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Cincinnati Skeptics

Virginia Jergens

Skeptical Briefs Volume 4.3, September 1994

The Association for Rational Thought (ART), the Cincinnati skeptics group holds membership meetings once a month, October through May. This year they treated themselves to a picnic in July.The Executive Council of the group meets once a month from October to May. General meetings usually include a speaker, a videotape, or a discussion of a topic of interest to skeptics. In October, for example, Joel Senter, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Cincinnati, will give a talk on “Spin-Doctoring Statistics and Other Social Diseases,” in which he will introduce his audience to a variety of deliberate and inadvertent ways in which news media misrepresent statistical findings. The newsletters from other skeptics groups are circulated and recirculated at every meeting.

We have about 60 paid members ($15 a year; full-time students, $10), and about 20 appear at any given meeting. Membership is concentrated in the Cincinnati area, with a few stalwarts from Kentucky and the Dayton area. Our members are mostly male, all white, mostly middle aged to elderly, from a wide variety of backgrounds, and include only three or four practicing scientists that I know of. Our membership overlaps slightly with that of the local humanists, the Free Inquiry Group, Inc.

ART was founded in the fall of 1991 by Porter Henry and at that time, and even up until January of this year, included several members who seemed to believe in some paranormal phenomena, including psychic abilities and whatever you call it when dreams foretell the future. At this time, as far as I know, all those who believe in such matters have weeded themselves out. The group lost one female member who objected to my accompanying her article on ancient goddess history in our newsletter with another one from a mainstream historical perspective. The group seems somewhat more comfortable with itself now, perhaps as a result of the sorting out process.

Although the membership has remained at about 60, the executive council has grown. There is now a president, a vice-president, a treasurer (no secretary), an investigations officer, a meeting organizer, a media resources coordinator, a newsletter editor, a newsletter layout editor, and a newsletter production manager.

ART has two ongoing projects: the newsletter, which we publish quarterly (we have changed its name from the Association of Rational Thought News to Cincinnati Skeptic), and the Skeptical Blurbs program run by Lance Moody, our Media Resources Coordinator. We are assembling a file of short, clearly written summaries of what is reliably known about paranormal topics that turn up in the news, like ghosts, psychic powers, Satanism, and UFOs. Members write these blurbs for the areas they are particularly interested in. When one of the group sees or reads about a news item on a paranormal topic, he or she tells Lance, and he faxes the appropriate statement. Lance has also appeared as the token skeptic on a local-access cable-TV talk- show run by believing UFO “investigators.” Joe Gastright, our Investigations Officer, does an occasional investigation, but to my knowledge, he has done these solo. The group does not have an established investigations program.

ART is now talking about setting up a Dial-A-Skeptic phone line, with a weekly tape on a timely subject of interest to skeptics.

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Virginia Jergens

Virginia Jergens is the editor of the Cincinnati Skeptic newsletter.