Opening Remarks at the 18th ESC
18th European Skeptics Congress, Ghent, Belgium
"Dear skeptics, dear colleagues, dear friends,
I am honored to greet you at the 18th European Skeptics Congress, which marks the thirtieth year we, as skeptics in Europe, have decided to unite, share our experiences, and support each other at these multinational congresses. It warms my heart to see you all again.
The European Skeptics Congress has been held in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, the UK, Spain, Czechia, Ireland, Hungary, Sweden, and Poland. It is quite a list of countries, but we have many left, where we have not yet united. Similarly, we, as skeptics in Europe, have achieved significant progress, about which you will hear in the session 30 years of retrospective, but there is still a ways to go.
Every time we meet, the message is the same. We must be stronger, we must communicate better with the public and media, and we must be more united than ever. The message that I want to deliver is, unfortunately, identical. It is not unfortunate that we must be united. It is unfortunate that it is no longer a choice. I have been active in the skeptic movement for a much shorter time than many of my esteemed colleagues. Nonetheless, in my six years, officially four, I have seen a radical shift in what the skeptic movement encompasses and what it must encompass.
Long gone are the days where our only concern was pseudoscience and esoterism. As much as we must remain non-partisan, we can no longer afford to be apolitical.
The third tenet of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations states the following: To promote public policy based on good practice in science and medicine. I will be bold in assuming that my colleagues, when writing this, were assuming promoting legislature which regulates the business around pseudoscience and pseudomedicine. However, with the increased politicization of science issues, such as climate change, herbicides, GMOs and food in general, and the pure ignorance of not only policy makers when it comes to listening to findings in social sciences regarding our most pressing social issues, our agenda has broadened.
When I am acquainting people with what we do, I often get asked: "What do the skeptics want?" It took me a while to come up with a satisfactory answer. I hope you agree when I say, "We want to help create a world in which we are no longer necessary.” And though it is not a realistic or reachable goal, I think some of you at times feel the same way as I do - that everyday that goal seems further away.
By the way, if you were wondering, the theme of this year's congress is the Joy of Skepticism.
Though for many of us, the responsibility to our home organization comes first, we must not forget to communicate with our colleagues from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. We need to listen to our colleagues' experiences. For most of us, skepticism happens in English and our language and we tend to forget about the twenty other groups operating in Europe. Here, we must thank The European Skeptics Podcast for keeping us updated on what is happening in European skepticism. We, as the European Council of Skeptical Organisations plan on being better facilitators of inter-organizational communication in the future. Pseudoscience does not have boarders. We must work to overcome ours.
Because there is a lot going on in each country. As I said in the beginning, you will hear about it in the following session, as well as the following days. Each individual success of each individual organization is a success for all of us, and we have reason to be proud of ourselves and others around us. So I will let my American side take over for a bit and ask all of you now to look to the person next to you and say "good job." Now look to the person sitting on the other side, and once again, say "good job." Wonderful.
This weekend, we have the chance to connect with our colleagues, forge new relationships, and strengthen existing ones. We will not come up with world-saving solutions, probably. However, we can remind ourselves why we do what we do - it definitely is not for public appreciation. We can learn new methods and discover new ideas. And last, but not least, enjoy the pleasant kinship that we as a community of active skeptics have.
So let's relish in our weekend the only way skeptics can - listening to many smart and accomplished people and trying to figure out what they got wrong.