Phew. I have once again been absent from the blogosphere for a while. And when I say "absent from the blogosphere", I mean not only that I haven't been posting to this blog, but I haven't been reading the other blogs I usually read, either. I've been busy. About the only blog-related thing I've been doing (not counting my LiveJournal, which is a separate entity entirely) is replying to posts on this blog that I've received notification of through e-mail. Apparently a few Christians have randomly stumbled across past posts here and felt the need to reply to try to coax me back onto the path of truth--although they didn't agree on exactly what that path was. I will probably be making a post about that later.
For now, though, I guess I'll break my silence with an account of my Saturday morning. One of the organizations meeting at the Center For Inquiry West is the Independent Investigations Group, which "investigates fringe science, paranormal and extraordinary claims from a rational, scientific viewpoint, and disseminates factual information about such inquiries to the public." (Note to anyone who might have clicked on the link in the last sentence and seen their home page: yes, their home page is ugly and badly out of date. They are aware of this, and changes are underway.) Now, this kind of thing has always interested me; I have lots of books on these topics, like Martin Gardner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, James Randi's Flim-Flam!, and Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things. So when I read about the IIG, it definitely sounded like an organization I'd be interested in participating in.
(One might well ask, if I've been so aware of how pseudoscience works, and how people fool themselves into believing things, I'd simultaneously been for so long a faithful Mormon. It's a good question; there was definitely a fair degree of mental disconnect there.)
The IIG's first meeting of the year was this last Saturday, and I decided to go--though, unfortunately, I got there rather late. As it turned out, this was--I was assured--quite an atypical IIG meeting, for several reasons. First, because the attendance was much lower than usual, many of the members being absent due to being in, or having only recently returned from, Las Vegas for Randi's "The Amaz!ng Meeting". Second, because a person who wanted his supposed paranormal powers investigated was present at the meeting. This almost never happens, apparently; investigations are supposed to take place outside the monthly meetings, and "investigatees" are not invited to attend the meetings--he apparently found out about the meeting time and place on the web and decided on his own to show up. (As for what his particular powers were...he actually wasn't very clear on that. Every time he seemed to be getting to the point of explaining it, he then clarified that what he was describing was something he could do, but hadn't actually tried. It seemed he was more hoping for people to help him develop his alleged powers than actually wanting to put them to the test...) Third, much of the meeting that day was devoted to discussing the first annual "IIG Awards", given to those shows that particularly exemplified the skeptical viewpoint--or its opposite.
So, I guess this meeting, being so atypical, isn't a good one to judge the IIG by. Still, the members there seem like a good bunch of people, and the whole thing still seems interesting, so I think I'll be back next month. Presumably then I'll get a better idea of how things usually go there.