Many moons ago I packed into a dimmed lecture theatre along with 400 other keen-eyed stage I psych students to listen to a presentation on psychic ability.

The mood was festive – it was almost the last lecture of the year and promised to be a good one. Some bloke was going to demonstrate their prowess with telepathy and fix some broken watches. Students packed into the aisles and I’m sure there were a few economics or accounting students present.

I distinctly recall being suspicious. Honest. Probably aided by my brother sitting next to me who was trying to work out the tricks. What I remember most of all is the utter gullibility of the majority of the other students – they swallowed it hook, line and little lead balls. It was, of course, a setup brilliantly executed by Otago University psychologist David Marks. I was so impressed I went out and bought his book, Psychology Of The Psychic (written with the late Richard Kammann) – one of the earliest books on the topic that I ever read. (Could the person I lent it to please return it?) It was this incident, somewhere back in the early 80s, that first sparked my interest in skepticism.

So it is with considerable delight that I see Dr David Marks will give a presentation at the next skeptic’s conference (the one in Dunedin, the one you are about to register for straight away…). Dr Marks is these days professor of psychology at Middlesex University and we are grateful to the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists who have helped with financing his visit to this country. I also note he is pencilled in for Saturday night’s entertainment which alone could be worth driving 800km to listen to.

Unhappily the Taylor/Riddell household won’t be attending – having just settled in following six months in the deep south we’re not ready to turn round and go back again.

Which is a shame because the theme of this year’s conference is one close to our hearts – Evolution, Creationism and Education.

Another distinguished speaker who will need no introduction to most members is Australia’s Ian Plimer, professor of Earth Science at Melbourne University. His talk on the evolution of creationism will be a highlight of the programme.

Conference organiser Warwick Don has put together an excellent weekend – if only it was in Hamilton!

But welcome to the 56th issue of the NZ Skeptic in which we examine medical matters, with Dr David Cole looking at the history of black box devices and Dr Bill Morris’s article on the pill.

We also welcome back Dr (am I the only non doctor in these parts?) John Welch who for many years wrote the Hokum Locum and is picking up his pen again. Many thanks to Dr Neil McKenzie for his contributions.

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