Julia Galef is the president and co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, an organization teaching math- and cognitive science-based techniques for effective decisionmaking. Julia has written about science and rationality for publications including Science, Scientific American, Popular Science, The Philosopher's Magazine, 3 Quarks Daily, and her personal blog, Measure of Doubt. In her spare time, she co-hosts the Rationally Speaking Podcast, and gives talks about rationality at universities, organizations, and conferences. Julia received her B.A. in Statistics from Columbia University in 2005.
D.J. Grothe is President of the James Randi Educational Foundation, the international educational non-profit founded by celebrated social critic and activist James Randi. Grothe has lectured widely on topics at the intersection of education, science and belief at universities such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and dozens of others. Formerly a professional magician, he has special interests in the psychology of belief and processes of deception and self-deception. Prior to launching For Good Reason, Grothe hosted over 200 episodes of the popular interview program Point of Inquiry.
Dr. Laurie Issel-Tarver received her B.S. in Biochemistry at Louisiana State University. She moved to the Bay Area in 1990, and did her graduate work at UC Berkeley on the evolution of olfactory receptor genes in mammals, with a focus on different breeds of dog. She did postdoctoral work at the State University of New York at Stony Brook studying the evolution of development in echinoderms, then returned to California to become Project Lead for Human Gene Expression at Acacia Biosciences. She was a Scientific Curator at Stanford University’s Saccharomyces Genome Database before joining the biotechnology faculty at Ohlone College. Dr. Issel-Tarver is Associate Professor of Biotechnology at Ohlone and coordinates the Learning Alliance for Bioscience, a National Science Foundation sponsored program that encourages underrepresented students to study science.
Through his work as a full-time magician, Ryan Kane has developed a practical understanding of how people, even professionals, can be made to draw false conclusions. While he uses his magic to entertain, he is skeptical of those who make paranormal or pseudoscientific claims. Ryan Kane has B.A. from listening to SGU episodes, and is a frequent TAM, NECSS, and SkeptiCal attendee.
Dr. Anthony Pratkanis is interested in how the social world influences our attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. His research program has investigated such topics as the delayed effects of persuasion, attitudes and memory, groupthink, affirmative action, subliminal persuasion, mass communications, source credibility, persuasion and democracy, and a variety of influence tactics such as the pique technique, phantoms, the projection tactic, and altercasting.
Most recently, Professor Pratkanis has evaluated the success of the U.S. military’s psychological warfare campaign in Iraq, as well as the Bush administration’s attempts to build public support for military action domestically and abroad.
Remotely appearing via Skype: James Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world's most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.
Randi has pursued "psychic" spoonbenders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water "with a memory," and generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public's eyes in the name of the supernatural.
He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including a Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1986, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Humanist Association in 2012, and a Lifetime Fellowship from his peers at the Academy of Magical Arts.
On October 19, 1993, the PBS-TV "NOVA" program broadcast a one-hour special dealing with Randi's life work, particularly with his investigations of Uri Geller and various occult and healing claims being made by scientists in Russia.
He is the author of numerous books, including The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam!, and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. His lectures and television appearances have delighted — and vexed — audiences around the world.
In 1996, The James Randi Education Foundation was established to further Randi's work. Randi's long-standing challenge to psychics now stands as a $1,000,000 prize administered by the Foundation. It remains unclaimed.
Dr. Eugenie Scott, a former university professor, is the Executive Director of NCSE. She has been both a researcher and an activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for over twenty-five years, and can address many components of this controversy, including educational, legal, scientific, religious, and social issues. She has received national recognition for her NCSE activities, including awards from scientific societies, educational societies, skeptics groups, and humanist groups. She holds eight honorary degrees, from McGill, Rutgers, Mt. Holyoke, the University of New Mexico, Ohio State, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Colorado College, and the University of Missouri-Columbia. A dynamic speaker, she offers stimulating and thought-provoking as well as entertaining lectures and workshops. Scott is the author of Evolution vs Creationism and co-editor, with Glenn Branch, of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools
Astronomer Dr. Jill Tarter is the holder of the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI. She is one of the few researchers to have devoted her career to hunting for signs of sentient beings elsewhere, and there are few aspects of this field that have not been affected by her work.
Jill was the lead for Project Phoenix, a decade-long SETI scrutiny of about 750 nearby star systems, using telescopes in Australia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. While no clearly extraterrestrial signal was found, this was the most comprehensive targeted search for artificially generated cosmic signals ever undertaken. Now Jill heads up the Institute’s efforts to build and operate the Allen Telescope Array, a massive new instrument that will eventually comprise 350 antennas, each 6 meters in diameter. This telescope will be able to enormously increase the speed, and the spectral search range, of the Institute’s hunt for signals. A subset of the full array will begin operations in the Fall of 2007.
Indeed, being as much of an icon of SETI as Jill is, perhaps it is not surprising that the Jodie Foster character in the movie “Contact” is largely based on this real-life researcher.
Lessons Learned from a Paranormal Investigation
This year we have a special presentation by members of the Independent Investigation Group, San Francisco Bay Area Branch, describing lessons learned from a paranormal investigation.
Jay Diamond, M.Sc.[EE], MBA heads the Reason4Reason skeptical activist group and was lead investigator on a skeptical investigation case that will be presented at SkeptiCal 2013.
Leonard Tramiel, Ph.D. is co-coordinator of the Center for Inquiry (CFI)- San Francisco, is on the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Executive Council and the Board of Directors for the CFI.
Jerry Schwarz, Ph.D. is chair of the Independent Investigation Group, San Francisco Bay Area affiliate, and co-coordinator for the Center for Inquiry San Francisco.