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Henry Huber

Volume 18.1, March 2008

NMSR’s Awards Highlight 2007’s Gaffes and Gold

NMSR Reports (New Mexicans for Science and Reason), Jan. 2008:

The annual “awards” published in the NMSR newsletter can be pretty tongue in cheek—singling out instances of absurdity in creationist, pseudoscience, or paranormal claims circles.

This year, the awards ranged from British officials hiring psychics to find Bin Laden (The “Thanks, chaps, for helping the U.S. not to look too ridiculous” award), to the inappropriately named New Mexico Science Foundation’s Einstein-laced Web site, which looks fine at first glance but is actually a joint propaganda effort by ID proponents and young-earth creationists (the “Stealthier than the Cheshire Cat” award).

One interesting entry was the “Remind Me to Avoid Nepal Air” award, given to Nepal’s state-run airline for sacrificing two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, following technical problems with one of its Boeing 747 aircraft.

However, noble deeds are also highlighted, such as the “Welcome Back from the 19th Century” award bestowed upon Kansas, which finally restored evolution science to state school standards, and the “Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghostbusters!” award reserved for Skeptical Inquirer managing editor Ben Radford, who scientifically reproduced a strange-looking ghostly apparition appearing on a Santa Fe courthouse’s parking lot security camera by releasing a ladybug onto the lens. The original Courthouse Ghost video received wide Associated Press coverage, as well as more than 200,000 hits on YouTube. Radford’s short “Courthouse Ghost Video Mystery Solved” video and accompanying explanation received a respectable 37,350 hits.

Strong Support for Science Standards at Public Meeting

The Freethinker (First Coast Freethought Society), Jan. 2008:

Science made a strong showing among the nearly one hundred people who attended the January 3, 2008, Florida Department of Education-sponsored public hearing on the proposed Florida public education standards. They will come up for a vote before the Florida Board of Education in February.

Evolution also made an impressive showing at the meeting. Forty-three people spoke during the public comment period of the meeting. By my count, twenty-two supported teaching evolution in public schools and nineteen opposed it. I would like to thank everyone who spoke in support of science education that is free from religion and pseudoscience. It kept the meeting from becoming a one-sided rally for intelligent design.

—Curtis Wolf

Can the Candidates Debate Scientific Issues?

FIG Leaves (Free Inquiry Group, Cincinnati), Jan. 2008:

The call for the 2008 presidential candidates to reveal their stances on science education is gaining momentum. Fig Leaves chimed in with a succinct plea for ScienceDebate2008, a Center for Inquiry-supported movement heralded by hundreds of educational organizations, university presidents, Nobel and Crafoord laureates, government leaders, academic scientists, business leaders, editors, and writers. From the Free Inquiry Group’s newsletter:

The U.S. blocks climate agreement in Bali; American children trail the industrialized world in math; stem cell researchers are preoccupied with getting around the embryonic stem cell ban; the green revolution is diverted to feed SUVs instead of people; creationists are conspiring to get God back in the classroom; and our space program is reduced to pointless media speculators. Instead of candidates debating who loves Jesus the most, Lawrence Krauss and Chris Mooney propose that science be the subject of a debate. An impressive list of science leaders have already signed on at sciencedebate2008.com. It deserves the support of every scientist and every science organization.

Tragic Death of an Eminent Skeptic—Barry Beyerstein

Irish Skeptics, June 29, 2007:

Paul O’Donoghue, writing for his skeptics group in Ireland, offered condolences and a personal account of popular skeptic and CSI Fellow Barry Beyerstein, who died on June 25. This is not the only tribute to the man by far, but it is representative of the outpouring of respect that followed his passing.

Barry Beyerstein (1947–2007). My wife Noirin and I heard last night of the tragic death of Barry Beyerstein. Words cannot express our shock and distress at the news. We have had the great pleasure of meeting Barry and his wife Suzi at a number of skeptics conferences across Europe. They were a charming and deeply committed couple, full of fun and enthusiasm. Barry was to present a paper at the ECSO congress in Dublin in September and we [had] been in regular e-mail contact lately. He and Suzi were due to arrive in Dublin a week or so prior to the congress and we had planned to spend some time together viewing the sites and enjoying the restaurants and pubs. He was very much looking forward to this visit. Barry has written extensively on a wide range of topics. He was a staunch defender of the integrity of science and traveled the world promoting science and critical thinking. In Dublin he was to address the issue of science versus pseudoscience, a topic on which he has expressed strong and incisive views. We have lost a great man at a tragically early age. He had so much more to contribute and we will miss his leadership and example. On behalf of myself, Noirin and all the members of the Irish Skeptics Society I extend our deepest condolences and heartfelt sorrow to Suzi and the family and to their relatives and close friends who have been devastated by this awful event.

Paul O’Donoghue is a member of the Irish Skeptics Society. To view some of Barry’s writings go to csicop.org.

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Henry Huber is CFI's former Assistant Director of Communications. Henry graduated cum laude from the State University of New York College at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and joined the Center for Inquiry after working as editor for two Western New York newspapers. While working at the Center for Inquiry, Henry was a regular contributor to the Skeptical Briefs newsletter, editor of the new Committee for Skeptical Inquirer e-newsletter, and an occasional contributor to the Free Thinking blog and Skeptical Inquirer magazine. He formerly handled the national distribution for the Humanist Perspective.