Australian Skeptics

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Australian Skeptics Inc.
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
Abbreviation AS
Formation 1980
Type Nonprofit organisation
Purpose "Investigating pseudo-science and the paranormal from a responsible scientific viewpoint"
Region served
Mascot of the Australian Skeptics.

The Australian Skeptics is a non-profit organisation based in Australia which investigates paranormal and pseudoscientific claims using scientific methodologies.


The Australian Skeptics were founded in Victoria in 1980, after a visit to Australia by James Randi, who encouraged its establishment based upon the American organisation Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).[1] In 1998 there were approximately 1200 members in Victoria.[2] It grew from a Melbourne-based organisation, founded by Mark Plummer and James Gerrand, to a national one over the following years.

In 1995 the Australian Skeptics received a bequest of at least several hundred thousand dollars from the estate of Stanley David Whalley. With these funds the organisation established the Australian Skeptics Science and Education Foundation tasked to expose "irrational activities and pseudoscience and to encourage critical thinking and the scientific view".[3]

Dick Smith is a founder and a patron of the Australian Skeptics.[4] In July 1980, Smith collaborated with James Randi to test water divining, offering a prize of $40,000 for a successful demonstration.[5][6][7] As of 2007 it has some 2100 members from all Australian states and territories. Each state and territory has its own branch, and most have their own newsletters. Local skeptics' groups are also springing up in Melbourne and Sydney.

The Skeptic[edit]

The journal of the Australian Skeptics is called The Skeptic and has been published since 1981. The first issue, edited by the first President of the Australian Skeptics, Mark Plummer, and produced by founding Secretary, James Gerrand, appeared in January 1981.[8] Three issues appeared in 1981 and it has appeared quarterly since 1982. The Skeptic is used by the media in Australia seeking an alternative view on many of the issues examined by the Australian Skeptics. Since 1987, The Skeptic has been published by Australian Skeptics Inc, in New South Wales. From 1990 to 2008 it was edited by Barry Williams. Karen Stollznow was editor briefly in 2009 until resigning, accusing the organisation of sexism, then president Eran Segev denied the charges.[9] The current editor (as of June 2009) is Tim Mendham.[8]

Internet radio and podcasts[edit]

The Skeptic Tank[edit]

Hosted by Stefan Sojka and Richard Saunders, The Skeptic Tank started as a weekly radio programme on the internet radio station netFM in October 2001.[10] The programme consisted of discussions on skeptical and science related topics, as well as guest interviews. Some regular guests were Peter Bowditch, Richard Lead and Helen Vnuk. The Skeptic Tank stayed on netFM until October 2002.[11]

The Tank Vodcast[edit]

The Skeptic Tank was revived in 2005 as a podcast, and was in 2006 renamed The Tank Podcast. The podcast was produced and hosted by Richard Saunders, with Stefan Sojka as the co-host. The format remained much the same as The Skeptic Tank radio programme, but the podcasting format also made it possible to record segments, or entire episodes, out of the studio.

In 2007 The Tank became a video podcast, and renamed The Tank Vodcast. Reporters for the vodcast include Jayson Cooke, Karen Stollznow, Kylie Sturgess and Michael Wolloghan. Previous guests have included James Randi, Eugenie C. Scott, Phil Plait, Rebecca Watson and Alison Smith from SAPS.[12]

The Skeptic Zone[edit]

The Skeptic Zone.

The Tank Vodcast was, in September 2008, replaced by a new podcast, The Skeptic Zone. Though still hosted by Saunders and Sojka, and featuring members of 'The Tank' Michael Wolloghan and Kylie Sturgess, the podcast featured a new format with clearly defined segments. Episodes usually feature an interview, or several shorter interviews, along with one or more regular segments. The regular segments include:

  • The Think Tank: Relevant skeptical issues are discussed in a less formal manner, at a pub.
  • Maynard's Spooky Action: Maynard interviews pretty much everybody you have ever heard of in the skeptical movement.

Some guests interviewed on The Skeptic Zone are: Stephen Fry, Tim Minchin, Richard Wiseman, Ben Goldacre, Jon Ronson, Benjamin Radford, Steven Novella, Eugenie Scott, Tim Farley and Phil Plait.[13] Though The Skeptic Zone originated with Saunders, long-time member of the Australian Skeptics, occasionally features members of the latter and their views are often aligned, the podcast is formally independent.[14]

Public Action[edit]

In June 2005, members of the creationist group Answers in Genesis – Australia debated a team from the Australian Skeptics online on Margo Kingston's web diary section of the Sydney Morning Herald website.[15]

In response to a large increase in pertussis cases during a 2008/09 outbreak,[16] the organization focused efforts on countering information from Meryl Dorey's Australian Vaccination Network. This included supporting a complaint lodged[17] by a private individual, Ken McLeod, against the organization with the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission[18] and running a national ad (funded by Dick Smith) in The Australian.[19]

Awards and prizes[edit]

Australian Skeptics is offering $100,000 (Australian) for proof of psychic or paranormal powers.[20] $20,000 of it goes to the person who nominates the successful claimant (which may be the same person).

Annually, the Australian Skeptics award several prizes including an essay prize for young writers, the Eureka Prize for Critical Thinking a $10,000 cash award for challenging paranormal beliefs and advancing scientific thinking, Skeptic of the Year, and the Bent Spoon Award.[21][22] The Bent Spoon Award is given "to the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle" - only Australian individuals and groups are eligible for these awards.[23][24][25] The Wilberforce Award has been bestowed upon opponents of evolution who, "through the silly nature of their arguments or actions, have inadvertently done the most to promote evolution as a fact" annually since 2004.[26]

No Answers in Genesis[edit]

No Answers in Genesis[27] is a website affiliated with the Australian Skeptics organisation that provides information to defend the theory of evolution, and, more specifically, counter young Earth creationist arguments put forward by Answers in Genesis. It was founded by Australian atheist and sceptic John Stear, a retired civil servant. The website contains links, essays and other postings that rebut creationist arguments against evolution. Stear states that the site is meant for educational purposes as well as to illustrate the problems with Young Earth Creationism. The site also contains simple introductions to evolutionary concepts. It mainly has posts, on creationism, but now has some essays on "Intelligent design".[28] It has two discussion boards.[29][30]

Prominent members of the Australian Skeptics[edit]

Regional and State Branches[edit]

  • Australian Skeptics Inc
  • Hunter Skeptics - NSW.
  • Australian Skeptics (Vic) Inc
  • Borderline Skeptics - Albury
  • Queensland Skeptics Association Inc.
  • Gold Coastb Skeptics - Qld
  • Canberra Skeptics - ACT
  • Skeptics SA
  • WA Skeptics
  • Australian Skeptics in Tasmania
  • Darwin Skeptics - NT
  • Victoria
  • Gippsland Skeptics
  • Great Ocean Road Skeptics
  • Melbourne Eastern Hills Skeptics in the Pub
  • Melbourne Skeptics in the Pub
  • Mordi Skeptics in the Pub
  • Peninsula Skeptics
  • Tasmania
  • Launceston Skeptics
  • Queensland
  • Brisbane Skeptics


  1. ^ "AUSTRALIAN SKEPTICS" (PDF). The Skeptic (Australian Skeptics) 1 (1): 4. January 1981. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Farouque, Farah (2 July 1998). "The evidence is out there". Living. The Age (Victoria, Australia). Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Column 8". The Sydney Morning Herald (Melbourne). 31 May 1995. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Williams, Barry (12 August 1987). "It's fun to shoot down UFOs and con men". Northern Herald. The Sydney Morning Herald (Melbourne). 
  5. ^ Randi, James. "Australian Skeptics Divining Test". Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  6. ^ Money, Lawrence (27 October 2012). "Psychic buster sees some unbelievable times ahead". The Age (Victoria, Australia). Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  7. ^ Clews, Colin (19 May 2001). "Going with the flow". The Sydney Morning Herald (Melbourne). Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "Brief History of the Skeptic". June 2009. Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  9. ^ Nicholls, Sean; Dunn, Emily (30 June 2009). "The Diary: Skeptics fight defies belief". News and Features. The Sydney Morning Herald (Melbourne). Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  10. ^ Saunders, Richard (2001). "Take an Internet Dip in The Skeptic Tank" (PDF). The Skeptic 11 (4): 65. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2008. 
  11. ^ "The Tank - Skeptics on the radio". 
  12. ^ "The Tank Vodcast". 
  13. ^ "The Skeptic Zone Podcast". 
  14. ^ "Skeptically Challenged 2014/08/15 Richard Saunders". Skeptically Challenged. 15 August 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014. (15:51)
  15. ^ "Creation / Evolution Debate". Archived from the original on 29 August 2008. 
  16. ^ "Pertussis in Australia". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Department of Health and Human Services. 17 April 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  17. ^ Hall, Louise (16 August 2009). "Vaccine fear campaign investigated". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  18. ^ McLeod, Ken (14 July 2009). "Complaint Pursuant to the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 that the "Australian Vaccination Network" is Providing a Health Service That Endangers Public Health" (PDF). Retrieved 28 August 2009. 
  19. ^ Brunero, Tim (6 August 2009). "Dick Smith pushes immunisation". Macquarie National News. 
  20. ^ Robson, Lou (3 July 2008). "Witches brave the fires of scepticism". Green Guide. The Age (Victoria, Australia). 
  21. ^ Kelly, Alice (23 July 2004). "Medical wisdom bitten by proof of spider's innocence". The Newcastle Herald (Melbourne). Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  22. ^ Smith, Bridie (3 December 2012). "Skeptics confer spoon accolade". The Age (Victoria, Australia). Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  23. ^ "Australian Skeptics Awards 2007". The Science Show. transcript. 1 December 2007. ABC Radio National. 
  24. ^ Dayton, Leigh (29 November 2006). "Bad slot for mumbo jumbo". Science & Nature. The Australian. Archived from the original on 9 December 2006. 
  25. ^ "Mortal, pestle and bent spoon". Cirrus Media. 30 November 2006. Archived from the original on 8 September 2007. 
  26. ^ Macey, Richard (13 February 2004). "Celebration of Darwin is not for all". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  27. ^ "No Answers in Genesis!". 
  28. ^ "Intelligent Design". 
  29. ^ "Welcome to the Discussion Board of No Answers in Genesis". 
  30. ^ "Andrew's Discussion Forum". 
  31. ^ Gerrand, Peter; Gerrand, Rob (10 January 2013). "Humanist whose work saved lives". News. The Age (Victoria, Australia). Retrieved 22 December 2013. 

External links[edit]