Author Archives: Travis Roy

About Travis Roy

co-founder and president of Granite State Skeptics

Halloween Event

The Granite State Skeptics invited Martha Taylor of the Henniker Historical Society to talk to us about the infamous ghost of Henniker, Ocean Born Mary. We will meet at 6:00 pm at Daniel’s Restaurant on Main Street, Henniker, on Sunday, Oct. 31. After the talk, we will visit Ocean Born Mary’s grave at the Town cemetary.

This event will be limited to the people that RSVP. To do so email me to let me know how many travis@granitestateskeptics.org

Granite State Skeptics Tour of Salem

Granite State Skeptics will be doing a tour of Salem, MA on Sunday October 3rd. We will be meeting at the Salem Visitors Center at 9:30am. There should be plenty of parking in the parking garage and parking lot near the visitors center. If coming from Boston you can take the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail from North Station that leaves at 8:30am and gets to Salem at 9am.

Please sign up at our Facebook events page. If you don’t have Facebook, just RSVP here so I can get an idea of how many people will be coming.

Special thanks to Jeff Wagg and Liz Gaston for their help preparing and researching this event.

Remote Speakers – How we do it, and you can too!

A couple months ago we did our first remote talk with Richard Saunders all the way from Australia. It went very well and since then we’ve also had Tim Farley. Now that the word is getting out there people have been asking me about our setup. It’s not very complicated and as long as your venue has good wifi you can do it too.

First a quick pic of our setup:

As you can see, it’s nothing fancy. I of course hope to replace the bucket with a more proper stand. So the laptop to the left of the bucket (in this pic it’s my wife’s MacBook Pro, for Tim Farley’s talk it was my work PC Laptop) runs the presentation. The video for that is jacked into the flat panel TV above. I’m able to control it via wifi using my iPod Touch with either Keynote Remote or Airmouse. The laptop on the bucket has the presenter, full screen, via Skype. They can see us and hear us, and the audio is plugged into the TV above.

Originally I was going to have a microphone, but due to technical problems the first night I couldn’t but Richard ended up being able to hear questions just fine and it gave him the ability to hear anything going on in the room and he even ended up talking to our waitress for a bit.

So if you have speakers a few states away or on the other side of the planet that you want to give a talk at your local SitP, but can’t afford to have them travel this is a good alternative. Nothing would replace having the speaker there live of course, but this is a workable alternative.

That whole Atheist/Skeptic thing

So this is hitting the rounds again since DJ Grothe posted a Swift Blog about Atheism and the JREF. I’ve been involved in some of the debate and conversation online about this issue and I thought I should blog about it.

First let me say that I’m doing this as a personal post. Granite State Skeptics’ official stance is that while specific religious claims that are testable are up for scrutiny, the idea of “god” is generally avoided. That doesn’t mean you can’t discuss it at our meetings, just that as a group we don’t take an official stance.

Because of that you may be able to figure out where I’m going with this post. I think there’s a number of issues with this debate that are missed, or misunderstood and that nobody fully grasps everything involved, including myself. But lets look at a few things.

First is what we are talking about exactly, so lets look at some terms and try to define them.

Skepticism is not a belief system, it’s a process of using critical thinking to come to a conclusion.

Atheism is the rejection in a belief in god. I know a lot of people add on that thing about evidence and how they’d change their mind.. More on this later.

Agnosticism is the idea that the existence of god is unknown or can not be known.

I think Agnostics get a bad wrap in the skeptical community, that they are wishy-washy. I find their stance to be more skeptical than that of an atheist, and I say that as an atheist… Well, because of all the battles going on now I don’t even like to use that term anymore to describe myself. I heard Jeff Wagg use the term “Scientific Naturalist” once and I really like it and try to use that to explain my beliefs (or lack there of).

Atheist also seem to have a problem with identity due to the spectrum. Most that I’ve met at TAM and other skeptical events explain themselves as being able to change their mind, that they’ve come to this conclusion based on evidence (or lack of evidence). But then you have popular skeptics like Penn Jillette who will come out and say that they don’t -believe- in a god, that’s something quiet different.

Then there’s the religious, and I think this is where things get REALLY muddy. An individual’s beliefs can be a huge range. From the Catholic who goes to church every Sunday to the guy who thinks that there was “something” they call god that set things in motion and caused the big bang. To pigeon hole everybody that believes in god into one area is just crazy in my opinion.

Then there’s the idea that skepticism = atheism. This is just an insane argument and I don’t see how anybody can actually claim this with a straight face. There are many skeptics that believe in some kind of god and there are may atheists that are into a lot of crazy woo-related ideas. Is Kitty Mervine of BadAlien and our Director of Investigations a “bad” skeptic because she’s a Deist? Is Bill Maher a “bad” atheist because it’s sucked into anti-vax nuttyness? I don’t think so in both cases.

Then I saw some tweets going around about if somebody can be an Astrologer and skeptic. I say why not, only because that also is a wide ranging question. I’ve talked to many people that believe in astrology, including a couple that would do readings and have studied astrology that didn’t know about thinks like wobble and how our signs don’t match up anymore. How can somebody that doesn’t have all the information make an informed decision? How many people have you met that think Homeopathy is something herbal and had no idea that it was just water. If they think it’s herbal, of course they’re going to think it could have an effect, because a lot of herbal medicine does. This doesn’t make them bad skeptics, it makes them uninformed.

In closing I just want to say that we shouldn’t close out anybody to the community or set conditions on it. We all have our “sacred cows” and I know I’ve learned things and changed my minds a lot over the past few years being an active skeptic. To set conditions on being a skeptic is silly, it turns us into something we shouldn’t be. There is disagreement, debate, discussion in the community and that’s what makes it good. What makes it great is we do it with respect and tolerance for each other and we help each other learn. We don’t call people stupid or say they’re delusional, we give them the tools and information they need to reach their own conclusion based on the facts at hand, and because we’re all individuals with different life experience they may come to a different conclusion. In doing so they may even change our minds by seeing things from another point of view.

So please comment, I want this to be a discussion.

September Skeptics in the Pub

Tim FarleyThis month’s Skeptic in the Pub will be with Tim Farley from whatstheharm.net

This will be another remote talk like last month. There will be a Q&A segment after the talk.

Along with whatstheharm.net, Tim is an active member of Atlanta Skeptics and also runs the great site skeptools.

So join us at 7pm, Monday September 13th at Wings Your Way in Manchester, NH.

Please RSVP on our facebook events page. We’re also testing out Meetup.com

Coming soon – Remote Speakers

So things worked out great at Wings Your Way in downtown Manchester, NH. We now have our room that can seat about 35ish, a big screen TV that we can plug a computer into and the best part, screamin’ fast internet connectivity.

As a result of this we did a quick test run to say hi to our good friend Richard Saunders of the Skeptic Zone podcast. There are a few bugs to work out that I plan on doing sometime this week but once I work through those we will be ready for remote talks. I have a few people lined up and just have to lock down some scheduling but check back here to see who our speakers will be, I think you’ll all be excited.

For something closer to home

Image from Flickr - Timothy Valentine

Today we look at something a little closer to home. In fact, it’s a place that I’m a member of and shop at from time to time. Concord Cooperative Market is a small grocery store that sells a lot of local, natural, and organic products. We don’t shop there often but when we do it’s because of the quality of the product and has little to do with the fact that it’s local, organic, or natural.

In the past I have sent emails to the company, mostly due to their support, and sales of homeopathic remedies. I was actually surprised by the first part of the reply where they sent me links to PubMed and told me what to search for. The problem with this was that it had to deal with a lot of herbal remedies that in deed do have some kind of effect, they basically ignored me entirely in regards to homeopathic remedies. Then came the standard reply:

If you do not see value to these products, you are free not to purchase
them. However, we carry them because many of our customers rely on these
products and would like a quality, local source to purchase them. It is part
of our mission statement to provide our community with high quality natural
and organic products as well as to be a resource for health and nutrition
information. This is one way that we do that.

Ahhh yes, if I don’t like it, don’t buy it. It’s not our fault for supplying a product that doesn’t perform as claimed, it’s your fault for buying it. Well you know what, that’s not good enough anymore. You’re selling a product that doesn’t perform as claimed.

I encourage all my readers to contact this store and ask them how they justify selling a product that fails double blind placebo controlled studies.