Friday, January 2, 2009

Be A Cool Dude(ette), Join The Skeptics Society

We here at Richmond Skeptics probably wouldn't rock and rule as hard as we do if it wasn't for two main organizations- The James Randi Educational Foundation, and the topic of today's blogpost, The Skeptics Society.


THE 411: The Skeptics Society, like the JREF, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization dedicated to investigating controversial claims (i.e. vaccines cause autism), promoting science (physics rules!), and promoting critical thinking (ruling out other options than "magic" when discovering how something works).

SKEPTICAL PEEPS: A "skeptic" as defined by the Skeptic Society, is anyone who adapts a provisional approach to any claim, applies reason to any and all ideas, and consistantly uses this method despite any temptation towards any sacredly held beliefs. Skeptics want tangible, testable proof that can be repeated in a variety of controlled settings. The Skeptics Society's head brainiac is a guy by the name of Dr. Michael Shermer, who is freakin' everywhere nowadays (here he is with me!)!!! Dr. Shermer is the author of some dozen books on skepticism, belief, evolution, and critical thinking. He travels constantly and is often the Skeptical Go-To Guy when media interviews and fluff pieces on psychic stuff are written. Dr. Shermer, despite being a busy bee, is very congenial, and remains a valuable resource for any skeptic. The main publication of the Skeptic Society is Skeptic Magazine, which features many skeptical writers, bloggers, artists, and average joes like me who do their small part for the promotion of science in our spaceship Earth. A very fun and extremely hip feature of Skeptic Magazine is Junior Skeptic (featuring the fabulous Emily "TT Busta" Rosa, the gorgeous drawings of Pat Linse and the ultra-clever Daniel Loxton at the helm- according to a recent interview, Loxton said the mini-mag was inspired by a fave fictional read of animated dynamo Lisa Simpson!) which is geared toward school-age kiddies who are starting out on the right foot by thinking critically. The Skeptic Society also has a semi-regular podcast, Skepticality (hosted by the awesome Derek and Swoopy) and a weekly email newsletter, eSkeptic.

WHY A BLOGPOST TODAY? Glad you asked, Sillybeans-it's because today my husband and I received in the mail our pre-membership renewal packet as a result of sending in a small amount of moolah for membership renewal fees (we became members in 2008- FYI: Skeptics Society members also receive Skeptic Magazine). Enclosed was a letter from Dr. Shermer as well as a pamphlet entitled "Learn to Be Psychic In 10 Easy Lessons" which outlines the cold reading and slight-of-hand tricks a lot of con artists pretending to have paranormal ability use on the unsuspecting public. The pamphlet totally rocks (and has that yummy thick paper-y smell), but the important thing is how much the Skeptic Society is contributing to society. According to Dr. Shermer's letter, 2008 was the biggest year that the Skeptics Society had in getting their message out. The small amount of moolah you send, along with all the other gargantuan tasks the society undertakes, goes toward funding science education projects in schools as well as to the general media (anyone here in RVA knows our local media could really benefit, n'es pa?). The Skeptics Society has just completed a contract to put 10,000 evolutionary science books in European schools and hopes that goal could be achieved here in North America. The books were developed by Junior Skeptic and The Junior Skeptic Baloney Detection Book Series. Speaking of, Junior Skeptic has just launched their own website with hopes that it will eventually become a universal resource for teachers. And, last but not least, the really cool (at least, in my opinion) project for 2009 is a documentary on belief- it's power, it's psychology, it's construction, and how to distinguish between true and B.S. belief systems. Wowsa.

KEWL. I WANT IN TOO; WHAT DO I DO NOW? If you have a small amount of moolah and want in on this too, you can visit the Skeptics Society by clicking on any mention of it in this blogpost (do yourself a favor and join- Junior Skeptic ALONE is so totally worth the cheap fees it takes to obtain membership!).