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Rational Inquiry -Volume 9 Number 1

Those People Who Make SDARI Go, The Speakers

By Keith Taylor

"Where do you get those guys?" The question is frequently asked, and, fortunately, not too often in an derisive manner. Our speakers are the heart of SDARI. We do lots of things and want to do lots more, but it's the speakers who keep the faithful coming back month after month and who keep SDARI going.

So, where do we get them. Sometimes we hear of a noted speaker who will be in San Diego. Sometimes a person hears of us and volunteers. Sometimes things fall apart and we have to scramble. Sometimes we get lucky. Fortunately we have a cadre of knowledgeable members who can be called upon when an out-of-towner isn't available. Most importantly often one of our members comes up with a speaker. We can't invite all that are recommended for several reasons but we will consider all. If you know of a good speaker please remember that his talk must be on the subject of skepticism.

I've been either president of SDARI or program chair for seven years and it's an especially interesting job. I get to chat at some length with some of the top international names in the world of skepticism. Dinner with David Brin, Michael Shermer, Victor Stenger, James Underdown, or Paul Kurtz is worth the anxiety of getting them here. By the way, our dinner before the meeting is an open affair, and often the evening's speaker will join. We generally eat at a restaurant near to Beers' Center. Just give me a call (619) 421 5844 and I'll tell you where and save a seat for you.

Since our last newsletter was published, the speakers have covered some interesting topics.

August 24. As I wrote earlier sometimes things fall apart and sometimes we get lucky. Both happened in August. We had planned on Mark Perakh's talking on his new book, Unintelligent Design. Unfortunately the book wasn't ready. I called the cops.

Well, I called their public relations folks to see if they had someone willing to speak on various scams. Nope. The ubiquitous California budget problems had struck the San Diego Police Department, but the sympathetic officer I talked to dropped a familiar name, Randy Gibson.

Gibson had spoken to us earlier and was an electrifying speaker. He hadn't lost a beat in the interval. He is Forensic Document Examiner with the San Diego Police Department Crime Lab. SDARI's old friend showed how tedious laboratory work can unmask the most painstaking forgeries. Reconstructing documents, even from bits thrown out of moving autos can lead to arrest and conviction of criminals. He also drew a sharp distinction between analyzing handwriting for forgery and the bogus "science" of discerning personality traits from handwriting.

September 28. Sometimes I think SDARI is a collection of the smartest, most versatile folks in town. Other times I'm sure of it. Our own Robert Schaeffer writes the "Psychic Vibrations" column for Skeptical Inquirer. Schaeffer told us of his examination of the evidence from across five decades going back to Betty and Barney Hill, UFO sightings and many of the other wowser claims we hear of constantly. Unfortunately, such good stories are marred by the lack of anything resembling proof when held to strict scientific standards.

And isn't that a good justification for SDARI's existence?

October 26. San Diego had a fire. This was not a credulous claim. It was one of the breathless news stories we didn't need to examine. Many of us could see the flames out our windows. We all stayed home and nervously watched and waited until the fires were brought under control.

November 23. We substituted October's program for November's. Bridget Wilson and I gave a presentation on what we both consider to be one of the more outrageous omissions of common sense of our government, the so-called "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" (DADT) law. Well that was the plan. Then, Ms. Wilson, an Army reservist, was called up for active duty, so I, your program chair, had to talk for about an hour by myself, obviously not a big problem.

I had just returned from a conference on DADT at Hofstra University, on the outskirts of New York City. The conference attended by straights, gays, and nabobs from the likes of MIT, Stanford, several other universities, plus representatives of three foreign countries. The consensus was that the law was badly flawed and the excuses for excluding gays was more of a political decision than one based on hard data.

And more speakers are coming-

It looks as if our new year will start with a bang, perhaps a bang, bang, bang.

January 25. The speaker will be Bill Cooke, Ph.D., a humanist and rationalist. He is currently an editor of two magazines, the author of four books, and several hundred articles on rationalism/humanism. Cooke is International Director of the Center for Inquiry in Amherst.

February 22. We will have as our speaker Darlene Lieblich, Ph.D., Vice President of Program Standards and Practices for the Fox Cable Networks. Dr. Lieblich won't talk on Bill O'Reilly, interesting and controversial as that may seem however. She became interested in a movie proposal that was going nowhere and got involved. I had done quite a bit of research on the subject, how a man's life was ruined by blue nosed censors in St. Louis, several years ago. Word on the proposed movie and Lieblich's involvement floated around the Internet and led me to the web site.

I invited her to come to San Diego and she politely declined. When I pointed out our association with CFI she immediately accepted. She'll even try to bring along the fellow who suffered at the hands of would-be censors. Turns out CFI, International may help publicize it. Also, Mark Sauer of the Union-Tribune is interested. Come Early to the February meeting. We're hoping for a banner turnout.

March 28. The third bang in a row ought to come with the March meeting. SDARI's own seasoned veteran of the evolution/creation wars, Mark Perakh, Ph.D., has written a book called Unintelligent Design. After several delays the publisher got it here and it is ready to go. Mark will tell us about it and will have a book signing.

And that only takes care of the first quarter. Hang on folks it looks like an interesting and informative year.

E-mail contact: - SDARI Secretary and Program Chair/Newsletter

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