From the Chairman: Local Skeptics Group Forming

-- David Bloomberg

Welcome to the first issue of The REALL News, the official newsletter of the Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land.

Most of you have received this newsletter because you are on the mailing list of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), and thus probably share the goals of REALL. Others of you may have been on other mailing lists that also indicated possible interest. While REALL is based in Springfield, we mailed this introductory issue to a wide area to try to reach as many people as could feasibly attend a meeting.

Currently, REALL is made up of an organizing committee and several other interested people. We will be having an official organizational meeting at Sangamon State University in 232 Brookens on February 22 (see elsewhere in this issue for the full information), and I would like to encourage anybody who is interested to attend. Whether you want to be an officer or just attend meetings, we want to hear from you.

We have founded REALL for several reasons. Although we have no official connection with CSICOP, we share their goals. We also want to act at a local level to help educate the public and the media about science, pseudoscience, and the paranormal. (It seems that many people currently look to Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings as their source for this information.) We want to help people avoid being misled by some of the strange things they may see and hear in the mass media. And, of course, we want to promote the rational examination of all phenomena that fall into, or outside of, the fringes of science.

We intend to accomplish these goals through regular meetings, informative lectures, this newsletter, and contact with the "mainstream" media. If you share our interests, we'd like to meet you. To become a member, fill out the form in this newsletter and send it in (along with your dues, of course) or bring it to a meeting. Membership benefits include access to the REALL news files and library (including a large number of files dealing with skepticism from several computer bulletin board systems (BBSes)), stimulating conversation with other REALL members, informative lectures from experts, a one-year subscription to this newsletter, and the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to educate the public about the difference between science and pseudoscience. If you feel you are too far away to regularly attend meetings, but are still interested in The REALL News, there is also a subscription- only rate. And if you'd like to come meet us before deciding, please attend the organizational meeting. I'd like to take the rest of my space here to introduce myself and allow the other organizing committee members to do the same.

David Bloomberg:

I am an environmental engineer, though I trained as a materials science engineer, working for the State of Illinois. Like many of us, when I was younger, I was extremely interested in (and believed in) UFOs, Von Däniken, and various paranormal subjects. As I grew up and learned the scientific method, I realized that at least 99% of what I had seen was bunk. In college, I became more active as a skeptic, through reading various books written by James ("The Amazing") Randi and other skeptics, and having various, sometimes heated, discussions on local and national BBSes. My interests in specific paranormal subjects are varied, ranging from astrology to "psychic detectives" to "faith healers" and other practitioners of pseudoscience, with many others included. My main goal could probably be stated as trying to teach the general public more about science and the scientific method, and how to apply it.

Bob Ladendorf:

A skeptic in mind and a logical pantheist in spirit, I pursue that corny end called "truth." Always more interested in discovering the way things really work rather than revering myth, whether in politics, society, or religion, I have spent much of my 43 years of life in reading, writing, and editing.

Having been a newspaper and magazine intern in Peoria, Illinois, and a free-lance writer for On Location, a Hollywood film production magazine, and other publications, I have worked for the past decade for the Illinois Secretary of State's Communications Department and am its current deputy director. Educated first at the University of Missouri-Columbia, I then received my bachelor's and master's degrees respectively at Sangamon State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My wife, Jean, a Lincoln Land Community College teacher, and our two sons, Brett, 16, and Scott, 11, have lived in Springfield since 1982.

With an aversion to scams, flim-flams, and deceptions of any kind, I have sent clippings of interest to the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, of which I've been an avid reader since the mid-'80s.

Wally Hartshorn:

(By the way, that's pronounced like "hart's horn".) I am a Systems Analyst for the Illinois EPA. I initially became interested in the skeptical view of the paranormal in the late '70s, when I came across a few issues of the Skeptical Inquirer in the library at the community college where my father was a math instructor. Reading the real story behind the well-publicized underwater photograph of a flipper of the Loch Ness monster was a real eye-opener for me. After that, I was far more skeptical of such reports, and although I always planned on subscribing to the Skeptical Inquirer "one of these days," it was not until a few years ago that I became more actively concerned about the pro-paranormal movement.

A friend of mine was interested in modern witchcraft, Wicca, "real" magic, goddess worship, and similar beliefs. Although I was disturbed by her interest in these subjects, I began carrying some computer bulletin board message areas for their discussion. Much to my amazement, Wiccans and pagans flocked to the areas and they quickly became the most popular of the discussion areas. It was then that I realized how widespread such beliefs were, and the thought was depressing. I then finally subscribed to the Skeptical Inquirer and began seeking out books which expressed the skeptical viewpoint, relieved to have an outlet for my frustration.


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