Speaker Profiles – Australian Skeptics National Convention 2012

For more information about those speaking at the Australian Skeptics National Convention 2012, please see the short speaker biographies below.


James Randi

James “The Amazing” Randi

James Randi is a world-renowned magician and investigator of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, providing vocal criticism of the negative influence that unchecked “woo-woo” has on society.

Described by Arthur C. Clarke as an “antidote that may prevent the rotting of the American mind”, Randi’s influence upon the direction of the global Skeptic movement is arguably without par.

Acutely aware of the potential of “trickery” to influence critical thinking, Randi’s ethics have been praised by fellow magicians.

Interestingly, accolades stop at the line Randi has drawn between entertainers and the many charlatans he has exposed, who fraudulently exploit human beings for profit.

The author of several books, Randi established the James Randi Educational Foundation in 1996. The JREF “One Million Dollar Challenge” offers $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate their claimed supernatural ability, using the criteria of scientific testing. To date no one has passed the preliminary test.

James Randi has always been, and remains, a force for Active Skepticism.


Dr Ken Harvey

Dr Ken Harvey

Dr Ken Harvey is a public health physician with a particular interest in medicines policy. He was a member of the expert group that drafted the World Health Organization “Ethical Criteria for Medicinal Drug Promotion” and also the Pharmaceutical Health and Rational use of Medicines (PHARM) Committee that formulated the quality use of medicines pillar of Australian medicines policy. He has recently served on Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Transparency Review Panel, the government Working Group on Promotion of Therapeutic Products and the TGA Working Group on Regulatory Reform of Complementary Medicines. Dr Harvey has been awarded life membership of CHOICE (the Australia Consumer’s Association) for services to the consumer
movement and currently holds the position of Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Public Health, La Trobe University. His talk is titled, Confessions of a serial complainant: why take on the therapeutic goods industry?


Dr Rachael Dunlop

Dr Rachael Dunlop

Rachael Dunlop PhD is a campaigner for science-based medicine in Australia, with a special interest in refuting the claims of the anti-vaccination movement. In her day job, she works as a medical researcher with an interest in motor neurone disease and ageing disorders including heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Rachael is a reporter for The Skeptic Zone Podcast and blogs at the Skeptics Book of Pooh Pooh and tweets @DrRachie. She is also a vice president of the Australian Skeptics, and a member of Mystery Investigators science show for children. In 2010, Rachael won the Shorty Award in the Health category for the most interesting health and science information on Twitter. As an ex-graphic designer and copywriter, Rachael enjoys combining her love of science, art and social media as a means of communicating science to the public.

Dr Rachael Dunlop’s talk is titled: Skepticism in Science: a help or a hindrance?


Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson is a blogger and independent podcast host. The founder of Skepchick, Rebecca also co-hosts The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast with Steven Novella, Bob
Novella, Jay Novella and Evan Bernstein. Rebecca has also previously co-hosted the Little Atoms podcast.

Rebecca travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism and skepticism.

There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it.


Lynne Kelly

Lynne Kelly

A skeptic tackles Stonehenge

There are more crazy theories about Stonehenge than any other place in the world.

So what happens when a hard core skeptic claims to have solved one of the world’s greatest mysteries? And then gets even wilder claiming that the same thinking will not only explain why they built Stonehenge but also explains Easter Island and lots of other mysterious sites around the world?

Currently under examination as a PhD thesis, Lynne Kelly will be throwing this theory out to the best collection of skeptics available, and challenging you to fault the theory.

Lynne Kelly is a science writer and the author of “The Skeptics Guide to the Paranormal”, as well as 14 other titles in popular science and education. With degrees in Engineering, Information Technology and Education, she has just completed an interdisciplinary PhD at LaTrobe University, Melbourne.

Lynne believes that the real world is awesome, especially the spiders.


Loretta Marron

Loretta Marron

Loretta Marron is a science graduate with a business background, who is a high-profile campaigner against unproven health treatments. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, she set up a website with her GP called ‘Health Information’ to help other patients get access to evidence-based medical information. She was named Australian Skeptic of the Year in both 2007 and 2011 and is the inaugural CEO of Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM).


DJ Grothe

DJ Grothe

DJ Grothe is President of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

He 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 and mentalist, DJ has special interests in the psychology of belief and processes of deception and self-deception. He hosts the radio show and podcast For Good Reason, prior to which he hosted over 200 episodes of the popular interview program Point of Inquiry, which he and his partner Thomas Donnelly created in 2005.

D.J. has been profiled in St. Louis Magazine, Pacific Standard, Creative Loafing, and other publications.


Dr Krissy Wilson

Dr Krissy Wilson

Psychologist, Lecturer, Director Science of Anomalistic Phenomena (SOAP), Charles Sturt University

Dr Krissy Wilson is a lecturer and psychologist. She has had rather an eclectic career starting out as a professional actress, and joining British Airways and working as cabin crew for six years.

Whilst working for BA Krissy studied for a BSc in Psychology and went on to complete a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London with Prof Chris French. In 2007 Krissy emigrated to Australia to work at the University of Tasmania. After two years she was let out on good behaviour and is now lecturer and Director of SOAP (Science of Anomalistic Phenomena) at Charles Sturt University, New South Wales.

During her time in Australia she has published in a variety of journals and magazines, appeared on TV and national and state radio and presented all over Australia, in London and Singapore, and presented at TAM Oz in Sydney in 2010. Her main research topics are the creation of false memories, and the psychology of religious and paranormal beliefs and experiences.

Earlier this year Dr Krissy set up a new research unit at Charles Sturt University called the Science of Anomalistic Phenomena. This new and innovative research centre is one of the few in Australia dedicated to the scientific investigation of belief and ostensibly anomalous experiences. Krissy will detail the recent activities of the unit and outline the future plans for the expansion of interest at home and abroad of anomalistic psychology.


Simon Taylor

Simon Taylor

Simon Taylor is a full-time entertainer and writer. He performs stand-up comedy, close-up magic and is an experienced MC. He writes Moral Melbourne for Beat Magazine, is the host of radio podcast Manthropology and is the creator of Flim-Flam comic. Simon is also a board member of The Rationalist Society of Australia.

His achievements include being a Raw Comedy Finalist, Winner of the Adelaide Magic Convention, Victorian Poetry Slam Champion and Winner of The Under Our Wing Award (previously won by Tim Minchin and Sammy J). Simon writes for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and was the host of the 2012 Global Atheist Convention Gala Dinner.

Acclaim for Simon’s comedy:
“Intelligent stuff.” – The Age
“Taylor is warm, funny, clever and engaging.” – Herald Sun
“Inimitable, talented and rather dashing.” – Beat Magazine
“Taylor is a master of his craft and a master of the mind.” – Our World Today
“One of the best performers I’ve seen.” – Comedy Beast Magazine


Richard Saunders

Richard Saunders

Richard Saunders is best known as an international expert on skepticism and one of the stars of the top rating paranormal TV show “The ONE”. He is a life member of Australian Skeptics and a fellow of the Center for Inquiry USA. Richard is the producer and host of ‘The Skeptic Zone’ podcast with thousands of listeners world-wide. An author and origami expert with 30 books and 1 DVD published, he is also the creator of ‘Origami Pigasus’ for James Randi and enjoys being an amateur magician. Richard is also founding member of the ‘Mystery Investigators’ live science show for schools.

Richard will be hosting the two panel discussions at this year’s convention.


Dr Meredith Doig

Dr Meredith Doig

FAICD
BA (pure maths), Dip Ed, M Ed Studies, Grad Dip Management, PhD

Dr Meredith Doig is a professional company director and governance consultant. Directorships have included the Bakers Delight Holdings, Port of Melbourne Corporation, Melbourne University Council and its subsidiary MUSUL, V/Line Passenger Pty Ltd, the Victorian Channels Authority, the Asian University for Women Support Foundation, Fintona Girls’ School and the Driver Education Centre of Australia. She is currently on the Council of the University of Ballarat and President of the Rationalist Society of Australia.

Her consulting work focuses on governance and executive team effectiveness (board reviews, potential assessment, executive coaching). She is a facilitator of the Company Directors Course for the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a moderator with the Cranlana Programme on Ethics and the Good Society.

Meredith’s career spans 10 years in education and research, three years overseas, and 15 years as a corporate executive in manufacturing (Ford Australia), mining (Rio Tinto) and banking (ANZ) followed by 10 years or so in consulting.

Her education followed the classical liberal tradition, with studies in pure mathematics, linguistics and classical civilisation. She served on the Federal Government’s Higher Education Council and has been a member of numerous university advisory committees.

Apart from her professional career, Meredith has been a long-time community activist, lobbying on topics ranging from tax and industry development to social equity and corporate governance.

In 2004, she completed a PhD on “The Nature of Organisational Sustainability”, focusing on corporate responsibility and ‘triple bottom line’ accountability.

For over 40 years she has been a passionate motorcyclist, advising the Federal Government on motorcycle safety and becoming the first Chief Motorcycle Instructor in Australia. She still rides a BMW 650GS and has completed five overseas motorcycle trips.


Brian Thompson

Brian Thompson

Brian is Outreach Coordinator for the James Randi Educational Foundation. He promotes scientific skepticism through humour and entertainment in podcasts, blogs and print media.

Brian’s writing has appeared in Skeptical Inquirer and the Young Australian Skeptics Blog Anthology.

At the JREF, Brian works with grassroots sceptical organisations and multimedia content producers to promote science and reason to the widest possible audience. Brian also hosts the JREF podcast Consequence and produces the video series The Randi Show.

Brian was profiled on Libsyn as the co-creator of one of the most interesting contemporary podcasts.


Adam vanLangenberg

Adam vanLangenberg

Adam vanLangenberg is a mathematics teacher at McKinnon Secondary College in Melbourne. Since 2011 he has been running a lunchtime sceptical society for students. Being something of a novelty it has attracted some media attention, including The Age newspaper and The Circle television program. Around 20 – 30 students gather once a week to discuss all things sceptical from psychics to Santa to the end of the world.

Adam’s talk is titled:

Teenagers, lunchtime and scepticism

Adam will be sharing some stories including why he started the group, what his students have learned and what he’s learned from them.


Stephen Mayne

Stephen Mayne

Journalist, sharemarket activist and media commentator often in relation to the media itself. Stephen is the founder of the Crikey website and newsletter. He was the former Media Advisor to Jeff Kennett, Premier of Victoria until his resignation after which he stood against him for a place in the Victorian parliament. Stephen worked at the Australian Financial review and is a regular commentator in the media. He has been highly critical of Rupert Murdoch and his appearances at the News Corp AGM is always noteworthy. Stephen is on the National Board of the Australian Shareholders Association and has just resigned from Manningham City Council in order to contest a place on the Melbourne City Council later in the year.


Dr Stephen Basser

Dr Stephen Basser

Dr Stephen Basser has worked in General Practice in Melbourne for over fifteen years.

He has a long term association with Australian Skeptics, and a keen interest in ensuring medicine remains firmly science-based.


Lawrence Leung

Lawrence Leung is a TV writer, documentary maker and award-winning stand up comedian. He created the 6 part sceptical TV comedy series “Lawrence Leung’s Unbelievable” (ABC1) and the AFI-nominated documentary comedy “Choose Your Own Adventure”.

Lawrence Leung

His acclaimed one-man shows (including “Lawrence Leung: Skeptic”) have been performed in theatres and festivals around the world, including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (where he received the 2007 Age Critics Award), the Edinburgh Fringe, London’s Soho Theatre and The Sydney Opera House (where his show received the Best Australian Act Award of 2008 Sydney Comedy Festival). These stand up shows explore his obsessive and obscure interests, including Rubik’s Cubes, con artists, jetpacks, ghost-hunting and scepticism.

His keen interest in exploring why people believe the unbelievable has led him to from a Psychology degree at Melbourne University to lecturing at magic conventions and even designing magical illusions for theatre and screen.


Dr Cameron Martin

Dr Cameron Martin

Dr Cameron Martin is an enthusiastic General Practitioner who practices in outer metropolitan Melbourne.

Dr Martin graduated from medical school at the University of Newcastle in 2002. He worked in various NSW hospitals before completing his Fellowship with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. He returned to Melbourne in 2008. Dr Martin is an examiner for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). He sits on multiple committees for the Federal Department of Health and Ageing that consider the quality use of pathology testing in medicine.

Dr Martin has written numerous letters and submissions regarding speaking out against nonsense ‘pseudoscience’ being promoted in Australian health care and subsidised by public monies.

He joined the executive of Friends of Science in Medicine in early 2012.

Dr Martin’s talk is titled Exposing CAM as a Sham


Shane Greenup

Shane Greenup

Shane Greenup is one half of the founding team behind rbutr, a new application which aims to organise inter-website discourse and turn the entire Internet in to a global discussion between people who hold opposing perspectives. Shane has been working in his own online business for over 6 years now, after graduating with degrees in Science and Arts from the University of NSW, majoring in Philosophy, History and Philosophy of Science, and Molecular Biology. rbutr went in to public beta in March this year and is freely available from http://rbutr.com


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