Today, the Swedish Skeptics Society celebrated its 25th anniversary with an afternoon seminar in Stockholm. I’ve been a member since 1997, a co-editor of the society’s journal Folkvett since 2002 and a board member since 2004. The >2000-member society is Sweden’s nearest equivalent of CSI (formerly CSICOP), but it has certain unusual traits. For one thing, its Swedish name, Föreningen Vetenskap och Folkbildning, says nothing about either skepticism nor the paranormal. It simply means “The Society for Science and Popular Enlightenment”. (Folkbildning, a word first documented in 1805, is strongly associated with the early-20th century Labour movement’s ambition to make education freely available to all citizens.) And the first paragraph of the society’s statutes reads as follows (and I translate):
¶1 The purpose of the Society for Science and Popular Enlightenment is to support popular enlightenment about the methods and results of science. In particular, the society takes upon itself to combat, in the context of free speech, erroneous beliefs on issues that can be resolved by scientific means. An important part of popular science enlightenment is to make it clear what questions can be resolved by scientific means, and which cannot.
The society endorses the principles of political democracy. It is
politicallyneutral and unaffiliated in questions of religious faith.
So, what we have here is an organisation that doesn’t really accept “paranormal” as a valid classification: all registerable traits of the universe are open to scientific inquiry, and the interesting aspect of any truth claim is simply whether it’s on the turf of science or not. Though very few members appear to be particularly religious and many are atheists, the society doesn’t deal in theology. Vetenskap och Folkbildning isn’t primarily against anything: it’s pro-science and pro-communication.
At today’s seminar, we had four good lectures looking back at the past quarter century, and finally a presentation by stage magician Tom Stone where he explained the perceptual psychology behind a number of tricks as he performed them. Good stuff! And afterwards, a dinner of Lebanese meze in excellent company.
I encourage all Dear Readers who understand any Scandinavian language to check out the society’s web site (with a huge text archive), lively on-line forum, quarterly print journal and regular public lectures.