From the Chairman

David Bloomberg

Before I talk about our January meeting, let me encourage you to come to our February meeting! Serial murder expert (this means he’s an expert in examining the subject, not in doing it!) Professor Steve Egger will be talking about "Six Myths of Serial Murder." We printed an excerpt about the use of "psychics" in such crimes from Steve’s newest book, The Killers Among Us, a few months ago. (I received an e-mail from somebody in Chicago who saw the excerpt on the web page and was apparently confused. He asked me if I knew of any good psychics to help him find a missing person. I nicely suggested that he read more of our articles on the subject and explained that there is no good evidence that a "psychic" has ever helped find anybody. I further suggested he save his money. I did not hear back from him.)

The meeting will be at the usual time in the usual place -- 7:00 on Tuesday, February 3, Lincoln Library, Carnegie Room South. I hope to see you there.

And I was glad to see some new faces (and some old ones I hadn’t seen in a while, and, of course, also the ones I see regularly) at our last meeting, where I discussed several books relating to fringe claims. We even got a new Patron member -- Derek Rompot -- a fellow fan of the comic strip Dilbert, even though the author seems rather anti-skeptic these days (see my recent exchange with him and also this month’s "REALLity Check").

One topic that was brought up at the meeting was the idea of looking at why people believe in things that, to us, are obviously baloney, such as The Bible Code. We didn’t reach a good answer at the meeting (if we had, we could probably get a Nobel Prize), but if you have any suggestions, I’d like to hear them.

One of the suggestions I favor has been put forth by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Paraphrasing a great deal, we have evolved to be believers, not skeptics. When an authority figure tells a child, "don’t play in the street," the child had better listen or else he won’t be passing along his genes to another generation. The same is true about thousands of every-day things that occur in a child’s life. As the child grows, he has to learn to become a skeptic -- learn not to believe everything he is told. Some people learn this, too many do not. But we are fighting millions of years of evolution, so we shouldn’t despair if we don’t succeed right away.

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