” [emphases mine]
I may be fantasizing here but I sense a certain evangelical edge to the event which seems to antithetical to critical thinking.