Time for another summary of skeptical “serious leisure” activities.
Conference season is here. I gave a keynote at the Central New Jersey Mensa gathering a few weeks ago. It was my first keynote, on “Sounds Sciencey”, and it went really well. As with skeptical gatherings, I found a range of opinions here from those who can think pretty deeply about stuff. They were also of the typical demographics of a skeptic con. I was nervous about the Q&A thinking they would catch me on something philosphical. I was struck, however, by two things the crowd responded to: They HATE religious shield laws that allow faith healing families to kill children and not get harsh penalties; and, they are disturbed by genetically modified organisms. It was a odd crowd to be in as you can hear people remarking to themselves while you are speaking – positive and negative. There were many good questions and much agreement. On the topic of religion, I stressed the importance of skepticism and speaking out in support of children’s rights over the parents’ religious freedom. With the case of GMOs, gene insertion was problematic. My rejoinder that there is not much natural about agricultural AT ALL and there never was, wasn’t satisfying in comparison to the ability to put a glow in the dark gene into fish or similar cross-species manipulation. I understand that it’s complicated. That’s about all I could point out. Public policy issues involving science and society are ALWAYS complicated. Anyway, I emerged unscathed.
Only one incident of note occurred: one man could NOT comprehend why I didn’t take at face value his story about his psychic experience. It was one of those “How do you explain THAT?” situations which I dislike. He had no concept of the poor quality of memory and witness testimony. I had to leave that since there was nothing I could say. It’s too much to talk about in one exchange and likely pointless.
Having one-on-one discussions like that or being put on the spot are a bit stressful for me since I want to say the right thing and not offend or get people angry. Writing is easier because you can pause and edit (I proof and edit five or more drafts before finalizing sometimes) or come back to it when the mood suits. This is one reason why Virtual Skeptics was a bit more taxing than writing. I was nervous about saying something controversial or that would be misconstrued. It’s happened before. I don’t know WHO is watching or listening. So, it’s very difficult to match the delivery of the message to the audience in such a casual show. At least, I found it difficult. I don’t like getting the facts wrong. Now that I’ve left VS, what will I do with Wednesday evenings? Hopefully read more. A kind soul has sent me some back issues of Fortean Times and I buy way too much off Amazon one-click so I never lack for an array of stuff to suit whatever subject I’m in the mood for. I’ve just finished Ray Hyman’s The Elusive Quarry – cover to cover and took tons of notes. I’ll be writing about that in the future. It’s FULL of gems of wisdom.
I also have many other project ideas and have the next few Sounds Sciencey pieces in outline.
This weekend is a trip to the “other” side. I’m heading to a paranormal conference. This is seemingly an academic-oriented one even though it appears many are amateurs. But it’s not a paranormal fan party like typical para-cons are. This one will have substance, not TV stars. I’m so curious! I’ll be writing that up too.
April is a visit to a sci-fi con I’ve not been to yet – RavenCon – another new experience that I’m looking forward to. I like to see how people react to the skeptical POV. I’m not the normal-looking or -sounding skeptic so it can be interesting.[I owe thanks for those last three items – the meetings and The Elusive Quarry – to Barry Karr.]
I’m planning for Balticon in May, and TAM in July, as well as a few days of sun and NO critical thinking. I have gotten no where on my book draft progress as I’ve been researching a few more aspects to round it out. It will come together in short order. I’ve stopped worrying about it. But I dream of a day when I can do this full time, to have long stretches to work things out instead of trying to squeeze in time on nights and weekends.
Finally, I’ve cut back some on social media. There used to be a time where I felt like I HAD to speak out about stuff that bugged me. I engaged others online and fired off replies or tweets. But after a while, I thought, “Who am I to spout my opinion?” Some people probably think that’s obnoxious. I think it’s obnoxous when many other people do it. So I set up some rules and restricted myself from areas of discussion that would cause strife. Within reason. That is, pick your battles. I don’t need to put in my two-cents about everything. If I’m asked, I’ll answer. Again, within reason. With those self-imposed rules in place, I have felt a distinct lessening of the need to react (and possibly overreact). Instead of burn-out, I’m going to consider that a sign of maturity instead.