Brian Dunning (author)

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Brian Dunning
Brian dunning.jpg
Skeptoid 250th Episode party at UC Irvine, California, 2011
Born 1965 (age 48–49)
Santa Monica, California, USA
Residence Laguna Niguel, California
Nationality American
Education Computer Science, Brigham Young University (1983-84)
Film and Television, UCLA (1985-87)
Fiction Writing, UC Irvine (1988-1992)
Occupation Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Buylink Corporation (1996-2001)
Parents Father: James Dunning
Mother: Tay McClellan

Brian Dunning (born 1965) is an American writer and producer who focuses on skepticism. He has hosted a weekly podcast, Skeptoid, since 2006 and is an author of 5 books on the subject of scientific skepticism. The Skeptoid podcast has been the recipient of several podcast awards including the Parsec Award and Stitcher award.

Both a computer programmer and screenwriter by trade, he co-founded Buylink, a major Silicon Valley corporation that eventually stopped doing business due to the early 2000s recession. Following the collapse of Buylink, Dunning became a major eBay affiliate marketer, earning over $7 million; he has since been accused of making much of this money via wire fraud through a cookie stuffing scheme. In June 2010, Dunning was indicted on charges of wire fraud by a Federal grand jury. On April 15, 2013, Dunning pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a plea agreement with Federal prosecutors.[1][2]

Despite his legal troubles, he remains a major figure in the geek community and skeptic communities. Skeptoid currently attracts 177,000 listeners weekly. Dunning has also created a spin-off video series and has written several books based on the podcast.[3]


Dunning was born in 1965 in Santa Monica, California, USA. Between 1983 and 1984 he studied computer science at Brigham Young University, film and television at UCLA from 1985 to 1987 and then fiction writing at UC Irvine between 1988 and 1992.[citation needed]


In 1996 he co-founded and was chief technology officer for Buylink Corporation[4] which grew by 1999 into the world's largest business-to-business network with 23,000 members transacting over $5 billion annually.[citation needed] Buylink was funded by Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson,[5] and Dunning led its team working with Wells Fargo Bank in the development of the first online payment factoring system, code-named PayLater.[6] In 2000 he lectured on Buylink at the UC Berkeley's Entrepreneur Forum called Bricks to Clicks in the New Internet Reality,[7] and in the same year appeared on CNNfn with Rhonda Schaffler's Maverick of the Morning segment to talk about Buylink.[8]

Between 1997 and 2005 he was technical editor for FileMaker Advisor Magazine,[9] and contributing editor of ISO FileMaker Magazine, 1996–2002,[10] winning one of the FileMaker Excellence Awards at the 2001 FileMaker Developers Conference.[11]


Since 2006 Dunning has hosted and produced Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena, a weekly audio podcast dedicated "to furthering knowledge by blasting away the widespread pseudosciences that infect popular culture, and replacing them with way cooler reality."[12] He is also the author of the book of the same title and a sequel. He produced Here Be Dragons, a free 40 minute video introduction to critical thinking intended for general audiences,[13] and received an award from the Portland Humanist Film Festival for this in November 2011.[14] He was also winner of the 2010 Parsec Award for "Best Fact Behind the Fiction Podcast".[15] In August 2010 he received an award recognizing his contributions in the skeptical field from the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) during its 10th Anniversary Gala.[16]

Dunning also writes articles for,[17] and is an executive producer for the network television pilot The Skeptologists.[18] He is a member of the National Association of Science Writers,[19] and is the "Chancellor" of the non-accredited "Thunderwood College", a parody of unaccredited institutions of higher learning that offer "degrees" in a variety of subjects.[20]

Brian Dunning in the giant hamster wheel at the College of Curiosity in 2012, City Museum, St. Louis MO

Wire fraud case[edit]

In August 2008, eBay filed suit against Dunning and his brother, accusing them of defrauding eBay and eBay affiliates of $5.2 million in a cookie stuffing scheme for their company, Kessler's Flying Circus. In June 2010, based on the same allegations and following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a grand jury indicted Dunning on charges of wire fraud.[21] On his Skeptoid blog, Dunning stated "There are several legal reasons that the lawsuit is improper, and we’ve been fighting it on that basis."[22] On April 15, 2013, in San Jose, CA federal court, as part of a plea agreement, Dunning pleaded guilty to wire fraud.[23] Dunning admitted that he received payments to which he was not entitled, but has "reserved the right to dispute how much of those payments were attributable to the cookie stuffing scheme".[23]

Dunning largely asserts innocence, and noted in a blog post that the case has placed a large psychological toll on him.[3] Despite his troubles, Skeptoid remains popular and he continues to produce new shows weekly as of March 2014.

Skeptoid podcast[edit]

Skeptoid is Dunning's weekly podcast. The show follows an audio essay format, and is dedicated to the critical examination of pseudoscience and the paranormal. In May 2012, Skeptoid became a California state non-profit corporation.[24]

Along with similarly themed Point of Inquiry, Skepticality: The Official Podcast of Skeptic Magazine, and The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, it is a Top-50 program on the iTunes (US) Science & Medicine podcast charts.[25] In December 2011, Skeptoid claimed to have a weekly average of 174,000 downloads.[26]

Each roughly ten-minute Skeptoid episode focuses on a single pop culture phenomenon that is pseudoscientific in nature. Episodes usually fall into one of four categories:

In May 2007, Skeptoid was announced as a qualifying media outlet for the James Randi Educational Foundation's One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge.[27] Applicants to the challenge must have a presence in popular broadcast media in order to qualify.[28] By passing a simple test of their paranormal ability and having it reported on the Skeptoid podcast, applicants can satisfy that primary requirement and then proceed to apply for the Challenge.

Despite his shift away from the technology industry, he continues to do computer programming, and does web development for his Skeptoid website.[29]

Episode 300[edit]

In celebration of the 300th episode of the podcast, Dunning, composer Lee Sanders, singer Rachel Bloom, artist Jesse Horn, director Ryan Johnson and sound mixer Bill Simpkins produced the animated musical short, The Secret of the Gypsy Queen. It is the story of a young girl who challenged the Queen and her rats who sold everyone in the village a uber-scarf which when worn across the eyes blinds the wearer to all unpleasantness. The villagers, once the uber-scarf was removed discovered they had been scammed, and while blind the rats had emptied the homes of food and valuables. The premier was released at the University of California, Irvine March 3, 2012. Entertainment that evening featured comedians Penny Chan and Matt Kirshen. Mentalism by Mark Edward, emceed by Emery Emery.[30]

Skeptoid 300th Episode Party - Brian Dunning, Ryan Johnson, Jesse Horn, Lee Sanders and Bill Simpkins in a Q&A discussing the premier of "The Gypsy Queen"


Skeptoid was a 2009 Podcast Awards finalist in the Education category.[31]

In 2010, Skeptoid won the Parsec Award for "Best Fact Behind the Fiction" podcast.[32]

Skeptoid has been praised for "Outstanding Contribution to Science and Skepticism" by the Independent Investigations Group (IIG)[33]

In 2012, "Skeptoid" was the winner of the Stitcher Award in the Best Science Podcast category.[34]

In the media[edit]

Dunning on the Discovery Channel Weird or What? television shoot, March 17, 2011.
  • January 2014: Was a guest on Episode #441 of the Joe Rogan Experience[35]
  • November 2013: Was guest on The Skeptic Zone[36] Dunning shares that "Australians are by far the most common listeners of show per capita" He also tells that "JFK is granddaddy of all conspiracy theories" and he's not sure how to fit it into 10 minute Skeptoid episode.
  • October 2012, presented "Finding the Missing Cosmonauts" at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.[37]
  • May 2011, Dunning spoke at Authors@Google with a presentation of Sounds From Beyond.[44] When asked if he sees any positive science trends in the media he answered, "No...I think we have a negative trend, in the realm of rationality and reason it is going to continue to slide. And the reason I think we are going to continue to lose ground as far as capturing the hearts and minds of the general public, is because of the Internet and television, its become so easy to reach so many people with a sensational message. People don't have time to listen to ten things a day, they have time to listen to one thing and it is whatever is easiest. Its the front page of CNN or the first five minutes of Oprah, that's where people get their science information."
  • April 2011, Dunning presented "Solving the Missing Cosmonauts" to a room full of high school students whose class had won a science contest to attend, as part of the inaugural Science Symposium at West Virginia University. The talk was also broadcast nationwide to all high school classes who had participated in the contest.[48]
  • December 2010, presented "Sounds from Beyond!" at a free public lecture sponsored by the University of Melbourne Secular Society in Australia.[50] This was followed the next evening with a presentation of "The Virgin of Guadalupe: A Positive Take" at a special dinner event with Rebecca Watson for the Victoria Skeptics in Melbourne, Australia.[51]
  • September 2010, Dunning presented "Solving the Missing Cosmonauts" at Dragon*Con[54]
  • July 2010, At SkeptiCal Conference in Berkeley: lecture on The Virgin of Guadalupe: A Positive Take[55]
  • April 2010, Ohlone College, Psychology Club Speaker Series speaks on Health Scams and Myths[56]
  • October 2008: Dunning presented "Here Be Dragons: Introduction to Critical Thinking" at Manchester University in North Manchester, IN.[59]
  • January 2008: Was a guest on Skeptics Guide to the Universe[60] Dunning announces a casting call for The Skeptologists, we need "...skeptical experts to jump in the Batmobile racing to the center of the woo to work their skeptical magic on whatever the topic is that week".



  1. ^ Laguna Niguel man pleads guilty in 'cookie stuffing' scam against EBay, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2013
  2. ^ Laguna Niguel Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding eBay, FBI, April 18, 2013
  3. ^ a b Edwards, Jim. "eBay, The FBI, Shawn Hogan And Brian Dunning - Business Insider". Business Insider. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Buylink Names Robert Honeycutt to CEO Post; Seasoned Executive to Accelerate Buylink's Expansion". The Free Library. November 1, 2000. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Buylink Closes Series A Venture Capital Funding Led By Hummer Winblad Venture Partners". BNET. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Buylink Launches Financial Services.(Buylink Corp.)(Brief Article)(Statistical Data Included)". High Beam Research. July 1, 2001. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  7. ^ "UC Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum". UC Berkeley. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Brian Dunning on CNNfn, for Buylink Video". CNNfn. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Brian Dunning Software Venture Consultant Technical Editor, FileMaker Advisor magazine". File Maker Addict. December 12, 2005. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Browse Mode With Brian Dunning". FileMaker Magazine. April 10, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Peter Baanen receives FileMaker Pro Excellence Award at FileMaker DevCon 2001.". Troi. August 14, 2001. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Skeptoid: Critical Analysis Podcast". OCLC 461308119. Retrieved December 13, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Here Be Dragons". 2008. OCLC 270775142. 
  14. ^ "Portland Humanist Film Festival". Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  15. ^ 2010 Parsec Awards (archived version).
  16. ^ IIG Awards
  17. ^ " About Brian Dunning". 
  18. ^ "The Skeptologists". 
  19. ^ "National Association of Science Writers". 
  20. ^ "Thunderwood College"
  21. ^ Anderson, Nate (April 18, 2013). How "Kessler’s Flying Circus" cookie-stuffed its way to $5.2M from eBay. ArsTechnica. Retrieved 2013-04-21 
  22. ^ "A Partial Explanation". Skeptoid. October 5, 2011. Retrieved October 8, 2011. 
  23. ^ a b "Laguna Niguel Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding eBay". 18 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  24. ^ About Skeptoid, May 25, 2012
  25. ^ iTunes Science & Medicine Podcasts
  26. ^ About Skeptoid (archived here [1]).
  27. ^ James Randi Educational Foundation
  28. ^ James Randi Educational Foundation Million Dollar Challenge Application
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Skeptoid 300th Episode Party". Skeptoid. 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  31. ^ "2009 People's Choice Winners". Podcast Awards. Archived from the original on 2010-01-06. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  32. ^ "2010 Parsec Awards Winners & Finalists". Parsec Awards. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  33. ^ "Wizzard Media Congratulates Skeptoid Podcast". .NET Developer's Journal. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  34. ^ "Podcast Awards". Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  35. ^ "JRE #441 - BRIAN DUNNING". The Joe Rogan Experience. January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2014. 
  36. ^ "Podcast 265 - November 16, 2013". The Skeptic Zone. November 16, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Brian Dunning, Search for the Missing Cosmonauts". Cal Poly SLO. 2012-10-15. 
  38. ^ "Claremont McKenna College Psychology Club". Facebook. 2012-09-25. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  39. ^ "Your Brain Sucks!". JREF. Retrieved 2012-10-27. 
  40. ^ "College of Curiosity, May 26th 2012, City Museum, St. Louis". 2012-03-05. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  41. ^ "NEC Welcomes Science Writer Brian Dunning". New England College. 2012-03-26. Retrieved May 5, 2012. 
  42. ^ "BIL 2012 - Speakers". BIL Conference. 2012-03-04. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  43. ^ a b "Brian Dunning - IMDb". IMDb. 2008. Retrieved February 9, 2013. 
  44. ^ "Authors@Google: Brian Dunning". YouTube. May 21, 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  45. ^ "Sounds from Beyond!". YouTube. June 2, 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  46. ^ "Brian Dunning: "The Virgin of Guadalupe" - CFI On Campus". Center for Inquiry. 2011-04-15. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  47. ^ "Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism". NECSS. 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  48. ^ "Science & Technology in Society: Effective Communication Strategies - Brian Dunning". West Virginia University. 2011-01-03. Retrieved February 9, 2013. 
  49. ^ "The BIL Conference". BIL. 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  50. ^ "Free public lecture: Brian Dunning and Rebecca Watson". University of Melbourne Secular Society. 2010-11-03. Retrieved February 9, 2013. 
  51. ^ "Special Event, Brian Dunning and Rebecca Watson". Victoria Skeptics. 2010-10-28. Retrieved February 9, 2013. 
  52. ^ "The Amaz!ng Meeting: Invited Speakers". James Randi Educational Foundation. 2010-11-26. Retrieved February 9, 2013. 
  53. ^ "Sceptics, energy fields and busting myths, with's Brian Dunning". ABC. 2010-11-25. Retrieved February 9, 2013. 
  54. ^ a b "Past Guests". Dragon*Con. 2010-09-03. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  55. ^ "SkeptiCal 2010". SkeptiCal. 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  56. ^ "Psychology Club Speaker Series "Health Scams and Myths" An Evening with Brian Dunning". Ohlone College. 2011-06-30. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  57. ^ "26th Chaos Communication Congress". 26C3. 2009. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  58. ^ "The Climate Change Dilemma… and Why People Hate Al Gore". Paul Merage School of Business, UCI. 2009-03-19. Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  59. ^ "Values, Ideas, and the Arts". Manchester College. 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  60. ^ "Podcast 130 - January 16, 2008". SGU. January 16, 2008. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 

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