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The Weekend Thinker: Skeptic Society Confab

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It seems perversely fitting that a group committed to poking holes in our most cherished beliefs would set up shop here in la-la land, spiritual home of New Age America and breeding ground for some of the nation's creepiest cults.

But that's exactly what the Pasadena, California-based Skeptic Society sets out to do every quarter in its magazine and through the writings and lectures of director Dr. Michael Shermer. Recent subjects have included artificial intelligence, intelligent design, and — it almost pains us to say — our most beloved bigfoot.

This weekend, members and fellow doubting Thomases have gathered at CalTech to debate global warming. Does the data support the end-is-nigh warning of some environmentalists and big budget thrillers? Or have conclusions drawn by computer models and recent weather patterns leapt the bounds of empiricism and turned into something more akin to belief? Or is the answer somewhere in between?

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In a recent Scientific American column, Shermer recounts his initial, well, skepticism that global warming is a done deal and a pretty bad one at that. Then ex-VP Al Gore showed up with slides of glaciers melting away like Snoopy snow-cones in mid-July, and he started dig around for more info. It makes a pretty good plug for Gore's newest run before the public eye, An Inconvenient Truth. It' s now playing in Century City and Manhattan Beach.

We confess, LAist got caught off guard by our recent bout of local warming, so we're posting this with sand between our toes and halfway through the conference. But there still may be time to check out Saturday evening's activities. Author Michael Crichton, whose recent work State of Fear took a sledgehammer to the environmental movement's global warming position, squares off with ABC's 20/20 host John Stossel. Or easier yet, just turn down the AC and think about those glaciers.

Photo of Pakistani glaciers by Heartkins via flickr.