ThinkCon: Can You Make A Difference?

Last night (19th March, 2011) was ThinkCon, an evening of skeptical goodness.

The event was titled: “Can You Make A Difference?” and the speakers all gave their experiences about how they have made a difference.

The evening was chaired by Gia Milinovich and the speakers were:

  • Me. I was the first person to speak. I talked about my experiences on CrohnsForum.com, how it very quickly turned sour when I realised there were people promoting Miracle Mineral Solution (read previous posts tagged Bleachgate for the rest of the story!) and what I did to tackle it after being permenantly banned from the forum.
  • Michael Marshall, who talked about his experience organising The 1023 Campaign and what it achieved.
  • Chris Smith, who discussed setting up The Naked Scientists radio program/podcast, how far reaching it has been and how it has promoted science in the general public
  • David Colquhoun, who told us about his use of internet campaigning when a merger between Imperial College London and University College London was proposed and the outcomes, before talking about setting up a blog and how it can make a difference.
  • Síle Lane, public liason for Sense about Science, came to talk about the Libel Reform campaign, about how it was organised, why so many companies supported it and the events in meatspace they organised to raise support. Finally, she discussed the recent victory with the draft Defamation Bill.

The event was a lot of fun and very informative. I learned a lot from the other speakers. It was particularly special for me, because it was my very first public speech. I hope you enjoyed it, if you came.

The opening question of “Can You Make A Difference?” was very clearly answered by the talks – YES! You can make a difference. Writing letters to regulatory agencies, tweeting and blogging are all incredible tools to help to make a difference.

I helped to debunk Miracle Mineral Solution and get it warned about by national and international health agencies.

Michael Marshall along with the 1023 gang drew a lot of public attention to the issues with homeopathy (like, it doesn’t work!) and got governmental agencies around the world looking into it, with many withdrawing support for it.

Chris Smith has helped to engage the public with science with his radio show, giving many people access to kitchen science experiments to show people how science works and again, engage them in the process of science.

David Colquhoun has helped expose many ridiculous “BSc” degrees in quackery and blogged about them, causing many to be shut down. He has used internet campaigning to help argue the case against a potentially catastrophic merger between UCL and Imperial.

Síle Lane and Sense about Science have helped the public realise the major problems with British Libel Law and how damaging it is and helped communicate how science works and what is trustworthy science to patient support groups.

Whilst the talks and panel discussion were all very interesting and informative to listen to, they were not my favourite part of the evening. Nor was sitting down over a drink (Coca Cola, don’t worry!) and chatting to people at the end about the evening. My favourite and most inspiring part of the evening was when we made a difference in the first break.

During the first break, a lady approached me and told me she’d used MMS every day for five years, after a friend had recommended it to her. She bought and took it without realising what is was. She had no idea that I’d be talking about it tonight. She asked me to explain to her exactly what it was again. I went through what it was. She realised what she’d been taking was an industrial bleach, injurious to health, and told me “Thank you so much for telling me this. I had no idea. From now, I will stop taking it and will tell all my friends about what it is.”

Proof that we can make a difference.

We made a difference last night.