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Wednesday, May 18, 2005 | There I was on TV, looking as serious as a guy wearing a name tag reading both “Dipsey Dumpster” and “Keith Taylor” could look. Andrea Nakano, Channel 8’s news reporter, was doing a slot on our program, “Challenge Your Superstitions.”
The San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry was holding an exhibition spoofing some of our most outrageous beliefs, on Friday the 13th no less.
We booked the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest for the event. The San Diego Astrology Society booked the room for the same time – a double booking. It would have been a cosmological wonder if a group teaching that the position of the stars holds the answers to mankind’s problems shared a room with a group that contends that astronomy has failed every single scientific test. A ruckus was in the offing.
I hate ruckuses. So does Barbara Hemmingsen. Using a large dose of common sense and the wisdom that makes a good science professor, Dr. Hemmingsen simply suggested that we move outside and let the astrology folks use the room as they’d planned.
And lo, a miracle came to pass. Two groups as divergent as possible coexisted in the same area, if not in the same room. We even got along amicably.
Despite our high hopes, it was a disappointing evening. Most of our visitors were those folks heading for the astrology lecture. They were polite but few wanted to break a mirror or walk under a ladder. The hordes we expected stayed away.
Then, a miracle – Channel 8 showed up. I understand Ms. Nakano said, “Take me to your leader.” The other SDARI folks all pointed at me.
I escorted the young lass through the hurdles. She, like the astrology folks, refused my invitation to walk under a ladder. She wondered about the exhibit where one could toss a black cat in a hat. I explained, “Oh that? We just made it up, but believe me it’s just as valid as the other superstitions.”
The young reporter was reluctant to have her fortune told by SDARI’s amazing psychic sock puppet, actually a zany gal sitting under a table who poked the sock puppet up through a hole. The reporter’s reluctance didn’t matter to Zany. As soon as the young reporter and her cameraman got near she shouted, “For heaven’s sake don’t ask me about your job future!”
Perhaps intrigued (or worried?), Andrea tentatively asked about her love life. The sock puppet moaned, “Oh God, that’s even worse.”
We moved on. The reporter didn’t want to smash a mirror. I even promised that if she did not have bad luck in seven years she’d get double her money back. Finally I paid the fee. I think KFMB should raise her salary, or reimburse me my two-bits.
All visitors were given a choice of horoscopes. One was a computer-generated one. One was one we made up out of whole cloth. The third would be one they could write for themselves. All were equally valid. Andrea commented that she checked her own scope daily.
Loch David Crane, one of San Diego’s top magicians, read her mind, told her fortune and made his billfold burst into flames. It made a great shot on TV.
Then she interviewed me standing under a ladder. I was hoping I’d look about 45 or so (I didn’t). She asked if I wasn’t nervous standing there.
“Why?” I asked.
She said, “Suppose something bad happens.”
I said things like, “Bad things will happen. I will get old and die. Those ice caps are melting and the results could be disastrous. We might go to war again. Pseudoscience will be taught alongside science and kids will not learn the difference. But, those things all happen for a reason, not because of something paranormal. We have enough real problems to worry about without making up stuff. Bad things happen according to the law of averages.”
She asked if we weren’t just making fun of people though.
“I hope it’s more than that. We are serious people using humor to make serious points. That lady you just talked to is the professor emeritus of microbiology at San Diego State. The fellow next to her is a research physiologist emeritus at University of California, San Diego. The head of Biosystems Research Institute in La Jolla just left. He holds two scientific doctorates and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. We are very serious and we really want people to think.”
My line – “Bad things happen according to the law of averages” – made it on TV.
Still we made it and I hope we really induce folks to think. This world is confusing enough without substituting silly ideas for science and rational thought.
Dipsey also writes under his pseudonym Keith Taylor. Both can be reached at DipsyDmstr@AOL.com.