Hi, I'm Alison Smith. Three years ago, I founded a web site called Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society (SAPS) which focuses on addressing evidence presented by ghost hunters, skeptics, mediums, and other purveyors of the paranormal. Most often, the evidence seems pretty dumb to me, but, as you might figure, I'm a skeptical sort of gal.
I work for the James Randi Educational Foundation now, negotiating protocols for the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge and doing event planning and lots of other things as well. I love my job.
But I haven't updated SAPS in a while, and I'll tell you why. It's all gone sour for me. I was recently part of a paranormal project (that was not in any way associated with the JREF, but had a bit to do with SAPS) that put me off the debunking experience. I have not, and will never be, allowed to talk about the project I'm referring to (thank you gag orders).
It irritated me so much that I wasn't allowed to debunk my own project that I stopped writing articles for SAPS at all, and kind of stewed for a while.
Recently, I was in Ft. Lauderdale at the JREF offices. Randi's personal assistant, Sean McCabe, was taking me to the airport and we were running early (which is kind of a rare thing for me, neat!). We ended up driving around in circles waiting for a time I could start standing in the airport and not look like a doof, and happened to pass a sign that said, simply, "Please give peanut butter. Thank you."
Neither of us knew what the sign was for, but we figured giving peanut butter to people who ask for it is a good way to kill time. We stopped at the nearest gas station, bought peanut butter, and went back to the building that had the sign outside.
It turns out that it was a Christian outreach group that was accepting food donations for impoverished families in Ft. Lauderdale.
On the way to the airport, Sean and I talked about how skeptics, agnostics, atheists, and what-have-you don't get a whole lot of credit for charitable acts because we're awfully spread out. And, one argument some people have a tendency to go for when debating a skeptic on ethical issues is that, obviously, skeptics have no ethics. Most don't believe in God (though many do, and I'm not disregarding them, either. I have never, to my knowledge, stated my personal beliefs in an article.), and therefore they must be willing to, say, skin children if the fancy strikes.
Yet the skeptics I know are some of the most generous, charitable people I have ever met.
So, here is your site, charitable skeptics. Let's get together and do some good for the world. Send in stories of things you're doing to make the world a better place, and we'll give you some ideas too - and organize some events that you can participate in from wherever you happen to be located. I'm looking into organizing a nationwide (or possibly even worldwide) clothing donation day, where all of us simultaneously take an article of clothing to a charitable organization.
SkeptiLove needs your stories, your photos, your ideas for events. Maybe you would like to get a group across the nation organized to take turkeys to women's shelters on Thanksgiving. Maybe you want to stand in the street and shake the hands of passing people and tell them you appreciate them. Maybe you want to teach a group of kids some magic tricks, or read to senior citizens. These are all things I'd like to work on with you. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To kick this site off and launch it with a bang that's so big you'll think a new universe started, SAPS, my old, non-updated organization, is hosting a food drive for Three Square at The Amaz!ng Meeting 7. You can read more on our efforts to stop hunger in Southern Nevada here.
As always, SAPS will have the ECTO-III Red Wagon Portable Office Unit in tow, and after TAM, it will be donated to KinderCare of Las Vegas.
But the really exciting part? For SkeptiLove's launch, we have an awesome giveaway for TAMgoers. At TAM, I'll be carrying around 300 copies of the SkeptiLove launch CD which features George Hrab, F. Wagg, and David Federlein. It's a really fantastic CD. I mean, freaking great. And these wonderful musicians didn't charge for the use of their music. That's right - a charitable act already!
In fact, SkeptiLove has had quite a few. I'm going to keep a running list of all the people who have given such a great amount of support, and who care about their communities, and who generously donate their time to their fellow man.
Jeff Wagg - for donating time, money, and tons of effort to the launch CDs as well as helping out with the food drive, and helping basically everyone who has ever asked.
George Hrab - for such a great recording in such little time, and for always being up to helping out for no reason at all.
F. Wagg - for his devotion to putting his talents to good use in donating a song to the cause, when he could've just as easily been playing video games instead.
David Federlein - for allowing SkeptiLove to use such a beautiful original song, and for being able to donate humour to everyone around him no matter what his own state of mind.
Paul Turner - for giving so much food to the startup of the food drive, and for his unending enthusiasm for new projects.
Fitter - for the donation of the SAPS ECTO-III portable office unit, and donation to help create the CDs - and basic willingness to help out with the financial side when things aren't looking so great.
Scott Romanowski - for the food donations for the drive at TAM, and for his eternal patience.
Kitty Mervine - for offering to help gather the food donations at TAM, and for all her kindness and support, which comes in oodles.
Sean McCabe - for offering to help gather food donations at TAM and walk around with a tote bag full of cans strapped to his bodily person. And for the conversation that led to this idea.
Kochanski - for offering space for the SkeptiLove launch promotional materials, and for the crazy amounts of enthusiasm for the skeptical movement.
I hope to hear from a lot of people who would like to team up with SkeptiLove in the future, and I hope this grows into an awesome skeptical charity.
And if you have a Twitter account and prefer your news to come in bite-sized pieces, follow SkeptiLove at: http://www.twitter.com/SkeptiLove
All you need is love. Pass it on.
-- Alison Smith