I spent Saturday at the TAM London conference. TAM stands for ‘The Amazing Meeting’, and is a conference for skeptics of all flavours. The keynote speaker was James Randi, the magician and professional skeptic, who made his name debunking, among others, Uri Geller.
Randi was asked how people like Geller are able to make a living, despite the fact that their ‘miracles’ are repeatedly shown to be magic tricks. He seemed bemused, and it certainly is the one thing about Geller that actually seems inexplicable. But thinking it over, I suppose it’s for the same reason that people pay to see honest magicians, despite knowing for sure they’re only going to see tricks. People love the sense of bafflement and wonder. People want to be amazed.
A number of speakers talked about ideas for for a new kind of ‘evidence-based’ politics – the opposite of, for example, the arbitrary re-classification of cannabis under the last Labour government. I certainly agree we should be asking ‘why?’ and ‘how do you know?’ a lot more when politicians tell us things.
While think there is still room for conviction politicians, I think political dogma has had its day.