Skepticism

AI: A Skeptic in Dallas… HELP!

In September, my family and I relocated to Dallas from Chicago.

Chicago is chock full of bad ass skeptics. The skeptical community there is thriving. It’s pretty fantastic.

Dallas, however, is not thriving. There’s freethought groups, atheist groups, humanist groups and the like who have nice numbers, but finding skeptic-skeptics is hard. I’ve been hanging out with the North Texas Skeptics, and they’re a great group, but still small. I want them to be big and have a huge reach. I want to go out with them and meet dozens of other Dallas skeptics. I want to get rowdy and take over entire bars… but a bar full of Dallas skeptics seems like a pipe dream. And that makes it kind of lonely because if I’m honest, I have to admit, I don’t play nice with people who aren’t skeptics.

So I want to build this crotchin’ community, ground up. And that’s hard being a transplant who isn’t familiar with the literal or social landscape. But there has to be people out there who want to be my friend… or at least who want to be friends with the kind of people I want to be friends with. I’m going to need a plan if I’m going to take over this Rick Perry-lovin’ state. Maybe you  have some ideas? Maybe you need some ideas?

What’s the skeptical social scene like where you live? Is there one? Have your community blossomed recently? What are skeptics near you doing? Are you in Dallas? Do you want to be my friend? If you do, I promise to drink heavily in your presence and be hysterically funny (but I apologize in advance that most of my hysterically funniness is only funny to me… but I promise to be funny to me.)

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

 

Elyse

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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41 Comments

  1. January 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm —

    I don’t really know what the Skeptic community proper is like in Chicago, I know that most people I meet are not religious and more or less Skeptic. I rarely run into religious people.

  2. January 3, 2012 at 4:09 pm —

    It’s starting to look up here.

    There was a local (Raleigh NC) skeptics group here a couple years ago. I went to one meeting and found it very unfriendly. Everyone who wasn’t in the core group of members (not sure how many there were; it was a homogenous blur of beards, bifocals and tweed) was pushed to the side.

    At the last Dragon*Con, I met someone who lived here. Just happened to be sitting next to him at the Skeptrack end-of-con dinner. Yeah, I know, have to travel to Atlanta to meet someone nearby.

    When I got back home, I started thinking about who I knew in the area that might be interested in forming an informal group. I could only think of 3, including this new person. I also went through my Twitter follower list, looking for local people under the assumption that anyone who reads Tree Lobsters can’t be all bad. We managed to get about 8 people that first day.

    We kept meeting for dinner every 2 weeks for a couple months, just having dinner and talking about whether we wanted to expand this into a real group or not. We also had a Google group for discussing, planning, etc.

    In mid-November, Ramiro (the guy I met at Dragon*Con) created a Meetup group. The group description (partially written by me) contains warnings against “creepy / aggressive / stalkery behavior” and the words “don’t be a dick”.

    So far, things look good. As of right now, we’ve got 81 members, and the last meeting (still held biweekly) had 18 attendees. Not bad for our third “real” meeting. And almost none of them are creepy. So, win!

  3. January 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm —

    The Denver skeptical scene is thriving, but Boulder is pretty quiet outside of the Skepticamp in the summer. (I really need to go this time.) I thought about reigniting Boulder’s skeptics in the pub on my own, but I get around entirely by bicycle so in the winter this is impractical to say the least. I might see if it will fly as a warm-weather event only.

    Individually our skeptics rock pretty hard. Rich Carlson and Reed Esau are two wonderful gentlemen and pop up pretty much everywhere something skeptical happens. Stuart Robbins has given a few wonderful skeptical talks. He brought down the house with his 2012 presentation at the local planetarium. Speaking of astronomy there’s also a guy named Phil a few miles down the road who gets some good press from time to time.

    You have my sympathies living in Dallas. I spent 10 years on the deep south and am so happy I left. Being exposed to that much concentrated bullshit all the time is wearing even with a skeptical support system. Oh, and the climate is hellish. I hope you manage to enjoy it more than I did, and if you wish to escape I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

    • January 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm —

      Hey, I’m in Boulder! Phil Plait gave a talk where I work after Death from the Skies! came out. He’s a highly entertaining speaker.

  4. January 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm —

    Elyse, I am in the DFW area. I want to be your friend. I am totally a skeptic-skeptic.

  5. January 3, 2012 at 4:55 pm —

    The Houston skeptics group started in 2007 with a group of 6-8 people meeting at a Cajun Restaurant. We put the group on Meetup, hung signs in coffee shops, mentioned it on Facebook, Twitter, the old skepchick calendar, some skeptics forums. Several members are also members of the much larger atheist group here, and so they cross-post our meetings. It’s taken four years, but we’ve got almost 600 people on the mail list, and usually have about 40-50 people at the meetings, especially when we have speakers lined up.

    One problem I’ve found is that the city is spread out, with little in the way of public transportation, that people often are too tired or busy to drive 45-60 minutes to get to the place, and then drive home afterwards. We hold the meetings in the central part of the town, but people on the outskirts don’t want to face traffic. When I lived in Fort Worth, I rarely drove to meetings in Dallas, for the same reason.

    The Houston Atheist meet-up group has gotten around this, somewhat, by having subgroups that meet all over the town, each once a month. The Northern group, the central group, the downtown group, and so on.

    Maybe because of who I hang around, I really don’t run into too much woo in general. Everyone is so busy working down here, but I do know a lot of churhc-goers. I suspect it’s mostly a social activity, though.

    • January 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm —

      Yeah, I’m one of those Houston Skeptics who doesn’t make it out terribly often, because getting to the meetings is problematic. I’ve enjoyed when I’ve gone, but the monthly SitP always seems to hit when I have zero money…

    • January 4, 2012 at 10:50 pm —

      Is there even a group in Houston? I had no idea in all honesty … Where do you folks meet up? I’m in the Inner Loop.

  6. January 3, 2012 at 5:33 pm —

    I vividly remember a time in 2006-2007 when the Chicago Skeptics was a barren wasteland of two or three people meeting in a cafe…maybe. Most of the time the meetup organizers wouldn’t bother showing up. What changed was that a few, core people started meeting regularly and dependably. Then they/we branched out slowly into bigger and bigger events. There really is something to be said for the “if you build it, they will come” approach.

    Now that I’m in San Antonio I TOTALLY feel your pain. We have a fledgling group down here. But we have regular meetups with a core group of friends who show up every time. That atmosphere makes people want to come back next time. Now we’re big enough to start branching out into other activities, like lectures and “live” podcast recordings. Nowhere near the super-duper bar-taking-over or camping trip at Fermilab level, but we’ll get there.

    And so will you.

  7. January 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm —

    I made my very first Phoenix Skeptics in the Pub meeting just the other week! I actually introduced my friend Gautem to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and the Skeptical Community, and he took right to it. That was a year or two ago. He’s been to quite a few meetings since, but I only just made my first (at his insistence). I’m not sure why?

    It wasn’t the *greatest* location for a meeting of large people — a great local pub, but we were at a long table and it was hard to talk. It was in Central Phoenix, though, just a mile from my apartment, which was nice, haha. They have another meeting in Tempe this week that I’m going to try to attend. I hear the location makes talking a bit better.

    Anyway, at the end of the meeting, there seemed to have been about 12 members that made it, and others that didn’t. Which is pretty great for Phoenix. AND, there were at least 4 women there (plus me, making 5), which I thought was great. It was a pretty mixed group of young and older. And while we were all pretty white, I saw at least a couple people who were probably of latino descent at least, and of course Gautem who is Indian.

    I was pleasantly surprised at the mix of people.

    Of course, that was Central Phoenix, which tends to be a little more diverse than other areas of the Valley (like Scottsdale, ugh). We’ll see how the turn-up in Tempe is this week, but I think the majority of the same people go.

    • January 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm —

      Oh, but I do have to say, this IS Arizona, so in general our Skeptical community is quite slim, but I was surprised that it was as large as it was! There are 383 members to the meetup group, which is pretty awesome (even if a good majority of them probably aren’t active). There seems to be an average of 10-15 people each meeting.

      Also, there is an Atheist group which is fairly popular, and a Humanist group — there was an event recently that included all three groups and had about 100 people, so that is promising.

      So, Arizona is awesome when it comes to Skepticism, but we do have a scene, which is nice.

      As I touched on above, though, it does help that I live in Central Phoenix, which is a little less conservative then the rest of the state (the zip code I live in actually has the highest (by a large margin) of LGBQT-identified folks which I know doesn’t necessarily speak to Skeptisim, but it does speak to the fact that not all parts of Arizona are just straight, white old republican men and their wives).

    • January 3, 2012 at 5:39 pm —

      And one more thing: Although it was kind of difficult to talk to everyone, I really love the George & Dragon pub, where the meeting was. The server was clearly used to the group, and she was rather awesome, as was the other stuff. Our tickets even said, “Skeptics” as a way to identify our table. Aside from the not-being-able-to-talk-to-everyone, I felt very welcome there, by both the members that I was able to meet and talk to, and the staff that seemed to love us.

      • January 4, 2012 at 9:10 am —

        When and where for the Tempe meeting? Although I’m one of those very white, 50ish Ahwatukee people, I would like to drop by. But I don’t wear tweed.

        • January 4, 2012 at 11:34 am —

          http://www.meetup.com/SkepticsInPhoenix/

          Sleepy Dog & Brewery in Tempe!

          I am going to try to make it. If I don’t, I will most certainly make the one that’s at George & Dragon in Central Phoenix.

          You should totally come! I’ll be the kinda short chubby girl with glasses (I think my name links to my Facebook?), and you can always say hi to Gautem, he’s hard to miss. Big Indian guy with glasse and generally a hat you would associate those tweed-wearing-white guys, lulz.

  8. January 3, 2012 at 6:24 pm —

    I abandoned Dallas in 2006 for the liberal oasis that is Austin. Unfortunately, all that lovely liberalism also comes with a whopping dose of woo-loving, SCAM-hawking nonsense. I can find plenty of atheists down here, but I can’t handle an atheist group with members chatting about their favorite local acupuncturist or what their psychic told them this morning. I seriously thought about standing outside the Tim Minchin concert with a sign that said, “Skeptical? Need Friends? Pick me!”

    So, I can’t help you. Unless I happen to be in Dallas when you have a skeptical gathering going on, or you have any plans to drive three hours south in the near future. But I feel your pain, and I hope some of the wonderful Skepchicks know the answer!

    • January 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm —

      I’d totally pick you! I didn’t attend the Minchin concert in Austin (I found out about it after the fact and then ended up managing to convince my Dallas area brother to go to the Dallas concert with me) but I’ve been thinking about trying to branch out into participation in meat-world skepticism, so if you’re looking for Austin area potential skepticy friends I’d love to try to get something rolling with you, or attend some of the woo friendly atheist meetings so you can have a fellow eye-roller at the silliness.

      • January 11, 2012 at 10:49 am —

        Sweet! I will now do something very unwise and put my email address on the internet, with spaces to give me the illusion of security: dsavak @ gmail. Get in touch!

    • January 5, 2012 at 11:50 pm —

      There was a skeptic’s group in Austin for a brief bit a few years ago- the Austin Skeptical Society- but they are sadly currently defunct, as I found out when I tried contacting them earlier this year. ^^; There are still skeptical folk here, though, so don’t give up hope. ^_^ While the Atheist Community of Austin does have some members with those types of beliefs, there are some skeptical people around there, too.

      We were sad to find out that we’d missed the Minchin concert. ^^; Alas.

  9. January 3, 2012 at 7:46 pm —

    The Vancouver skeptic community is absolutely amazing. The other day we were mentioning there must be something in the water up here. Ours is one of the most gender-balanced skeptic communities in North America, we’ve got a wonderfully humanist tilt, we’ve got lots of diversity (except perhaps in regards to race…which is something we’re working towards addressing), I’ve personally experienced very little sexism and almost no transphobia or cissexism at all, I’ve always felt welcome and valued, and we’ve got some really really talented and amazing folks here like The Crommunist, Ian Bushfield, Fred Bremmer, Dr. Rob Tarzwell, etc. I’m totally stupidly giddily proud to be a part of our little corner of Skeptopia. :)

    • January 4, 2012 at 12:25 am —

      Actually I have to ask, I’ve never actually had the incentive to be part of a Skeptic community or atheist community aside from online. I like your explanations, so can you explain to me what a skeptic community does and what happens within it?

      • January 4, 2012 at 11:36 am —

        It really depends on the community. Some just hang out and socialize.

        I know our group here in the Phoenix/Tempe area has had speakers. And, my friend is a Physics teacher and they have some plans related to that though I can’t recall details. The only visit I made, there was some discussion about our school system here in Arizona and how frustrating it can be because of the large religious overtones (at least we’re not Texas!).

        • January 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm —

          Huh, yeah, I guess I never really thought to check one out because Chicago is not a terribly religious place.

          I think actually there are probably a lot of us here that haven’t been to Skeptic communities in meatspace, but consider ourselves Skeptics.

          What I think this site does well is point out is that even outside of formal online and meatspace communities, sexism still is prevalent even among those who are skeptical and/or non-religious.

      • January 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm —

        Well… a “skeptic community”, in this context, is just pretty much a collection of self-identified skeptics who know one another, hang out, attend events together (like pub nights, cafe nights, book clubs, etc.), do activist or charity work together, share resources and info, and whatever prominent skepticky folk happen to live in a given town or city. It’s pretty much just a loosely affiliated social circle of like-minded folk.

  10. January 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm —

    Elyse-

    I think it may be a mistake to limit yourself to socializing only with people who identify as “skeptic-skeptics,” whatever that means.

    The DFW Coalition of Reason represents over 2000 people, nearly half of whom consider themselves skeptics of one sort or another. They may be skeptics of religion, of pseudoscience, or other kinds of woo, but they’re skeptics. It’s true, there’s only one group labeled “Skeptic” with a capital “S,” and it’s fairly small compared to the other groups, but there are historical, geographic, and very relevant personal reasons for that fact. Believe me, I moved down to Dallas from the North, and I had to learn a LOT about the local landscape before I could make sense of it all.

    For better or for worse, the largest social pools here in DFW are the Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas and the Metroplex Atheists. Your location is central enough to permit easy access to either one. If you’re looking to get your tipple on and crack wise with some smart-ass skeptics, you don’t really have to look very far. Check out (http://meetup.fofdallas.org/) and (http://www.meetup.com/Metroplex-Atheists/), and you’ll see two such opportunities within the next two weeks.

    If it’s not just booze, but hardcore skeptical skullduggery (whatever that means) that you’re craving, then bring it to the larger groups! There’s already overlap between the North Texas Skeptics and the FoFDallas leadership, and I’d be in full support of promoting more skeptical initiatives with the FoFDallas. I know vaccines are your thing; why not partner with the FoFDallas to organize a vaccination drive? You’ll expose more people to capital “S” skepticism and also make a few more drinking buddies.

    Long story short, there’s absolutely no reason why any skeptic (or freethinker, or atheist, or whatever) should feel isolated in the Big D. There’s no better place to network with skeptics of all stripes.

    Best,

    -Z

    • January 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm —

      I’m in Dallas and I’ve been wondering about this. Thanks for the advice.

  11. January 4, 2012 at 3:08 am —

    There doesn’t seem to be any organized community in the entire state of Oregon, let alone down here in hippie Ashland. We actually got singled out for special attention from the CDC due to our shockingly low vaccination rate, and cell phone reception on my side of town continues to be abysmal because people are afraid a new tower will fuck up their auras or something.

  12. January 4, 2012 at 8:25 am —

    Well in Pittsburgh we have Steel City Skeptics and the Pittsburgh CFI (who’s Twitter feed I run @CFIPGH) though the two groups are virtually indistinguishable from each other. We have several meetups a month such as Drinking Skeptically, Brunching Skeptically and Reading Skeptically. The turnout is pretty good for the DS meetings(I have not yet attended the others) but, the odd thing is, they have almost no knowledge of the national movement.

    I got involved in the nation scene first and found our local DS later because of Skepchick and reading that some of the Skepchicks (including Elyse, may favorite Skepchick don’t you know) would be in attendance at one of our local meetings. So when I got there I expected to find more people involved in the national movement but, found most didn’t even know about it. I’d get puzzled looks talking about TAM, SGU or Skepchick.

    I have tried to expose them to the blogs, podcasts and people I follow but sadly most don’t seem all that interested. But hey you got me! Yeah!

    • January 4, 2012 at 11:38 am —

      I think that’s probably because a good chunk of us here are quite the internet nerds and some people just aren’t. :)

  13. January 4, 2012 at 9:21 am —

    I’m pretty sure Anne Crumpacker, mother of Mason Crumpacker of internet fame for her book list from Christopher Hitchens, is in Dallas. Here’s her website: http://socraticmama.com/

    • January 5, 2012 at 4:54 am —

      Yes indeed! One of the Camp Quest Texas directors, as well!

  14. January 4, 2012 at 10:33 am —

    @Malfeitor – Yeah, I’ve been getting a lot of that here too. TAM? Skeptrack? NECSS? Podcasts? A lot of them don’t know there’s a whole community out there.

    Sometimes I feel like Hargrid when he says, “You’re a wizard, Harry!” But, y’know, considerably shorter and without the flying motorcycle.

  15. January 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm —

    I’d love to get involved with a Skeptic and/or Atheist group here in Austin. I’ve tried looking on Craigslist-no good. I can’t do anything on a “school night,” either. I’m a M-F, 8-5-er. Help!

  16. January 4, 2012 at 8:33 pm —

    A messed up work schedule (not to mention social phobia) prevents me from doing pretty much anything, especially if it involves, as a skeptic group does, being forced to explain what I say.

    I suppose I could just go and be quiet, but I already read blogs every day.

  17. January 4, 2012 at 9:01 pm —

    “I don’t play nice with people who aren’t skeptics.”

    This will be your biggest handicap in TX, depending on your definition of “skeptic.” There are atheists, but not nearly as many as you may have gotten used to knowing. (Disclaimer: I haven’t lived in TX in 4 years, so things might have changed, especially in urban areas.) For socializing, the above-mentioned groups will give you some options.

    If you’re wanting to get active in a practical way, you may find that an inability to “play nice” is a serious limitation in TX. A lot of the people I worked with to push back against creationists on local school boards were actually Christians (obviously not fundies, but Christians nonetheless).

  18. January 4, 2012 at 9:37 pm —

    Hi Elyse,

    I’m in Dallas and looking for a good skeptical group. I am a skeptic as can be divined from my latest book, Boys Book of Armageddon and my upcoming Boys Book of Pseudoscience. Happy to manifest my corporal being at any meting of skeptics.

    I have run my own groups too. The key is a good presentation that tickles the mind. Though I was doing technical groups, it is probably easier with a general group.

    Another outlet and source of recruiting members in Toastmasters. I just joined Executive Toastmasters in far North Dallas. They meet at The Egg and I, every Wednesday at 7:00am(shudder). I’ll be inundating them with my parody of skeptical enquiry to get the non-skeptic to laugh at themselves.

  19. January 4, 2012 at 9:41 pm —

    Hi Elyse,

    I’m in Dallas and looking for a good skeptical group. I am a skeptic as can be divined from my latest book, Boys Book of Armageddon and my upcoming Boys Book of Pseudoscience. Happy to manifest my corporal being at any meeting of skeptics.

    I have run my own groups too. The key is a good presentation that tickles the mind. Though I was doing technical groups, it is probably easier with a general group.

    Another outlet and source of recruiting members is Toastmasters. I just joined Executive Toastmasters in far North Dallas. They meet at The Egg and I, every Wednesday at 7:00am(shudder). I’ll be inundating them with my parody of skeptical enquiry to get the non-skeptic to laugh at themselves.

    • January 5, 2012 at 4:57 am —

      Visit DFWCoR.org and start checking out the member groups, you’ll find something you like, I promise!

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