Trottier Symposium to take on snake-oil salesmen and charlatans

Posted on Wednesday, October 6, 2010

By William Raillant-Clark

Quackery is more than just trickery; it’s a real threat to our personal well-being and to the quality of scientific discourse in the public domain.

Remember the clichés about pseudoscience? Well, the snake oil merchants of yesteryear have morphed into fearmongering journalists, uninformed politicians, over-eager pharmaceutical corporations, and PR companies that continually challenge the thin line of ethics.

The topic is therefore a perfect one for discussion at this year’s Trottier Symposium, which was launched six years ago in order to offer “a public forum to inform, inspire debate and raise public awareness on contemporary issues confronting society today.”

Four outstanding, world-famous science communicators will discuss various aspects of pseudoscience and will provide guidance for separating sense from nonsense during the Symposium, which takes place at McGill Oct. 18 and 19.

The Oct. 18 session will feature Ben Goldacre, MD, an award-winning British journalist who regularly takes these groups to task, and Dr. David Gorski, a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit and the managing editor of the acclaimed “Science-based Medicine” blog. They will be joined by Dr. Michael Shermer, the editor and founder of Skeptic magazine and a columnist for Scientific American.

Magician and escape artist, James Randi (see Four Burning Questions, above) takes the stage the next day. His participation is not as ironic as it may first appear – this tireless investigator has been debunking the world’s leading paranormalists for almost thirty years. The James Randi Educational Foundation offers a million-dollar award to anyone who can produce paranormal phenomena under controlled conditions. This prize has yet to be claimed.

For more information on Symposium, visit: http://www.mcgill.ca/science/trottier-symposium/.

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