Monday, 22 June 2015

What's a Skeptic?

I get asked "So, ah, what's a Skeptic?" quite often.

In my email I have my signature and it looks like this: 

Lisa Taylor.
Outreach Officer - NZ Skeptics.

Secretary - MSOF.


Phone number*.

(*I've removed these from this posting on the blog as I can be contacted through comments here on the blog anyway.)
Through this role I am trying to get more females, and more young people into Skepticism** and pushing for less '-isms' to come up (racism, sexism... and others.) I also hope to be creating an even more welcoming LGBTI community environment too. (As a straight female that's hard for me, but hopefully I'm throwing the loving/welcoming vibes out there to everyone!)

I (and other admins) occasionally come across 'isms' and we're fighting to remove these from the group. It's distracting to see people go off topic and attack others. As such we have created a set of guidelines to follow to ensure a better time for everyone. To be honest it creates an unwelcoming environment. So I'm trying to get on top of that. Not an easy job.

**There's a stereotype of Skeptics being "humourless killjoys who hate people with 'open minds' and want to spoil all of the harmless fun that can be had in believing comforting things for their own sake." (From

Further there's also a perchance for older predominantly white dudes being skeptics.
To do this I'm active on the Facebook groups where I admin a few of the groups; These groups are a good place for members (and non-members) to discuss and have rational conversations about sometimes rather irrational things!
I don't do it for the credit and glory though - I just want to ensure more people know the negatives to make their own minds up. And because I'm not pushing a product, I feel I'm far enough out of it to do so. 

I’m also the Secretary for MSOF - Making Sense of Fluoride a group set up by Daniel to counter the negative press about Fluoridation in New Zealand. The members of MSOF write to local councils and show the science for what’s going on. The stuff published by the other side is often not scientific and frequently is blatant scaremongering. By being firm in using evidence based studies and pushing for science we have had a good impact. We have been successful in many areas in New Zealand so far - with Fluoride being reinstated in many cities.  You can visit the Facebook page here. And their website is here.

I'm involved with the New Zealand Skeptics as their Outreach Officer. The NZ Skeptics are a group who fight pseudoscience. We also promote critical thinking. You can visit their brand new spunky website hereFor the NZ Skeptics, I'm the Outreach Officer, my role is new and literally is an Equality Officer/ it could be considered to be a Women's rights type role... Basically I fight for equality for all - regardless of gender, race, sexuality, age, et cetera. I joined the NZ Skeptics committee in September 2014 after being involved in the Skeptics in the pub events in Wellington for about a year prior. The NZ Skeptics are a society and we always welcome new members to join us

We also have regular events - some are Skeptics in the Pub events. For example every second week in Wellington, I attend a Science Based Healthcare Activism evening in a local pub. We "drink and do stuff" to fight pseudoscience. 
For us that means we do ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) complaints about advertisements in NZ - we are working with the ASA to ensure we submit complaints that really tackle the things we are passionate about. For some of us that's being honest about Amber Beads not working for children who are teething, for others Ear Candles and their lack of effect on ear infections. It is tough, but it's well worth it.  Our names also go into the media for the work we do. 

The quote this week comes from Carl Sagan's famous soundbite:

"extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"