Rational Inquiry -Volume 6 Number 3
By Keith R. Taylor
I take great pleasure in recognizing your performance as a guest speaker . . . your informative presentation on the importance of scientific inquiry and rational thought in todayís society highlighted our celebration . . . I take great pride in extending to you the Navyís traditional "Well Done!"
The letter was signed by Captain M. D. Kowba, Acting Commanding Officer of the Naval School of Health Sciences. I accepted it on behalf of SDARI because my talk was mostly about the things we have been telling the world since SDARI was formed some six years ago.
The invitation to speak to the staff of the Navy school came from Mary Kelly, a lieutenant in the Navy Nurse Corps. When she proffered the invitation, LT Kelly wasnít aware that I was affiliated with SDARI or even that our outfit existed. Sheíd read an article Iíd written for Navy Times. It told of how todayís young military women and men often put themselves in harmís way to collect electronic intelligence.
Mary needed a speaker and I might fill the bill. Itís true that electronic intelligence was my specialty during my 23 years in the Navy. Indeed it also had been LT Kellyís field before she became a nurse and earned a couple of gold stripes on her arms. It is also true that writing is my avocation now (itíd be my vocation if they paid me more).
But my current passion is SDARI, not spooky spy stuff or even my foisting my opinions off on an unsuspecting public. How could I let this opportunity slip by?
I asked LT Kelly, "Why donít I talk to your science school about an outfit committed to science and rational thought?"
That was just what the doctor ordered (no pun intended). We agreed that I would tell the staff about SDARI. Now there was just one problem left. Iím not a scientist and what if I overstepped my limited knowledge of the subject, almost a given. About all I can remember from my last formal science physics lesson, fifty years ago, was that proportional to its mass a golf ball exerts the same pull on the earth as the earth does on the golf ball. That bit of knowledge (assuming Iím remembering it correctly) would be of little help. I wasnít going to be facing Roseanne here.
Fortunately SDARI is a diverse group with experts in many different fields especially science. I called on one of the best, my good friend Dr. Dr. Dr. Elie Shneour (he has three doctorates). Elie is one of the founders of SDARI and is head of the San Diego County Science Advisory Board. It worked well. I gave the talk. Elie answered the difficult questions while I nodded as if I understood the answers. We were scheduled for an hourís talk. Two hours later they were still asking questions. Elie was still answering them and my neck was getting sore from all that sagacious nodding.
Best of all we let the staff of the Naval School of Health Sciences know that a civilian group nearby was committed to scientific ideas. For me it was a pleasure and an opportunity to say "thank you." Medical science, including that practiced by the Navy, helped add at least twenty years to the fifty years I was expected to live when I was born in 1930. It was a win-win situation.
Elie and I enjoyed talking and urging important people to continue thinking rationally. Mary got some good "brownie points" for bringing in a couple speakers with the outrageous idea that folks should think rationally. The staff seemed to enjoy the whole thing, including my off-color jokes.
Few of you would suspect it from such a shy fellow, but I enjoy talking, especially about things that get me excited. My talk to the staff at the naval school was just one of the opportunities Iíve had to tell folks about SDARI recently. A small group called "Society of Friends" (not Quakers) asked me to talk a while back. So did a similar group in Chula Vista. We picked up members from both.
That gives me an idea for the future of SDARI. We are at a crossroads. Hell, volunteer outfits are always at a crossroads. SDARI is no exception. A boffo speaker to a full room is followed a frenzied scramble to find a speaker for the next month. We have great ideas but not people to implement them.
Rational thought is a tough sell. A faithhealer, hand waver, soothsayer, or spoon bender could fill Qualcom Stadium. It takes the likes of Mike Shermer for us to draw a hundred.
How about if we form a speakers bureau? I think that was one of the ideas we had when SDARI was formed, but little came of it. For a start, Iíd be glad to offer to talk to various fraternal and civic organizations after I step down as president next January.
Anybody else like to tackle speaking? The pay is lousy but you might just get a letter that starts out:
I take great pleasure in recognizing your performance as a guest speaker...