Well, that’s another year in the “hot” seat, and more “interesting” times. I’ve had over 250 messages in my Skeptics email folder build up since January, and that’s only the ones I wanted to keep. It provides a form of diary for what we’ve done throughout the year.
As always, there have been stories that appalled us — the exploitation of little Liam Holloway-Williams by both the media and alternative healers was a shocker, and it was sad to see yet another cancer “cure” touted well before any useful testing had taken place. We keep our fingers crossed that both stories will have happy outcomes. Sadly, I suspect that awarding the Holmes programme the Bent Spoon this year for their uncritical coverage of these stories will do nothing to deter their enthusiasm for “entertainment” of this nature.
Your committee members have been on the case in a variety of ways throughout the year, organising meetings, bearding the creationists in their dens, advising journalism students on the difference between skepticism and cynicism, corresponding with French researchers regarding New Zealand’s skeptical and paranormal history, talking to would-be physics teachers about the difference between science and pseudo-science, and generally trying to put a human face to the Skeptics. We’ve got a toehold on Radio Pacific now, with a whole five minutes every Sunday devoted to counteracting the remaining material that’s broadcast the rest of the time (ah well, every bit helps).
We’re sorry to lose Mike Dickison to the wilds of North Carolina, whence he heads in search of a doctorate. Mike’s been an all-round helpful fellow on the Wellington scene for some time now, and he will be sorely missed. And Clare Simpson has had to relinquish the Treasurer’s position, so please put your hand up if you’re able to help in this regard.
The big project this year was the Skeptical Primer, that cheerfully yellow (!) guide to critical thinking, which you should have received along with your 50th NZ Skeptic.
My thanks to all those involved in producing this, not to mention all the “Skeptic” editors who have ensured that we had 50 issues with which to celebrate! We’ve sent the primer out to libraries and media outlets around the country, and it’s proven invaluable as a resource for those seeking to understand what drives us to question things. We’d welcome suggestions for further places to distribute the primer to spread the Skeptical Word, or any other suggestions you may have on what we should be doing.
I was sorry I was unable to make the conference this year, as it is always a highlight in my calendar, most notably for its good humour and reaffirmation of the good that we can do.
From what I’ve heard, the Auckland conference committee did us proud with a thought-provoking (not to mention just plain provoking!) gathering.
As for the future, I predict that this year’s skeptics versus psychics match on Holmes won’t be as successful as last year, when the score ran 80% to 0% in our favour. I have to take the blame for that, having made the rather rash forecast that the All Blacks will not be in the final of the World Cup. Oh well, if they do continue in form and win, at least I can say I’m pleased I was wrong for the sake of the country’s mental health….