From the Chairman

David Bloomberg

Meetings and Elections

Due to Editor Bob’s computer problems, I have two meetings to talk about this time. First, I’d like to thank Professor Alex Casella for his presentation on "Science and Pseudoscience" at the April meeting. It was very interesting to hear not just about the different pseudosciences, but how the students in his class on the subject changed their views over the course of the semester.

In May news, we had our elections, and we had a pretty good turnout for an election meeting. With that turnout, we also have three new board members: Derek Rompot as Vice Chairman, and Rich Walker and Jim Rosenthal as at-large board members. Derek has also filled the long-empty position on our Editorial Board (and is adding a portion to my "REALLity Check" column this issue). Outgoing board members are Ron Larkin as Vice Chairman, and Frank Mazo and Kevin Brown as at-large members. I’d like to congratulate and welcome the new officers and thank our previous officers for all their help over the years. All three of the outgoing officers have been on the board since REALL’s inception, five years ago. As has been our custom, the new board members are introducing themselves starting at the end of this column.

Book Available on Teaching About Evolution

The National Academy of Sciences has published a book, Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, in an attempt to put evolution where it belongs as the core of biology curricula. As the journal Science describes the book, it is "a well-illustrate publication designed to help teachers understand, defend, and teach evolution." (It does not address creationism — they plan to release a booklet on that subject next summer.)

One of the important issues this book addresses is the cry we so often hear: "Evolution is just a theory." It explains what "theory" means to scientists — not just a hunch, but a good explanation for a set of observations and factual information. In addition, the book instructs teachers how to conduct classroom exercises learning principles of scientific inquiry in general and specifics on evolution.

I have a copy of this book and will bring it to the next few meetings for people to take a look at it. If you’d like to order a copy of your own, you can do so at the Web site: (there is a discount for ordering it on the Web).

Book Order Update

As I mentioned last issue, we are putting together another Prometheus Books order, this one with a 40% discount for paid members. I’d like to get this order together by the July 7 meeting, so get those orders in!

Double-Issues and Timeliness

As you’ve noticed, we combined the April and May issues into 12 pages (we normally print 8-page issues). In addition, we also will be combining the June and July issues. We are doing this for several reasons. This issue is combined mostly because Editor Bob’s computer problems made it impossible to get the April issue done on time, and we therefore would have had to print two issues within two weeks to get the May issue out in a timely fashion. Also, several members have commented that it is a bit strange to get newsletter issues at the end of the month for which that issue is labeled. This started because we timed our issues to come out shortly before our meetings, and when our meeting dates changed, some time ago, to the first Tuesday of every month, we didn’t really change our newsletter schedule. Thus, for example, the February issue comes out at the end of that month and announces the March meeting. Once we finish these two double-issues, we will be on a schedule that will put the August issue in your hands at the end of July/beginning of August, and it will contain information on the August meeting. Then, all will be right in the world.


I’d like to use a little space here to send out congratulations to a couple who have been REALL members since we began and who also happen to be very good friends of mine. Dr. Betsy Alley graduated from SIU’s medical school one day after her husband, Randy, received his M.A. in history from the University of Illinois in Springfield. Betsy has helped me get information related to alternative medicine at various times, and Randy will be converting part of his thesis into several articles for this newsletter (he researched a skeptical doctor who attacked phrenology and mesmerism — both popular in his time — for the pseudosciences they were). Congratulations and good luck to both of them!

E-mail List

A while ago, I talked about getting the e-mail addresses of members, so we could send out announcements, discuss important activities, etc. At the time, we didn’t do very much to make this happen. Now, I’d like to do just that.

We will be making a change on our membership forms to ask for e-mail addresses. In addition, I’d like to ask anybody who wants to be on such a list to please send their address to me ( We’ll compile the list and notify you when we start it up. As an example of one way this list can be useful, we could have used it to announce that the April issue would not be on time and to remind people of the election meeting. Instead, we had to send out flyers, at 32 cents each. Also, we can use the list to notify members about upcoming TV shows of interest and similar special information. So if you want to join the list, please send me your e-mail address!

New Board Member Introductions

Derek Rompot (Vice Chairman)

I graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, in 1993 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. I am currently employed by the Illinois EPA. To promote a healthy level of skepticism and the scientific method, I dress up in my best black suit and remind people that if they saw something unusual in the sky the previous night, it was probably the planet Venus. Venus is the brightest light in the night sky and is often mistaken for something else.

Richard Walker, Ph.D.

Motto: Where there are no questions, there can be no answers.

At 49, I have been an active member of REALL for several years. A former college professor for eight years and former member of the Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety for nearly five years, I have been a science assessment consultant for the Illinois State Board of Education in Springfield for the past eight years. After receiving my Ph.D. at Purdue University in 1976, I taught at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, and at Blackburn College in Carlinville, IL. My books and publications range widely across a breadth of subjects, both fiction and nonfiction:The Running Dogs of Loyalty; Stockport, Ohio: A Compendium of Historical Information; Wolf Creek and the Muskigum: Notes on the Settlement of Southeastern Ohio; Comparisons of Frictional Resistances of Lionel Freight Trains to Real Freight Trains; and books and articles on Shawnee Indians. Since joining state government I have made guest presentations at local universities, at REALL meetings, and at Club Mac — the local Macintosh computer group. I am presently in the final throes of finishing a 200-page manuscript, Essentialism: A Theory of Epistemology Based on the Reality of Concepts, an early chapter of which I presented before REALL. On the lighter side, I recently edited and published Clever Limericks, but I refuse (with a wide grin) to say which of the 400 limericks is my favorite.

James Rosenthal

The Beginning

Having been born in a log cabin on an Ozark mountain top, raised by a wonderfully well-rounded and capable she-wolf after my parents were abducted by a group of migrant Eskimos, I enjoyed a precocious childhood influenced by "Uncle Ray's Column" from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the twin credos of "Be Prepared" and "What, Me worry?"

It was only after years of contemplating my passion for rare roast beef & ear scratching, my highly developed sense of smell, and having been rejected by a cult of orthodox Stalactites, (you know the type; they always hang around) that I returned to the den of my youth to find answers to these ever present quandaries.

Familiar with every nook and cranny of the once familiar and ever cozy lair, I crawled through recalling those thrilling days of yesteryear when suddenly I was drawn to a remote corner by a glimmer of reflected light. There, almost completely buried, I found an object that would change my life completely. An object, by its very nature, shook the fiber of my being. An object, which would cause me forever to doubt in everything, everything I held near and dear, everything, including plastic. An object which turned out to be a perfectly preserved 2 quart Tupperware container, with lid, in avocado!

How could this be? Tupperware in our den? Maybe Mommy wasn't the momma I remembered. Maybe the scars on my knees were not from rollicking from hill to dale. Maybe they were from being an ice hockey goalie without pads. And maybe, just maybe, there weren't any migrating Eskimos passing through the Ozark Mountains in the 1940's. I knew then as I know now, I didn't have the answers. I knew then as I know now, that I was skeptical. I knew then as I know now, that I was and am a skeptic. I knew then as I know now: The truth is out there.

REALL, The Millennium and Beyond

I first became aware of REALL in the summer of 1997. I read of an impending discussion and book signing of Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer at Barnes and Noble and attended with some trepidation. It was here that I realized members of REALL were in attendance and, to my surprise, other real people too! In the discussion following his presentation I asked Sherm, (actually, Mikey, baby,) if coming out of the closet as a skeptic was a good way to meet women. He said, "Absolutely — I think." I pressed him further by pointing out that everyone except for one good looking blond chick were all geeks and nerds hanging around and he said, "Hey, it takes one to know one, you know!" Trepidation aside, I picked up some back issues of the REALL News and attended some meetings.

Of course the current members were aware of me when I attended my first meeting. That's when the word went out to hide all of the cool babes until I became dues-paying member. But I was moving to St. Louis and felt it unfair to make commitments that would be short lived. Yet fate has many turns and twists and in December 1997 I returned to Springfield to become the computer department for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. I immediately paid my dues and even attended meetings, especially to enjoy the benefits of membership by meeting all of those gorgeous, intelligent, sensuous, compassionate, warm-hearted, (I'll take 4 out of 5,) babes just waiting to welcome me, a new member. After three or so meetings, no babes. Something isn't right here; maybe you have to become an officer or at least a member of the board. Tell me this is so. I believe... I believe... I believe.

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