A Meeting of Skeptics


Three weeks before the Mayan Calendar’s Apocalypse, Lawrence was a guest speaker at the 2012 Australian Skeptics National Convention.


photo: Mark Hassed


Despite the title, skeptics do seem to believe in things - like defending science and ‘calling bullshit’ over media myths, medical hoaxes and bogus scientific claims. They do this online, in courtrooms, in the media and mostly over beers in the pub, but this time they gathered at Melbourne Uni’s Spot Theatre for two days of panels with scientists, educators, critical thinking activists and exposers of quackery.


photo: Mark Hassed


Speakers include McKinnon Secondary’s maths teacher Adam Van Langenberg who set up a lunchtime “Sceptic School”, US blogger Rebecca Watson gave a fantastic talk on social media activism. ‘Point of Inquiry’ host and JREF President, DJ Grothe painted picture of pro-science activism in every corner of the globe from US to India. Renowned skeptic James Randi gave a keynote address about his adventurous career as a stage-magician-turned-crusader exposing fraudulant “psychics”, pseudoscientific claims and superstition.


James Randi and Lawrence who hasn’t perfected his sceptical face.



Lawrence spoke about his experiences making “Unbelievable” a globe-trotting 6-part comedy documentary series that investigated the impossible and irrational. Originally pitched as “Ghostbusters meets Mythbusters”, the ABC1 series became a unique and beloved combination of science, psychology and comedy.





Via Powerpoint, nice font choice and painstaking research into what makes TED Talks so “inspirational” (lots of pacing of the stage and ironed shirts tucked in jeans), Lawrence’s presentation went back to where it all began: from debunking Santa at his primary school to explaining how a geek managed to convince a TV network to make a comedy series promoting science and reason. He also covered some fun behind-the-scenes encounters, the reaction to the series both positive and negative, and argued that a vital mix of “entertainment and education” can be so much more than your Year 10 science teacher doing Uranus jokes.


Big congrats to the VicSkeptics for convening the event.