As delivered to the 1995 AGM

I’m pleased to report that after 10 years of waiting with bated breath, the New Zealand Skeptics now has its very own leaflet-cum-application form for handing out to the uninitiated. We’ve bemoaned the lack of these for some time — particularly those of us doing public presentations where we’ve often been asked for further information, contact details and the like. It should make it considerably easier for prospective Skeptics to find out about us and join the ranks. Bernard Howard, our ever-faithful Secretary, tells me that he has been getting in application forms from the new material, and we anticipate seeing lots more.

The Skeptics provide speakers for a wide variety of groups. Denis spoke to a rural group in the hinterlands of the deep dark south, and we gained a number of new members down there. I’ve spoken to a diverse range of groups, as far afield as Mount Somers (to the Highway 72 group — a collection of rural women, not a motorcycle gang, I hasten to add). Interestingly, one of the most challenging and perspicacious groups I was fortunate to address was the senior class of St Andrews College — maybe there is hope for the future from the children of today.

During the year Owen McShane in Auckland has been discussing skeptical issues and science on 95bFM, and of course we have the Auckland conference organised by Heather Mackay and Peter Lange, so we hope to see a bit more skepticism in our nation’s hotbed of vice and culture (ahem). The Wellington Skeptics have been busy organising a winter lecture series concerning skeptical issues, and I commend Tony Vignaux, Mike Dickison, Cynthia Shakespeare and their helpers for doing so.

We were fortunate enough this year to be visited by Dr Susan Blackmore, noted parapsychological researcher and Skeptic. Being on the Councils of both the Society for Psychical Research and CSICOP gives Susan a truly unique view of the paranormal. Susan spoke to a gathering in Wellington and to 250-odd in Christchurch, as well as giving interviews to National Radio, TVNZ’s Newsnight and The Press, and her fascinating and eminently rational research into near-death experiences and the like provided a great deal to think about.

(Incidentally, the Australian Skeptics very kindly provided us with Susan as an add-on to the Australian tour which they’d organised. Even more kindly, they did so gratis — of course, it hadn’t escaped our notice that they’d just been bequeathed A$1.2 million…)

The Skeptics’ bank account here, while in no measure comparable to that of our Australian counterparts, looks reasonably healthy according to the Treasurer’s report. We’d welcome suggestions of the sorts of activities or measures which members would like to see the Society undertake. Some possibilities are:

  • increasing the page count in the NZ Skeptic (currently at 20 pages)
  • providing information kits for schools on such subjects as evolution/creation “science” and UFOs (these subjects seem to come up regularly in school talks)
  • promoting a paranormal challenge with a prize (can be tricky to organise, but then “investigation” is in our formal name)

Obviously these (or others) could eat up our resources and it has been suggested that we fund raise to ensure that this does not happen. If anyone knows a skeptically minded elderly millionaire, please give his name and address to the Treasurer.

Thank you for coming to the conference and for staying for the AGM. Your continued support and skepticism is much appreciated.

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