Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reasons to be Skeptical: WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

[Prev]Table of Contents[Next]


When a group chooses to call itself Australian Skeptics Inc and purports to promote critical thinking via a journal and public literature to schools and libraries and the media, to expose charlatans who feed society misinformation and to scientifically investigate the paranormal, its own affairs and operations need not only to be seen to be beyond reproach, but actually need to be so.

There is an urgent need for the following steps to be taken:
  1. An independent auditor needs to be called in to audit the books of the Australian Skeptics Inc and the Australian Skeptics Science and Education Foundation, at least since 1996 when the Whalley bequest was made, and the results of this audit should be made public. There is no evidence we can find that the accounts of either group were ever independently audited.
  2. Steps must be taken to set up a truly national organisation which any interested sceptical Australian can join, and via which they can exercise influence on Skeptics policy and activity. Responsibility for running this national body could rotate every three to five years between state organisations, so that no one group can retain control.
  3. The necessity for the appointment of a full-time officer needs to be reviewed, and if it is found to be viable and an effective use of available funds, then the position should be declared vacant and widely advertised in free thought circles, with the best person for the job as selected by an independent panel being appointed.
  4. The membership of the Australian Skeptics Science and Education Foundation needs to be revised so that it includes one or more members nominated by each state organisation, perhaps for a set term (five-ten years?) instead of for life.
  5. An effective editorial committee needs to be established for The Skeptic, which could provide a pool of peer reviewers and upgrade the reputation of the journal.
Leading Australian potential supporters of the organisation need to be drawn into some kind of formal association with the movement, perhaps through becoming 'fellows', as the parent organisation CSICOP provides. Fellows of CSICOP in the US include four Nobel prize winners, at least 15 professors, many high-profile public intellectuals (e.g. Stephen Jay Gould, Douglas Hofstadter, Susan Blackmore, W. V. Quine, Martin Gardner, Richard Dawkins, Francis Crick), prominent media personalities (e.g. Steve Allen, L. Sprague de Camp, Marilyn vos Savant) and many other leading thinkers from the US and around the world. In Australia, while a few people of this stature have given talks for the Skeptics, none are formally aligned, and it is unlikely any will commit themselves until the organisation gets its act together.

Even the Skeptics' founders, Dick Smith, Phillip Adams and Richard Carleton, are not formally connected to the group, although Dick Smith is a fellow of CSICOP.

* Mark Plummer, the Australian Skeptics founding first president, has since been de-listed as a ‘fellow’ of CSICOP, according to chief executive Barry Karr.

The small group of individuals who now control the Australian Skeptics Inc. no doubt began with honest intentions, and always believed they were acting in the best interests of the Skeptics movement, but it must be clear even to them that their actions have exposed the group to accusations of dubious practices and handicapped its ability to perform its functions as effectively as it might. At the same time they have disenfranchised many hundreds of genuine sceptics Australia wide who would be only too willing to contribute time, expertise, energy and money to the cause of scepticism but who feel unable to find a valid and respected place in the movement.

If Stanley Whalley knew of the goings-on that his last will and testament would play a part in, he probably would have used as much caution writing his will as he spent on carefully studying stock trends.

Anyone with nominations for the new millennium's first 'Bent Spoon Award'?

[Prev]Table of Contents[Next]

No comments:

Post a Comment