Some of the most important work in promoting science and skepticism happens at the grassroots level. There are regional skeptical organizations all over the world that serve their local communities, and we like to regularly shine the spotlight on some of them.
In central New York state, the CNY Skeptics serve as a bastion of reason and critical thinking. I spoke with their founder, Lisa Goodlin.
Brian: How did CNY Skeptics get started?
Lisa: I founded the group in the spring of 2002. Founding members Bill Busher, Brian Madigan, and David Cook came on board and helped organize the group. This year, CNY Skeptics celebrates its tenth birthday.
Brian: Why should a skeptic join a group like yours?
Lisa: Socializing with like-minded people. Learning about nanotechnology, peak oil, the Enlightenment, the geology of our area, the creation museum, superstition and pseudoscience in the black community, and other subjects. Those topics and more have been covered at our meetings. [Members also] get accurate scientific information on issues of local interest such as hydrofracking.
Brian: How do you attract new members?
Lisa: [We] list our activities in the local newspaper and on local news and radio websites, maintain membership in the Technology Alliance of Central New York (a consortium of science and technology groups) and list our activities on their listserv, keep an email list of interested people and use MailChimp to send out emails about our activities, maintain a website that lists our activities, link to or reprint articles and letters by members on our site, [and] hold monthly meetings that are open to the public. Meetings with speakers alternate with Skeptics in the Pub. [We maintain an] i nformation booth at the yearly Celebration of Technology Awards banquet, attended by members of local science and technology groups [and an] information booth at the popular Westcott Street Fair. Members regularly publish articles, editorials, and letters on skeptic topics which help make the larger community aware of the group.
Brian: What are some of CNY Skeptics' most exciting projects?
Lisa: [We] launched Skeptics in the Pub three years ago. The current organizer is Larry Slosberg, and George Hrab performed at Skeptics in the Pub. [We conducted an] investigations workshop with Joe Nickell and Ben Radford, [and] helped sponsor James Randi's presentation at the Celebration of Technology Awards. [We performed] team judging at the yearly Greater Syracuse Scholastic Science Fair [and hold a] yearly Solstice party at the home of Judy and Bryce Hand. [I] organized a panel discussion for the first TAM, [and] Vice-President David Harding has attended several TAMs.
To learn more about CNY Skeptics, visit their website and their Facebook page. Or send an email to info [at] CNYskeptics.org.