The nzskeptics Yahoo discussion group has been very busy of late, with December 2009 registering more than 300 new messages – the largest number in the almost five years of the group’s existence. In large measure this has been thanks to contributions from a couple of participants who hold views which I would assume most of our members don’t share.

One of these was a scientologist, the other a chiropractor. Topics discussed ranged beyond the core concerns of these two camps into Chinese medicine, psychiatry, evolution and the nature of the soul.

Although the tone sometimes veered towards exasperation, the debates with one or two exceptions were generally conducted in good spirit, and didn’t degenerate into the flame wars that internet discussions are notorious for. A good thing too – when scientologists and chiropractors make their presence known on the group, it’s a reminder that it is open to anyone who cares to sign up. Skeptics are on public display, and some will judge the society by the way a few individuals behave.

The flurry of activity seems to be dying down again, at least for the time being. Ultimately fatigue sets in, as entrenched positons show no signs of shifting, and one by one people drop out. But discussions like these are still worthwhile. While occasionally frustrating, they serve the function of giving participants the chance to hone their arguments, and to examine issues from perspectives they may not have considered, as well as providing a stimulus to further reading and research. Many more read than actively take part, and derive some pleasure from following the exchanges – although my mailer’s Deleted folder currently has a stack of 32 unread messages with the subject line ‘Chiropractors’. There are only so many hours in a day, after all.

A group where everyone held similar views would get boring very quickly. nzskeptics, for now, is working well, and has become a valuable extension of the society’s activities. Thanks are due to Simon Clendon for getting it up and running and maintaining it.

And Kevin, Justin, and all the other regulars on nzskeptics, your contributions are appreciated too.

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