I say pretty certain because I've never been able to afford it. It's in the USA and is part of that Las Vegas Big Conference wizz-bang that puts it out of my price league. Surprisingly becoming a Doctor of Astrophysics didn't create the defacto independently wealthy lifestyle one might expect; Doctor Who lied to me.
But now that it has come to London.... and, well, I still can't afford it.
I state this not to moan about the price (although I will discuss it) but because I write from a position of ignorance and want that to be understood from the start.
First, I think it is important that I take a few paragraphs to emphasise how important the James Randi Educational Foundation is to me (but feel free to skip to the nitty gritty).
After reading swift for what seemed an age I joined the forum back in January 2002 (eons ago in internet-time). It was the foundry that pushed me into becoming a blogger.
As a child I was obsessed with the Paranormal/UFOs and the like. I had so many books on the subject that they filled a giant 6ft chest. My first Wünderkammer. This was pre-internet so I would rummage around boot sales and 2nd hand shops picking up exciting looking tomes of forbidden knowledge; everything from Ancient Civilizations to Zombies via Ball Lightning, Cryptozoology, Kirlian Photography, Psychic Plants and so on.
Then later, starting 'big school' a series of excellent teachers awoke within me a love of science.
Now science is not a series of facts but a process. Once it gets under your skin your can't help to apply that logic to every aspect of your life and interests.
And so my obsession with the paranormal met the scientific method and piece by piece it crumbled. I took my beloved interest and tore it down piece by piece day by day.
But it wasn't tragic or sad. It was enlightening. I was working out how wonderful the real world was - not this make believe one I inhabited previously. My only frustrations were aimed at the authors who I could see intentionally recycling claims long ago disproven.
I felt alone and voiceless; there was this community of paranormal researchers and I had no voice to hold them to account with.
And the JREF changed all that.
It wasn't until university that I personally acquired a consistent internet connection (a statement that on reflection seems preposterous) and would waste so long in the library hoovering up not just information but the realisation I was not alone.
Now there is such a huge skeptic and new-atheist movement that it seems crazy for someone of that inclination to be so isolated. But I was.
The JREF's outreach activities directly lead to this blog and to who I am today. I briefly met Randi at 'An Evening with James Randi and Friends' and it was a huge moment in my life.
So lets make this clear — the JREF and James Randi are massively important. Not just to me personally but for our society.
But one of skepticism's strengths is self criticism.
Lets start with the price. The ticket for TAMLondon, is £220. Some people have argued that this is extortionate.
An Evening with Randi and friends, had 11 speakers and cost £11 for about 300 people. A five fold increase in seats and the cost rising by a factor of twenty is quite shocking at first glance.
But it is preposterous to argue that JREF are ripping people off because: a) they are holding the meeting in a central London Hilton Hotel which doesn't come cheap, b) there is an International line up of speakers to fly in and c) it's raising money for the charity that is the JREF. d) the first TAM:London cost £150 (ish) and sold out not in days, but in hours.
The demand, even at those prices is there.
So the price is well justified, despite how counter intuitive it first appears that as attendance numbers rise so do the costs.
That said I do think there are a number of valid concerns to be raised about the price. It can be argued that the JREF is a primarily American charity and that the money it generates could be better used by the British skeptic movement.
The counter argument to this however is three fold. Firstly the JREF output is not solely contained within the US and with so much output being online it helps the entire globe (I can't forget how it helped me here in the UK for example).
Secondly I think many of us here in the UK and Europe see America as the primary battleground. That is where the nonsense is strongest and needs the most attention. I think we want to help in that battle and so the donations are willing. The issues the JREF highlights are global and not limited to just one country.
Thirdly it assumes that without TAM:London some magical British based TAM would appear.
Nevertheless, I've done voluntary work the British Humanist Association (ooh get me!) for example. And so I can state first hand how much support they need and what such good work they do. I feel that many of us in the UK are often distracted looking at the crazy nonsense that occurs outside the UK to properly pay attention to that which occurs within it.
It is important to note that that is not a criticism of TAM but of ourselves.
The second main issue with TAM:London is it's purpose.
It is not an outreach event. It is not intended to win over or convince people of the need for Rational Thought. The FAQ makes that no clearer than when it details how any video content posted to the net taken at the event will be removed.
As such it is neither a medium for the publishing of new findings. An academic conference would jump at any such publicity. At least in my own experience.
And so that leaves the fact that it is a show. A piece of entertainment.
Again, for the record, that isn't criticism of TAM:London — thats a completely fair position to take. One I would pretty much take if I was running TAM (see my 'solution' later).
So what are we left with? A 1,500 seater venue of skeptic celebrities preaching to the converted whilst raising money for their organisation of choice.
Which is a church.
And not a british church, but an american one, with american sensibilities (or that crazy one in south london). A Megachurch.
That sentence sounds bigoted and horrible. It isn't meant to be.
I'm a regular at Skeptics in the Pub in both Holborn and now Westminster (say hi next time!) and have spent the last few debating with friends whether this low key event that takes place in a pub basement is becoming churchlike. Whether it preaches to the converted and does nothing but support previously held beliefs. Occasionally it can remind you of that - but it is a truly wonderful and important event that I recommend to every one of you. It is open, extremely cheap and works hard to make the world a better place. Ten23 and the Libel Reform issues wouldn't be nearly as successful without it.
So why does TAM:London leave a number of us feeling slightly uneasy?
I think because it represents such big business. Many skeptics are critical of things like big church congregations, Woo conferences and exhibitions. And as nonsensical as it is to compare them it's hard not to feel like a certain amount of moral high ground is lost when we have what amounts to our own.
A critic can point to it and say: "look, you just like to go and hear people tell you that you are right!" and one can't reply: "it's not like that, come and see!" Because they can rightly point out the barrier of entry being £220 high.
Skepticism is about self criticism and not becoming complacent in ones views. But if we become people self supporting our beliefs who go to events to enjoy being enraged by woo, then we are using anger, frustration and being eghast as an entertainment.
It would be disastrous if people accused TAM of selling that in the way that Mr Alton Towers sells his rollercoasters.
So what do we need to do? We need to do the boring thing and reach out to the believers and the unaware.
When we are ridiculing woo and faith and bad science it needs to be in a manner that allows people to hear. To jump aboard and see. To be inspired and realise that there is a different way.
If they see it as a different kind of church where believers pays hundreds of pounds to be told their right then we will push the next generation of skeptics away.
Which would be a terrible shame.
We do not want to appear to be sitting in our ivory towers laughing at the idiots below.
We want people to know that our ivory tower has a lift and you can come and join us (I refuse to accept any negative connotations to ivory towers as they sound far too awesome).
To end I want to reiterate, I'm not saying TAM is bad. I love the JREF and would go if I could afford it. But I do think that we need to think carefully about what impression it gives.
To be critical without any suggestions for improvement would be too much even for me. So here's my simple solution.
It needs an openness it doesn't currently have and taking a leaf out of TEDs book I think there is a way around that.
TED is another preposterously expensive conference (It's almost a $1000 to get just a live web feed!) that could do huge damage to people's view of science except for one brilliant move. Rather than appearing exclusional, it has become a huge tool for good with it's free broadcast of talks given. Once a week for the year between TEDs these talks keep interest high, illuminate and inform the masses and makes the conference transparent.
With the support of the speakers at TAM:London this approach would prevent the criticisms I've detailed here.
Currently TAM:London just has a single video from last year.
So I call on TAM:London and its speakers to follow TED and turn a meeting that currently appears insular and segregating into a huge outreach and educational resource. Make the talks free. Slowly. Drip by drip. Over the year.
I don't believe it will cost you money. If anything I think it will increase DVD sales and grow the meeting. I suspect it will increase demand for next years tickets.
But more importantly it will raise awareness and place skepticism above reproach.
Are my feelings justified? I don't believe they necessarily are. But not being able to afford to go, I can't say further.
In the interest of full disclosure - I've applied for a bloggers press pass to visit TAM:London.