image1650 people showed up for this year’s James Randi Educational Foundation The Amazing Meeting 9 conference in Las Vegas (TAM9). One of the big issues this year was diversity and proper diversity behavior of attendees, not only at TAM but at other Skeptic and Atheist conferences worldwide.

Daniel Loxton describing it in SkepticBlog:

The irony of an atheist-only panel on “diversity” did not escape me, but I expected it to pass without comment. The sentiment that skepticism is an atheist club is recent, but it has taken root very quickly. As with other sorts of “do-fish-know-they’re-wet?” privilege in other, larger communities, the assumption of default atheism is rarely questioned in the skeptical subculture. Indeed, the panel set out to discuss diversity in gender, sexual orientation, age, race, class, education, and physical ability—but not religion.

This is especially strange when we consider that scientific skepticism was to a large extent founded by people of faith, including Harry Houdini (still arguably the greatest skeptical investigator of all time, and the model for the investigative tradition embodied today by James Randi and Joe Nickell [of Shroud of Turin skepticism fame]) . . .

imageJames Randi? Maybe, maybe not. But Joe Nickell? You can square magician for both men but can you square scientific for Nickell?

Back in 1999, Eric Krieg of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking wrote:

Joe is not your "average Joe", by nature of former occupations of: undercover detective, teacher, draft dodger, river boat manager, carnival promoter, magician, investigator, and spokesperson. . . . Joe impressed on me the difference between being a scientist and an investigator. Joe seems to have no significant credentials just as his mentor: James Randi. In both cases, the lack of single significant credentials is much more than offset by a more important broad area of knowledge. Joe remarks that a scientist tends to approach an investigation from the narrow view of his own specialty – where as a "jack of all trades" would come up with more avenues of investigation.

It comes from Nickell’s own words.