The Skeptics Society
|c. 50,000 (magazine circulation)|
The Skeptics Society is a nonprofit, member-supported organization devoted to promoting scientific skepticism and resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs. The Skeptics Society was founded by Michael Shermer as a Los Angeles-area skeptical group to replace the defunct Southern California Skeptics. After the success of its magazine, Skeptic, introduced in early 1992, it became a national and then international organization. The stated mission of Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine "is the investigation of science and pseudoscience controversies, and the promotion of critical thinking."
The Skeptics Society was formed in 1992, it has 50,000 members worldwide. Shermer states as context for the founding of Skeptic Society "The modern skeptical movement is a fairly recent phenomenon dating back to Martin Gardner’s 1952 classic, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Gardner’s copious essays and books over the past four decades debunking all manner of bizarre claims, coupled to James “the Amazing” Randi’s countless psychic challenges and media appearances throughout the 1970s and 1980s (including 36 appearances on The Tonight Show), pushed the skeptical movement to the forefront of public consciousness. The philosopher Paul Kurtz helped create dozens of skeptics groups throughout the United States and abroad, and his Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) inspired me to found the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine,"
Explaining the organization's name, the Society states: "Some people believe that skepticism is the rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse “skeptic” with “cynic” and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas—no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe."
The Skeptics Society is involved in a number of activities. One of its primary activities is the publication of Skeptic magazine. Skeptic is a quarterly magazine available by subscription or on major newsstands in the U.S. and Canada. The magazine examines many fringe science and paranormal claims. Its cover stories have ranged from examination of alleged UFOs in religious icons and theories of the likelihood of artificial intelligence, to tributes to luminaries such as Isaac Asimov and Ernst Mayr. Some editions feature special sections devoted to a particular topic or theme that is examined through multiple articles by different authors, such as intelligent design and alternative medicine. The Skeptics Society also publishes eSkeptic, a weekly email newsletter on skeptical topics. The Skeptics Society hosts a website containing information on skepticism-related topics and provides information to the media about such topics.
Bound into most issues is a 10-page young-readers' section called Junior Skeptic. Heralded by a cover printed on glossy paper (the rest of the magazine is printed on non-glossy stock), Junior Skeptic focuses on one topic, or provides practical instruction written and illustrated in a style more appealing to children. Daniel Loxton is the Editor of Junior Skeptic. He writes and illustrates most issues. The first edition of Junior Skeptic appeared in volume 6, #2 of Skeptic (2000).
The Skeptics Society distributes two free podcasts.
- Skepticality was adopted as the group's official podcast. It is a top-rated audio talk show dedicated to the promotion of critical thinking and science. Each episode is an audio magazine featuring regular segments by contributors who are specialized in specific areas of critical thought followed by featured content which is, usually, in the form of an interview with a researcher, author, or individual who is helping promote skeptical thought and/or science.
- MonsterTalk is the science show about monsters. It is free audio podcast that critically examines the science behind cryptozoological (and legendary) creatures, such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or werewolves. Hosted by Blake Smith and Dr. Karen Stollznow, MonsterTalk interviews the scientists and investigators. It received "The Best Fact Behind Fiction" award in 2012 from the Parsec Awards.
The Skeptics Society sponsors a lecture series at the California Institute of Technology. The Caltech Lecture Series offers speakers on a wide range of topics relating to science, psychology, social issues, religion/atheism, skepticism, etc. Past speakers include Julia Sweeney, Richard Dawkins, Philip Zimbardo, Dinesh D'Souza, Steven Pinker, Carol Tavris, and Sam Harris. The lectures occur on Sunday afternoons, and are open to the public for a nominal fee. The Skeptics Society also sell recordings of the lectures. In addition, the Skeptics Society hosted the "Origins Conference" in October 2008 with Nancey Murphy, Hugh Ross, Leonard Susskind, Sean Carroll, Paul Davies, Stuart Kauffman, Christof Koch, Kenneth R. Miller, Donald Prothero, and Victor J. Stenger. On June 24-26 2011 the organization also hosted the Science Symposium, speakers included: Michael Shermer, James Randi, Bill Nye the Science Guy® and Mr. Deity (Brian Keith Dalton). On May 29–31, 2015 Skeptic Society hosted In the Year 2525: Big Science, Big History, and the Far Future of Humanity. Speakers included: Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Lawrence Krauss, Esther Dyson, John McWhorter, Ian Morris (historian), Carol Tavris, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Michael Shermer, and Donald Prothero.
The Reading Room is a library containing a growing index of articles, reviews and opinion editorials culled from their archives, offering a look into the subjects the Skeptics Society has explored over the years.
School curriculum resources
The Curriculum Resource Center is a free repository of resources for teaching students how to think skeptically.
- Australian Skeptics
- The Skeptic (UK magazine)
- The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, a collection of articles that discuss the Skeptics Society's scientific findings of investigations into popular pseudoscientific and supernatural claims.
- The number 50,000 is based on the circulation of Skeptic magazine, which is probably higher than the Society's actual membership. "Contribution Guidelines". Skeptic. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- "Non-profit". Propublica. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "Non-profit". Guidestar. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "A Brief Introduction". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- Shermer, Michael. "A Skeptic Manifesto". Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- "About Us". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- "Medieval UFOs?". Skeptic. skeptic.com. 11 (1). 2004.
- Skeptic Vol. 12 No. 2 – "Artificial Intelligence". skeptic.com
- Skeptic Vol. 1 No. 1 – (Premiere Issue) "Tribute to Isaac Asimov", skeptic.com
- Skeptic Vol. 11 No. 4 Ernst Mayr. skeptic.com
- "Customer Ratings". iTunes. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "Best Fact Behind Fiction". Parsec Awards. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "Caltech Lecture". The Skeptics Society. 2008. Archived from the original on May 24, 2009. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- "Caltech Lectures". Caltech. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "Order Caltech Lectures". The Skeptics Society. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-17., skeptic.com
- "Origins Conference October 3–4, 2008". Skeptics Society. 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
- "The truth is out there - and science can prove it". The Age. August 21, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-10., theage.com.au
- "Conferences Past". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- "Future". New Yorker. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- "Reading Room". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- "Resource Center". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- "Editorial Board". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 31 May 2016.