The year got off to a good start with a series of successful meetings run by our Auckland colleagues in conjunction with the Rationalists, and I thank those involved for their efforts. I’d also like to thank Claire le Couteur and others who, in conjunction with Philip Catton of the Canterbury Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, organised a local Darwin Day celebration at short notice. That was on February 12, and was our first participation in an international effort which should see us mark the occasion each year, culminating in 2009 with the 150th celebration of the publication of Origin of Species.

I have become the convenor of the International Representatives for the Darwin Day Project, based in the US, which is looking to encourage celebrations around the globe. A number of local Skeptics have contributed to the first Darwin Day book, to be published next month – in company with the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Stephen Pinker.

In June, I was fortunate enough to attended the 4th World Skeptics Conference and be firmly convinced, once again, that the level of quality and humour of our own conferences rank among the best in the world. One contentious debate at the WorldCon was whether religious, economic and political criticism should be a part of the skeptical purview. As a consequence, we surveyed our members to assess whether this view was supported here. It seems fairly clear that you support the distinction between those claims which are scientifically testable and those which are not, though the actual topical focus has changed over time.

We’ve produced a new edition of the membership form. These can be passed on to people who may be interested in the cause, put on file with the local library and so forth.

We’ve also started production of a series of informative brochures which will be available for general distribution in both print and online form. So far, these have included flyers on acupuncture, astrology, creation science, UFOs and others. I’d like to acknowledge the valuable assistance of Laurie Eddie of the South Australian Skeptics who has provided text files of the brochures which they produced, and which sparked our activity.

The minutes of the last AGM covered plans we had for the website, almost all of which have been put into place. These include:

  • the email alert service, which has attracted the interest of non-members
  • a members’ only section to provides access to the Video Library and the Book Library; we received an early book donation from member Al Dennard and hope to encourage more
  • extended information on the Bent Spoon and Bravo Awards, and other resource information

A proposal to run a teacher-oriented competition to encourage critical thinking and develop useful teaching resources is one that was sparked by Alastair Brickell shortly before this conference, and we look forward to it helping to raise the profile of the society. We’ll also be working on boosting the media image of the Skeptics, in response to comments from the survey. I expect 2003 to be another busy but productive year.

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