I joined the Swedish Skeptics Society in 1997. Not because I was particularly aware of or bothered by paranormal claims or alternative medicine, but because I was an unhappy grad student in an Artsy post-modernist environment that was extremely hostile to the idea of cumulative rationalist Enlightenment science. It was a huge relief for me to come into contact with science and engineering people with an unabashedly scientistic world view. They would happily say “There’s no data on that issue so its useless to speculate about it” and “Both interpretation A and interpretation B can’t be true”, and I felt like I had come home.
So I’m a bit of an odd skeptic, the science-friendly arts/anthro guy who came in from the cold. I’d barely heard of James Randi or Martin Gardner when I joined and I still haven’t read any of their books. But I immediately began contributing to the Society’s journal, Folkvett, and in 2002 I was invited onto the editorial board. In 2004 I joined the Society’s executive board. And yesterday I was elected chairman of the Swedish Skeptics — Föreningen Vetenskap och Folkbildning.
The Swedish Skeptics have 2,600 members and add about 100 new people annually. That’s pretty respectable in a country of only 9.4 million. 15% of the membership (and 29% of the new Board) are women. In addition to the national Board in Stockholm we have regional chapters in Uppsala and Gothenburg.
The main demand that I’ve picked up from the members (and from critical non-member skeptics) is that the Swedish Skeptics should be more visible in the public space, take part in more debates, make more headlines, do more lobbying. And that is something I look forward to working with. Debate is after all something I’ve been doing professionally for over 15 years. This is my first stint as chairman of an organisation, and since I’ve made sure that other board members are willing to do the admin, I feel pretty good about the whole thing.