Ben Radford – Skepticism 2.0

September 25, 2009

Ben Radford is is one of the world’s few science-based paranormal investigators, and has done first-hand research into psychics, ghosts and haunted houses, exorcisms, Bigfoot, lake monsters, UFO sightings, crop circles, and other topics. He is managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. He is the author of the following: Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us, and Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World’s Most Elusive Creatures (with Joe Nickell), he also writes online at and and

In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Ben Radford surveys the current issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, which is focused on “Skepticism 2.0” and the future of the skeptical movement. He describes various articles by contributors to the issue such as Daniel Loxton, Jeff Wagg, Karen Stollznow, Blake Smith, Heidi Anderson, Reed Esau, Tim Farley and others. He talks about blogging, podcasts and youtube and the opportunities they present for new skeptical outreach. He explores ways national skeptical organizations can collaborate. He talks about why it is important to build on the important work of skeptical luminaries such as Carl Sagan, Ray Hyman, James Randi, Martin Gardner and Joe Nickell, and how to do so. And he also talks about his sacrilegious board game Playing Gods.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry for Friday, September 25th, 2009. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry. I’m DJ Grothe growthy point of inquiries, the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs. And at the grass roots. Before we get to this week’s guest, I want to alert any of our listeners in western Michigan that next month, on November 14th, I’ll be appearing there with Jamie Ian Suess at CFI Michigan’s event, Magic, Science and Skepticism, Unnatural Relationship. This is a daylong workshop where we explore the ins and outs, the relationship between magic, science and skepticism. Looking at some of the history, Jamie Ian Suess will be lecturing on the illusion of psychic powers. And then that evening, Jamie, whom I should say is one of America’s great magicians, he will be performing a show called Heavy Mental. So please join us for that. I’d love to meet you. If you’re in the area, come out for this event. You can get more information at CFI Michigan dot org. My guest this week is Ben Radford. He’s one of the few science based paranormal investigators. He’s done firsthand research into psychics. Ghosts, haunted houses, exorcisms, Bigfoot, other cryptozoology stuff. You know, lake monsters, UFO sightings, crop circles, all of that stuff. He’s managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and the author of a couple books. Media Mythmakers How Journalists, Activists and Advertisers Mislead US. And also Lake Monster Mysteries. Investigating the World’s Most Elusive Creatures, which he authored with Joe Niccol. He also writes online at Live Science, dot com media, mythmakers, dot com and also monsters science dot org. He joins me on the show to talk about the most recent issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine about skepticism. Two point oh. Welcome back to a point of inquiry, Ben Radford. 

Good to be on as well, Ben. Before we get to talking about the special issue, a skeptical Inquirer, I want to plug this game of yours playing Gods. It was just Blasphemy Day a few weeks ago. Centers for inquiry all over the country, all over North America played this game as part of the blasphemous festivities. Let’s start off by you telling me why you invented a game called Playing Gods. 

Well, basically, I had I had originally had an idea for a game that sort of had gods from different eras battling it out, not necessarily current gods, but not ancient Egyptian gods and Mesoamerican gods. And, you know, basically anybody from any different era, they like the anachronism of it. But then, you know, over the last, I would say, 10 years or so, certainly after September 11, 2001, it became more and more apparent to me that if I was going to make the game more, much more relevant, that I should include the real God or to the real gods, so to speak. 

I like how you add added the so to speak. Yeah. 

So, yeah. So I figured, you know, that, that I wanted to see. And so I began telling people about it and they’re like, oh, you’re not really going to put in, you know, Jesus and Moses and the other one. And you know, I said, I am. I mean, that’s that’s part of the whole point. I mean, that, you know, there hadn’t really been a good satire of sort of religious fervor and and religious warfare. And I thought that it was. It was certainly a topic that was there was a fair game for for making fun of. 

Right. And to clarify, Moses is not a God. And and you’re not saying that you you’re having some fake gods and some real gods. You just mean contemporary gods that most, if not nearly all people believe in. 

Right. Yeah. I mean, there obviously it’s you know, it’s it’s just, you know, it’s just a satire wasn’t meant. You know, it’s got Buddha, for example. And, you know, it’s not meant to be taken literally. But, you know, it has representative figures from the five major religions. And you can make your own guides. Maybe the cult of Oprah. You can be Scientology. I’ve got. 

You could be what Paul Kurtz or what Richard Dawkins, the God of Atheists. I do have an atheist and Secour Jim Underdown Thomas and I, we played this game well before it was out as a game. Kind of your prototype version. Yeah. This up in Buffalo years ago. I remember when you were just putting it all together and it was a hell of a lot of fun then. Now it’s even more. Fun, kind of more hell of a lot of fun. Can I say it that way? You have these great game pieces. You Mintz mentioned the Buddha with the machine gun. There’s Jesus of Nazareth whose crucifix doubles as a pick. Yeah. So this kind of stuff is a lot of fun for skeptical types. And I appreciate, Ben, that you are offering a discount on the game for point of inquiry listeners. 

I absolutely am. You know, I wanted to make sure that that all of my my skeptical and humanist brethren got a chance to to enjoy it. So I am offering a discount for any any point of inquiry listeners. I think the I think that the disc, if you go to playing God Scholem, you can find you can get a check out page there. And if you enter the code CFI, Disco, Capital, C Capital, F.I., Capital Disco as emcee. If I just on. Of course. 

OK. And I’d like to let our listeners know that you could get that discount also just by going to point of inquiry, dawg. OK, so Ben, the reason I invited you on the show. The most recent issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. You edited it. It’s Skepticism 2.0. What’s next? I’m looking at the cover right now. There’s a framed picture of Carl Sagan, a picture of James Randi framed picture of Joe Nicole. And then there’s this blank frame with the head of a girl in a coma. You know, she’s at a computer and her head’s in this blank frame. This suggestion’s kind of that she is what’s next? You know, here are these leading figures of skepticism. And what follows all of these leading figures is what these well-meaning grassroots skeptics who have nothing but a computer and an Internet connection and some good ideas. 

Yeah, that’s definitely what we’re trying to go with that. I mean, you know, that’s the other as you know, the thought of modern Organa skeptical movement is really only, you know, 30, 35 years old. And, you know, it’s it’s no secret that the skeptics movement in some ways of graying and, you know, and, you know, that’s that, of course, is going to be a problem because, you know, going forward, we need to have younger people stepping up and getting involved and getting active. 

And so you’re you just mentioned the skeptical movement is graying before we get to the articles. 

And there were many thought provoking pieces in this issue, including two by you, in fact, including two by me, really in pieces. 

I, I mean, you said that just like we rehearsed. Thank you. So many thought provoking pieces in this issue. 

But on this last point, skeptics are graying or the skeptics movement is graying and kind of this call for younger skeptics, new blood, something. Here’s here’s a question. When Martin Gardner. He kind of started all this skepticism stuff. And then James Randi and Carl Sagan and Ray Hyman, Paul Kurtz. Others came along. They didn’t say to Martin Gardner generation before them. Hey, it’s it’s time, Martin Gardner, for you to get the way so we can do our own thing. Or let’s talk about Joe Nickell. He came along after all of them, in a sense. He didn’t say to them. He didn’t say to Carl Sagan or James Randi. Now it’s Joe Nichols time. And all these old fogies should just be put out out to pasture instead. Each one of those generations we’re talking kind of three generations. They’re not including the Skepticism 2.0 we’re talking about. Well, each one of those generations built on what was already existing, no one reinvented the wheel. Here’s the question. Do you think that with this emphasis, I’m on Skepticism 2.0, that there’s this risk that maybe some of us newcomers to skeptical activism? Are we going to reinvent the wheel? Are we going to push aside all the great work that’s been done by these skeptical luminaries like Carl Sagan and James Randi and Joe Niccol? 

Well, I certainly hope not. I mean, that was in fact, I broached the subject in my editor’s note, as, you know, as I was the guest editor on this on this issue. Talkable about that matters now because it’s important for young skeptics to have a context for the skepticism. It’s great if they see, you know, a TV show on Goethe or whatever and they think, you know what? That’s that’s completely ridiculous. And if they want us to get involved and sort of react to that, that’s great. But they need to. To my mind, it’s important for young skeptics to have a sense of history. And I don’t necessarily mean sit down and read, you know, every book about the history of skepticism. But what I mean is, you know, there should be a good recognition and a working knowledge of of the research and the articles that have been done by people like Joe and Ray Hyman and Martin Gardner and others. So that’s why I mean, I often encourage people to look at back issues of skeptical. Magazine. You know, it’s all well and good to have a subscription and get the new issues, you know, every other month. But I always encourage people if they look, you know, if you can get it on on City Rahmah or the actual back issues or the online repository, it’s like uptalk. Exactly. That would be a good example is, you know, per perus some some articles from 1983. You know, look, we’re writing back in 1992 and you’ll find a lot of these. You know, this is not sort of, you know, silly, incredibly topical stuff. It’s this long gone. Many of these these arguments are still very much with us. And so I think that the work that has been done before us is vitally important. And and and it’s and again, for for people who are sort of new to skepticism and new to approaching these sorts of claims critically. They shouldn’t they should be familiar with, you know, if you want to investigate haunted houses, you know, from a skeptical point of view, you know, read the work that was done five, 10, 15 years ago by by real solid investment this year, by the groundbreaking scientific paranormal investigators rather than reinventing the wheel. 

Exactly. Exactly. I’d like to let our listeners know that you can get a discounted subscription to Skeptical Inquirer by calling one 800 six three, four, 16, 10 and mentioning point of inquiry when you do so. Ben, so getting to these articles are great articles by folks like Daniel Loxton. Karen Stollznow. No, Heidi Anderson really saw Tim Farley, Jeff Wagh, Blake Smith there. I mean, there are many I’m sure I didn’t get them all while all of these people there doing the important skeptical activism online. They’re kind of part of the Skepticism 2.0, this new generation of folks who are doing outreach digitally and not just by going out and doing lectures, are going in the field and doing scientific paranormal investigation. That’s the theme. Right. Really that Skepticism 2.0 is made possible because of new online ways of reaching out and organizing. 

Absolutely. And that’s you know, that’s a very important point, because the people that have been selected for this issue, I think there’s a dozen or more. I chose them because to me, they each represented a specialist in their field. And so I wanted somebody who was approaching skepticism from like a blogging perspective. Not everybody does that. Many people do. But, you know, the people who are you know, people who are reading the magazine now, certainly if I readers are necessarily doing that, they may have heard about blogging. They don’t necessarily do it. And so it was important to me to have this sort of have almost like a representative sample of people who are approaching skepticism from their own point of view, that there’s not just one model. You don’t have to be you know, you don’t have to be working for the Inquirer magazine for 15 years to contribute. 

You can be, you know, some nerd locked away in a closet somewhere who’s who is, you know, doing great blogs on on, you know, on creationism. 

So some guy living in his parents basement can be as long as he has a computer connection, Internet connection. I mean, he can advance skepticism to new publics in ways that maybe the magazines have not traditionally been able to do so. 

Right. Absolutely. And I think that I think that that is that is the strength of Skepticism 2.0. It’s that, you know, that there to my mind, there will always be a place for the magazine. And I see that as managing editor. Twelve years. But that’s all well and good. And I know it’s the flagship of the organization and it’s vitally important, but it’s only one of several platforms that are that are going out there and and many, many more venues for espousing skepticism in science. There were even, you know, two, three, five years ago. Mm hmm. And so I think it’s wonderful that there are all these different venues to which people can can put the stuff out there. And again, I mean, part of. But, you know, so while encouraging people to to, you know, bring to come at it from their own perspective, it’s also important that there be some sense of community. 

And I would say continuity, that there’s some connection with what Skepticism 2.0 is doing and what these venerable organizations have labored away for decades. You know, people working at low nonprofit salaries, they’re kind of like volunteers, even though they’re getting paid a little to do it. But they’re advancing this mine view, this worldview that we all value so much. 

I want to ask you a question you before we talk about the articles individually and I have some questions about some of the individual arguments made in this issue, but. For that question about quality control, if if some, you know, young woman can just sit at her blog and spout off about thus say, if my skeptical point of view on these issues, where’s the quality control? Whereas, you know, when you’re when you’re working at a skeptical organization and you’re publishing in a magazine that academics and others read, you got a what you say has it has to meet a certain standard. Do you think that’s necessarily also the case with all the Skepticism 2.0 stuff? 

I would I would hope so to some degree. You know, certainly the people that I wanted to contribute to that issue were all, you know, reputable, known skeptics who had contributed in in sort of oftentimes sort of less visible ways. And I wanted to sort of give them opportunities sort of to get their stuff out there on a more visible scale. So I wasn’t so concerned about, you know, the particular contributors that decision. And, of course, the the article you’re talking about did, of course, did pass some vetting peer review process. 

They were published in skepticism, right point O magazine. You know that point. Oh, not 2.0. 

Right. Right. But you bring you bring up a good point. I mean. And the question becomes, you know, you had the same issue, for example, with the Center for Inquiry Boggs Center for Inquiry blogs, where you’ve got a wide variety of bloggers. I don’t know how many we have now. I’m one of them. You’re one of them. I think there’s a dozen. Couple dozen, I believe. Right. And that’s that’s a good point. I mean, you’ve got people who are, you know, putting in their own stuff out there under the auspices of the Center for Inquiry. 

And there’s no quality control Jim Underdown. 

Those are fighting words. But I but I hear what you’re saying loud and clear. 

Right. And then let me be fair. I’m not criticizing that. But, I mean, that’s that’s the nature of the beast. 

Well, and moreover, it was kind of the design of our of CFD blogs from the get go. Ron Lindsay, the current CEO of CFI, said, hey, no editorial control. I don’t want anyone at CFA telling any blogger what he or she can and can’t say. That’s kind of the, you know, the culture of blogging. Well, good. You know, I like it that way. But if someone’s trying to be an authoritative voice for skepticism in any domain, any, you know, any one of area skepticism pokes its incredulity into. You can’t just say, in my opinion, you have to kind of back up your stuff with research. And I think one concern about Skepticism 2.0 is that if it’s just some guy with an Internet connection, how how do you know his bona fides? 

Right. And that’s a valid point. And I think my answer would be that the people within the skeptic community know the bond of videos of the people they’re writing. I mean, if I write something on Bigfoot, you know, presumably if you’re skeptical choir reader, you’re in you’re involved in the movement. You know, my my bona fides are right there for anybody to see right now. And so in some ways, it’s sort of a soft selecting. You know, if someone like I’ll give an example, let’s say somebody writes a a you know, a skeptical yet almost cois a label attack on, you know, a psychic or something. 


You know, I mean, you may I may or may not have heard of the person that the so-called skeptical blogger. And, you know, while I, I generally agree with his or her point, you know, or an opinion about Sylvia Browne or you know, or John Edward, whoever I am, I in my position, I’m not necessarily going to listen to or endorse the parts of it that I think are not, you know, not not now done responsibly. 

As a skeptic. OK. 

Right. So I guess, you know, I’m not trying to dance around your question, but I think in some ways it’s service of, you know, it’s sort of it’s sort of a self-selecting process. 

I hear you saying that the cream rises to the top. Okay. Something like that. The skeptical cream right at the end of the Tom Flynn. And no sexual innuendos, Ben. No, no, no, no. Okay. Such a cream recalled. Okay. There we go. Talking about the articles individually. Dan Loxton, let’s take his first. And I want to have him on at some point. 

So we’ll go into this more in-depth. But I’m asking you. Okay. So his piece is really thought provoking to me. It’s entitled The Paradox Cool Future of Skepticism. Why do you think skepticism has a paradoxical future? 

You know, I think that will fall where he’s going with it. Is that is that the skepticism, I think, in his mind has sort of come at a crossroads? Mm hmm. And, you know, the the model that has brought us to 2009. I isn’t necessarily going to be the model that will will take us to 2020. And that that, you know, the deal. The idea of four of these. I don’t want to say sort of venerable, but these these established skeptical, you know, institutions Jim Underdown. Right. They they are valuable and they are important. And they they need to be nurtured and supported at the same time. They can only go so far. Mm hmm. And and the future skepticism. Skepticism 2.0 is going to require a sort of a rethinking of the roles of these institutions, such as the Jabra, such as the Skeptic Society, and, of course, such as CSI as up the now it’s called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. 

OK. Well, obviously, Dan Loxton wrote that piece. I’m going to ask you about a number of these articles. You didn’t author any of them, so you can’t really expound at great length about any of them. But I want to touch on them to give our listeners kind of a survey of what’s in this issue. Sure. Read Esaw. He talks about reinventing the traditional skepticism conference. So you just talked about organizations like The Skeptic Society, the Jay Rahaf, James Randi Educational Foundation, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. All of these organizations have put on conferences, you know, that you register for and you go to you pay some money. You know, you get hotel reservations and you hear these great speakers over two or three days. And you’re an attendee at a conference where you get get to meet super star skeptics. Right. Really? So says, well, that’s all fine and good, but there’s another model. 

Yeah. I mean, he read the idea and I don’t think he’s necessarily original of a certainly the main proponent currently is that you have what he calls skeptic camps. And it’s basically sort of it’s less formal. It’s more interactive. And there it’s, I think, largely free, if not entirely free. And it’s sort of it’s a sort of return to almost like the coffeehouse discussion sort of on a grander scale where where there’s that there’s a democratization of skills and expertize. And so, for example, if if a local skeptic or a member of some scientific organization has the knowledge and the wherewithal to speak about some skeptical point of view, not necessarily, you know, myself or John Shook or, you know, or James Randi, but somebody who is sort of, you know, well versed in their topic. 

But more at the grassroots level. 

Yes, exactly. Much more at the grassroots level. And so the idea is sort of a more more of sharing, sharing information, sort of on on a sort of on a broader scale, I would say. I mean, again, not it’s the idea is not so much sort of top down, you know. You know, I am the expert. I will pontificate for 45 minutes on this topic and learn it’s more for a discussion format. 

I see. Ben, one of the exciting things you explore in this issue is when Tim Farley explores how to advance skepticism, not not just through an inner net connection, but specifically through YouTube on the Internet. 

Yeah. I mean, that was, you know, when I was when I was trying to sort of envision, you know, what did we know, what were the models the Skepticism 2.0 was going to look like? I was trying to sort of piece together the the ah the the magazine and try to sort of, you know, get representative of each of these. You know, I was sitting down saying, okay, you know what, I know how skepticism has been promulgated over the last, you know, 35 years. How is it being promulgated now? And, of course, one of the main ways is YouTube. And so, you know, then the more I looked into it, the more I realized that there’s there’s really a wealth. I think many people weren’t aware of skeptical information, you know, skeptical videos, you know, things that, you know, little little video clips that may or may not be showing a regular cheating. 

They have that advisedly may or may not be cheating. 

And, you know, exposing, you know, losing the videos that Richard Wiseman is shown of of Faye Barba, possibly cheating. 

But the point is, these are videos that some guy with a video camera, some gal who, you know, has a webcam are putting together. It’s not some national educational nonprofit who is making video propaganda, you know, with its with its budget. Right. It’s some guy, you know, piecing it together on his Mac. 

And oftentimes, oftentimes giving, you know, critical Scollard commentary on. These things, I mean, sometimes someone will just use excerpts from, you know, the Ghost Hunters TV show or for some other some other sort of mystery mongering. You know, one of the many mystery mongering cable TV shows and show excerpts of it and and do something which I think we all do accept it for. We all do. 

When we watch these things, if we want to hit pause and yell at the TV and say, no, that’s bullshit. Dot, dot, dot. 

And with me, with the magic of of, you know, of the magic of DVD and YouTube and video files, you can do exactly that. And so I think that that’s really the beauty of it is sort of, you know, giving that skeptical insight and analysis and perspective and sort of, you know, putting it in the video and sending it out there. 

I’d like to let our listeners know that if you’d like a sample copy for free of this issue of Skeptical Inquirer, Skepticism 2.0, what’s next? You can request it by sending your name and address to info at point of inquiry dot org. Speaking of YouTube, as you just were, Ben, not only YouTube, you also, as part of the focus the magazine talk about podcast as a way to reach new publics. 

And I think I’ve heard these podcast things are very big. I think all the kids are really into them. Yeah. Know what they are? 

They’re like, oh, those hipsters, they love their podcasts. 

And I’m gratified to say that point of inquiry, though, we kind of stumbled upon it. You know, no one from the management of CFI said what we really need is a podcast. We had a junior staffer at the time back in 2005 say, hey, I think this is a great opportunity. Thomas Donelle. You know Thomas. I do. Let’s do a podcast. And he had to do some fast talking to convince all of us. We did it. And, you know, I’m I became the host. And that’s fun. And I’m gratified to say that it is the way that we’re reaching out to people now that the magazines could never reach. And in the past, what year and a half, two years, the majority of new hires at the Center for Inquiry, in other words, people who have become professionalized in the skeptical movement first heard of all of it through point of inquiry. So it’s one, you know, that’s an example of the reach that this new skepticism, the Skepticism 2.0 has that none of us sat down and planned. 

Absolutely. And I think that that’s, as you said, that that’s a perfect example of where, you know, we wouldn’t necessarily have have come across those people just through the magazine or through the skeptical brief newsletter or, you know, from seeing the magazine mentioned, you know, in a interview somewhere. So, you know that it’s, you know, podcasts in general are just a naturally wonderful way to to spread the word out there. 

You have a number of other articles in this special issue that were giving a way, sample copies of hoping that people will subscribe to the magazine and help support the important work, therefore, of the Committee for Skeptical Inquirer. Well, so Jeff Wagh from the James Randi Educational Foundation, he wrote an article for this issue talking about how even if organizational disagreements in the past have haunted skeptic’s groups, well, that that’s the past. It’s pretty much all behind us now. 

Yeah. And there was the I have to say that at the Last Dragon Con, which which is itself and it’s mentioned in Jeff’s piece, which is itself a very important avenue for for spreading skepticism. There was you know, there were some very nice talks between myself and Jeff Wagon and Dan Lawson of that of the skeptics society, just sort of, you know, wishing, you know, hey, but it’s a shame that we’re not making more efforts to to to to get out there. And I mean, not that there hasn’t been. Not that that not that there’s been any recent, you know, different really difficult friction between the major skeptics organizations. But I think that that the Jeff point is well taken, that certainly all the organizations could work a little harder to promote each promote, to promote. You know, that the general good is skepticism. 

And and well, the way I read his piece is that, in fact, we are we’re all kind of on the same team more now than ever. Not just sharing a kind of an epistemological perspective, but we’re also sharing resources to the extent that we’re teaming up on certain projects, were cosponsoring things and were, you know, so at Dragon conference dence, all the organizations were represented. Joe Niccolò and I were there. You were there. Couple years before it. Dragon Con, which just, you know, for our listeners, Dragon Con is one of the largest science fiction and fantasy conventions in the United States. Tens of thousands of people show up in Atlanta every fall for it. And then for the past few years, there’s actually been a skepticism component. So there’s programing going on there, the likes of which have never been able to be promoted, skeptical programing to that audience. So traditionally, you’re a skeptic. You go to a skeptics conference. Now you’re a skeptic. You go to Dragon Con to kind of push skepticism to people who might not know. This is something cool and fun and interesting and valuable to be involved in. 

Exactly. And certainly I would definitely lump, you know, the dragon con in with the future skeptic. I mean, the 2.0. It’s right there. It’s it’s going to places where people are already interested in acting active and in these sorts of things. And as you said, you know, putting on the other perspective and with the case of which case a dragon con, of course, they’re a bit skeptical. Track Reverend Extract basically where. Worry extracting and find tracks, so it was right. 

Well, the X track was originally like the X Files years ago. X Files had its own little subsection of the convention, its own track. And then after X Files went kaput, it became kind of a paranormal track. Right. 

Right. Exactly. And so and so we are one of the benefits was that the people were there to see a lot of the pro paranormal stuff. And and and they noticed, hey, by the way, there are some interesting skeptics over here who are actually making some sense of this. 

Yeah. And and there’s been some good crossover there. 

And I’ve met a number of people who first got involved with the skepticism movement through Dragon Con. So they’re like science fiction geeks and I mean that affectionately. They go to Dragon Khan and they say, wow, there are all these cool, fun skeptics over here. And I’m a skeptic. Didn’t know I was till I bumped into these people. And now they plug into this movement. 

Absolutely. I know. I have to tell you, I am not to be too touchy feely here, but I really do feel like that we are sort of on the cusp of a of a of a new a new age of promoting skepticism and getting getting the word out there. I’m hoping that that, you know, this this issue will be. I mean, I’m not going to go grandiose and faith can be a turning point, but I hope it will be sort of a seed in the right direction. 

And if not a turning point, at least marking it in a very public way that there is this turning point in the movement. Yeah. Right. 

So just a survey. A couple other things before we finish up, Ben. There’s Heidi Anderson’s stuff and the issue on skeptical parenting, which isn’t something that had traditionally, you know, 35 years ago, there wasn’t like rigorous grassroots activism about how to be a skeptical parent or let’s say a parent who advances skepticism for your children as opposed to being skeptical of your children. 

Right. I doubt that that’s really my child. 

Yeah. Yeah, it’s awkward. Switched at birth. Yeah. 

So. So there’s that. What else in this issue should should folks be apprized of. 

Well over there there’s just so much of being Karen Stollznow wrote a great piece on blogging and you know that the ways in which bloggers can contribute and you’ll get the stuff out there. Our own Barry Carr wrote a great piece on on CSI efforts to talk about it, to talk to two young kids. Of course, you know, the organization has been trying to reach and has been successful at reaching young kids and skepticism for many years with our summer camp, camp inquiry, other things like that. 

Absolutely. So, I mean, it’s not like, you know, suddenly we’re thinking, oh, my God, we need to, you know, we need to we need to attract the kids. 

I mean, this is this has been in the works for a while, but it’s really more the new avenues. And Justin Trottier, a great Canadian skeptic, talkative through giving points about how to talk to Generation Y, should be said that he came out of the students kind of skeptical and free thought movement there in Canada. 

One of our CFI affiliated campus groups, and now he is executive director of CFI, is Amazing Branch there in Toronto, in Ontario. 

And so and he Viom, he has his piece in there and as well as Blake Smith wrote a great piece on one Web sites. So, you know, there’s there’s just, you know, Tim being added a nice list of suggested skeptical books for young readers. 

Tim Benga, the head of the libraries at the Center for Inquiry Center for Inquiry, has the largest library of its kind in the world of skepticism and humanism, secularism, American philosophical naturalism, all these allied subjects. So he’s the head of those libraries, but he’s also involved in this Skepticism 2.0 effort. 

Oh, yeah. And yeah, his is just one of many examples in the magazine. 

Mm kay. So, Ben, we’re talking Skepticism 2.0, I should say, before we close that. Many of the folks we just mentioned, many of the folks you featured in this issue and more besides that are going to be part of a conference that we’re putting on is sometime in 2010 here in St. Louis called at least Skepticism 2.0. So it’s not going to be a conference like traditional cycle conferences where it’s the luminaries just kind of giving lectures on their pet topics. But it’s going to be more of a workshop on these Skepticism 2.0 topics. It’s my view that the best podcasts have not been invented yet. The best bloggers haven’t been discovered yet. I share with you this optimism about the future of skepticism. So to finish up, tell me where you think this fut. headed and. So obviously, you know, we’ve had conversations about this off air, you don’t think this is a flash in the pan like, you know, some of our colleagues say, oh, skepticism. It’s you know, it’s it just deals with the trivial stuff. No one believes in the paranormal anymore. And so, obviously, we don’t buy that claim. Were skeptical of that. You think all of this is really headed somewhere? In other words, five years from now. Paint me the picture of worse skepticism is then. 

Well, five years from now, I would hope that there I would see a couple of different goals. One of them would be that there are more self identified skeptics as people who as you as you know, the example you gave was Greater Dragon Con people who sort of said, you know, hey, I like your message. I had never really heard of skepticism or thought of myself as a skeptic, but damn, I’m a skeptic. And so sort of make skepticism cool, cooler than it is, I should say, authority. Very cool, I should say. The second thing would be B would be having more projects that are sort of, I would hope, of joint efforts among the three main organizations. 

Obviously, each organization when you say three main organizations, you mean the three skeptical organizations, not the three main organizations headquartered at the Center for Inquiry. 

Yeah. For example, you know, of course, there’s the giraffe, the James Randi Educational Foundation. There’s the community first couple of inquiry. And of course, there are the Skeptics Society run by Michael Shermer. Now, each of these organizations are independent and as they should be. They all have different, you know, different focuses in some ways. But at the same time, I think that there could be really good opportunities for for helping each other out and through, you know, maybe everybody pitching in to help out a smaller effort or a smaller project, because ultimately, you know, the skepticism is not going away. It’s only going to get stronger. 

And do you think it’s going to get bigger with or without these national organizations? 

I do. I do. 

I think that I think that in some ways the genie is out of a bottle and there are already people who are who are, you know, getting skeptical of all sorts of different things, who’ve never even heard of Thiokol. They’ve never had never seen skeptics acquire a magazine. They’ve never heard of your eye. But there there are people out there who who are definitely of the mindset and they just haven’t been harnessed yet. And I think that that will be one of the great things that will happen in the next five years, 10 years is there will be sort of this growing together and coalescing of a skeptical movement. And, of course, you know, there’s always going to be, you know, pseudoscience in the paranormal. There’s always gonna be interest in UFOs and they put it in. That’s not going away. But I think through the the Internet and in stronger community organizations, the skeptics in the pub stuff. Exactly through through that sort of those sorts of projects, I think skepticism is going to be stronger than ever. Mm hmm. 

Ben, thanks for joining me for this discussion about this special issue. I hope our listeners will avail themselves of the opportunity to get a sample copy is Skeptical Inquirer and also subscribe. It was a fun discussion. Thanks for joining me. 

Well, it’s good to be on. I’m always I’m always glad to be on the Points inquiry. It’s one of my favorite. Great. 

Where can you turn to find others like yourself who appreciate critical thinking, turned to Skeptical Inquirer, the magazine that separates fact from media myth. It’s published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Find out what genuine science has to say about the extraordinary and the unexplained. You’ll be surprised. Subscribed to Skeptical Inquirer today. One year, six challenging issues for nineteen ninety nine. To subscribe, request a sample issue. Just call one 800 six three four one six one zero or visit the point of inquiry website. Point of inquiry dot org. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to get involved with an online conversation about today’s episode regarding Skepticism 2.0. Oh, the things Ben and I talked about. Join us at our online discussion forums at point of inquiry dot org. Views expressed on the show aren’t necessarily CFD views nor the views of its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded from St. Louis, Missouri, Point of Inquiry’s music is composed for us by Emmy Award winning Michael Quailing. Contributors to today’s show included Sarah Jordan and Debbie Goddard. I’m your host, DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.