by Tom Gray, OA Secretary and Tshirt Cannon Firer (at large)
Last Saturday, Oct 11th, I helped REASON (Rationalists, Empiricist and Skeptics of Nebraska) run a table on science and critical thinking at the regional Boy Scout Jubilee at Mahoney State Park.
Here's a link to REASON's website: http://www.reason.ws/
Much like the table we'd done at SciFest, we had a selection of printed science articles as well as educational games and toys. There was an excellent poster on telling good science from bad - sensational headlines vs. peer reviewed papers, large sample sizes vs. small, etc.
Our table was constantly surrounded by scouts trying solve rubik's-cube-style puzzles. I took our t-shirt cannon along and the kids eagerly helped me load and launch it. Unfortunately the only t-shirt I had on hand had the OA logo so I wrapped the logo on the inside and held it together with duct tape. After firing the same shirt 25 times someone walked off with it and ended our fun.
The kids had a blast! Some of the adults...not so much. Despite the REASON group's efforts to 'tone down' their criticism of pseudoscience and superstition there were still a few adults who took offense.
From Jim Bechtel's report:
"A couple asked me what REASON stands for. I gave them the usual. Rationalism: using your head to figure things out, logic. Empiricism: respect for evidence, facts. Skepticism: opposite of gullibility. She frowned: "Sounds political!" Huh? (LOL) They were offended by our banner which reads "4.5 billion years in the making." Yeah, they were creationists, and were outraged at our presence. "How'd you get in here? The Boys Scouts are Christian!" When I answered that we were invited, she said they were going to talk to the authorities and make sure we never came back. They apparently got nowhere, nor did whoever complained about Tom's projectile when they unbundled it and discovered it was an atheist T-shirt. No, in fact when we were packing up Michelle came over to thank us warmly and profusely for being there, said the kids enjoyed it, and told us they hope to start having these every 2 years now instead of every four years."
My take away from the weekend:
1. There's work to be done. We live in a society where educated adults are offended by the scientific consensus on the age of the universe! Kudos to Laurey Steinke, Jim Bechtel and the rest who make these events happen.
2. Outreach events are fun! I enjoy meeting people and sharing my interests.
3. Finagle's Law (the folk version of Murphy's Law) is true: Anything that can go wrong, will. Next time I'll take a 'safe' t-shirt!