Gold gives the inside story of the beginnings of Skeptics in the Pub meetings in New Zealand.
I first heard about Skeptics in the Pub on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast (skeptics-guide.com). It started in London, spread to Boston and continued to spread from there. It originally started as a lecture series and currently, world-wide, there are 38 listed at the UK site that started it all. There are a few that I know of that aren’t listed there and New Zealand (skepticsinthepub.net.nz) is about to add to the growing list also.
Skeptics in the Pub is, primarily, an informal social gathering of like-minded, rational thinking individuals. The ‘Pub’ aspect of the group is not a requirement. We can just as easily be Skeptics in the Park, at the Pictures, at the Beach…
Skeptics in the Pub can be what you want it to be: an opportunity to socialise in the Big Blue Room (Outside); a place to organise real world events; or an online location to chat and discuss the Woo that is out there, particularly in our own country.
In the future the website will also include:
- A resource index to make it easier for you to locate the evidence to counter claims made by the vocal lunatic fringe
- A directory of businesses that deal in Woo, in the hope that when people search for them we’re found and can provide links to the evidence that explains or proves the Woo is, well… Woo.
We have complete control over the website. So if people have suggestions for what we can do with it, please use the forums to discuss them. Another thing I want Skeptics in the Pub to be is a legal buffer for NZ Skeptics Inc. The society is a legal entity; as such it can be targeted by lawsuits. For this reason they have to be careful about what they say. Skeptics in the Pub can provide an extra layer of separation for those that want to speak out and should things go wrong we can be a very vocal support system, providing research, funding and moral support.
I see the Skeptics in the Pub website as a platform where people can publish their informed opinion on topics that others seem to think are controversial. The idea behind this is to provide a certain amount of legal protection to others. While this site allows the publishing of these articles the content, opinions and copyright are retained by the author. We make a point of separating any one person’s opinion from all others so that should any legal action be taken the entire group can not be targeted and potentially taken down. Should this sort of thing happen the site would then provide a location for the concerted defence and support of the individual being targeted.
I would also like to see Skeptics in the Pub used as a rally point. A location where those that are willing to start things can plan, prepare, recruit and execute their ideas from.
I had used meetup.com to organise events before. So, when I checked the site and found about ten others interested in Christchurch I paid the money, announced the list to various sources and waited a month. We got about 25 to the first gathering and positive things were being said. Christchurch is currently holding fortnightly gatherings on alternating Mondays and Tuesdays so anyone that can’t make one may be able to make the other. We’re also holding a monthly video night which, to date, has had a decidedly atheist theme.
Auckland was next to start; Mike Kilpatrick stepped up to manage that. We were fortunate to have Kylie Sturgess from the Skeptic Zone podcast passing through Auckland on the same night, and were honoured to have her as the guest speaker. She recorded a Think Tank, which is a segment of the podcast. The first of the Wellington gatherings was on the Thursday before the conference. They are being run by Tom Neal, who has been running a small, regular gathering of ‘Pharyngulites’- readers of PZ Myers’ blog (scienceblogs.com/pharyngula). When the opportunity arose he was happy to merge the two. We managed about 15 on the first night and the last of us left at about midnight. The second gathering was the post-conference meetup which was posted very late (sorry guys). We managed to get 15-20 though. There was a lot of interest from this group in joining the Skeptics in the Pub so Wellington numbers should grow fairly quickly initially.
NZ Skeptics Inc, at the AGM this year, totally overwhelmed me with an extremely generous donation of $1000 to continue and expand on the meetups that are being run from Meetup.com. So, things can only get better from here.
If you live in an area where you know a few skeptics and would like to meet more, get in touch and I’ll set up a meetup group for your area. I’m not looking at running the groups myself. I’m just providing the online tools for getting things started.