President's Corner

George Slusher, O4R President

Oregonians for Rationality is an Oregon not-for-profit corporation "committed to the development of rational thought and action through the application of scientific methods and critical thinking to claims of questionable science and paranormal phenomena. "O4R", as we sometimes call our group, is loosely affiliated with CSICOP (Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) and we regularly communicate with other local skeptics groups, but we are completely independent.

O4R is not an atheist or humanist organization. Our membership includes atheists, agnostics, and many religious people as well. Everyone is welcome, as long as they are interested in science and scientific methods applied to real world problems. O4R also is not a political organization. Our members may hold conservative, liberal, libertarian, socialist, moderate, green, or "I-don't-care" philosophies. We don't address religious or political issues unless they directly involve some aspect of our basic mission (e.g., teaching evolution vs creationism in public schools).

O4R has a dual focus, internal and external. For our members, we provide educational and social opportunities—guest speakers, potlucks, no-host dinners, etc.—and maintain an email list for discussions, as well as publishing this newsletter. We inform our members of other events and issues relating to our basic interests, both local and national. Our public mission has been primarily educational. All of our talks by guest speakers have been open to the public. Some of our most successful events have been co-sponsored by other organizations, especially several universities. We also provide subscriptions to Skeptical Inquirer to some local and regional libraries in Oregon. We work with local media, on a case-by-case basis, usually related to our speakers. We maintain a web site,, with information on the organization, upcoming events and archives from Pro Facto.

In the past several years, however, our focus has tended to be on passive events, like guest speakers. Except for the discussion list, there hasn't been much opportunity for active involvement by our members nor have we taken a pro-active approach to working with local media. Some of our members write excellent letters to the editor, but we haven't done much as an organization in that regard. Our booth at the da Vinci Days celebration in Corvallis has been the major exception to this, thanks to the exceptional work by the organizers and the many volunteers who help during the event. We have probably made more impact and affected more people through that two-day event than all our other activities combined.

We are beginning to move toward more active, involved activities. As a first step, we are making structural changes that we hope will facilitate communication both within the organization and with the public. Beyond that, we're looking for ideas to expand our activities. For example, we could encourage area discussion groups or "book clubs"; run a "mini" version of The Skeptic's Toolbox, e.g., a short seminar on how to evaluate ads, claims, media reports and/or spam; visit famous paranormal sites, including the Oregon Vortex; and show and discuss videos like What the Bleep Do We Know?. Some members might be interested in investigating claims. We could also monitor local media for pseudoscience and respond by letters to the editor, interviews, etc.

We can also work through the schools. There are many opportunities for members who like to work with young people and who have some expertise to share: science fairs; design competitions; encouraging youngsters (especially girls) to consider careers in science; helping with after school science programs, especially for middle-school kids. We will be discussing our future direction and activities on the members' email list. Or, if you prefer, send your ideas directly to me.

I want to add a personal note of gratitude to Dave Chapman, who did an exceptional job as our President for several years. His genial nature, attention to detail, and openness to new ideas were invaluable. Dave generously agreed to remain on our board for a year after his presidency before stepping down. Also, my thanks our former treasurer Dan Wilcox and welcome to Janet Schmidt in that office. Thanks to outgoing secretary Boyd Dunford for his amiability and years of service. Robert Neary will be stepping in as our new secretary.

Copyright (c) 2006 Oregonians For Rationality