Garfield was right-there’s nothing like a piping hot lasagne on a winter’s night. Especially when eaten with good wine and fine people.

During our repast, we got to talking and the New Zealand Society for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal came up, as it is wont to do. What, one of our friends asked, have the New Zealand Skeptics achieved in their brief span on the planet?

This is a good question, especially in light of our upcoming 20th anniversary. One obvious answer is that it gives us members an outing at the always enjoyable and thought-provoking annual conference. In this world overrun with homeopathic, crystal-dangling, spirit-guide channellers, there’s real joy to be found in talking with like-minded people, and that can not be overstated. Humans above all are social animals, and the society provides a social network for members who are thinly scattered around the country.

From an individual perspective, as a Skeptic it has been a real treat for me to watch my daughter develop an inquiring mind. Now a teenager, she called us upstairs to her room the other day to get a load of what was playing on her favourite radio station. It was medium Deb Webber talking with a young girl whose mother had killed herself. “Don’t worry dear, she’s here with you now, and she’s always with you.” And other rubbish. Our daughter was fair snorting with derision and eager to discuss the whole thing.

And still more. In my life as a journalist, I’ve spent a lot of time in newsrooms and have known a lot of journos. How fantastic to have an organisation with a national profile and articulate spokespeople to whom they can turn to get balance on that ghost story. The older hands know about us, and it does have an impact.

We have built up resources, such as the video and book libraries, there is the website, from which the feature articles are available to all comers. There are the Bent Spoon and Bravo awards and the promotion of Darwin Day, and currently we’re holding a competition to encourage critical thinking among high school students (see p19).

Then there are all the things our members get up to, their own projects, that have an influence on the wider community. Countless articles in magazines and newspapers, as well as books and websites. I believe we make a difference. We may not necessarily be winning the battle, but as Carl Sagan says, we are helping keep that candle burning.

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