The Skeptics Society

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Skeptics Society
Skeptic Magazine.png
Formation1992; 30 years ago (1992)
TypeNonprofit
Location
  • Worldwide
Membership
c. 50,000 (magazine circulation)[1]
Executive Director
Michael Shermer
WebsiteOfficial website

The Skeptics Society is a nonprofit,[2][3] member-supported organization devoted to promoting scientific skepticism and resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs. The Skeptics Society was co-founded by Michael Shermer and Pat Linse 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."[4]

History[edit]

In late 1991,[5] the Skeptics Society was co-founded by Michael Shermer and Pat Linse,[6][7] in Los Angeles with the assistance of Kim Ziel Shermer.[8] For the first five years, Shermer and Linse worked on the Skeptics Society out of Shermer's garage.[5][9] The Skeptic Society formed after a scandal forced an earlier group known as the Southern California Skeptics to dissolve.[10][11][5]

In 1996, the Los Angeles Times reported that Shermer, Linse, and Ziel Shermer walked on a bed of hot coals in Altadena, California in a demonstration to show that their ability was due to science rather than the paranormal.[12] By 2000, Shermer stated that the Society's magazine, Skeptic, had a circulation of 40,000.[11] As of 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Society itself had 50,000 members.[9]

Shermer stated as context for the founding of Skeptic Society:[13]

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:[14]

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.[14]

Activities[edit]

Skeptic Magazine[edit]

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[15] and theories of the likelihood of artificial intelligence,[16] to tributes to its role models such as Isaac Asimov[17] and Ernst Mayr.[18] 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.

Junior Skeptic[edit]

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).

Skeptic Research Center[edit]

The Skeptic Research Center (SRC) launched in July 2020 as a way to survey peoples’ attitudes about divisive issues.[19] The results of each survey study are released through a series of brief reports (i.e., digestible single-topic analyses) for free through eSkeptic and on the Skeptic website.  As of November 2021, the SRC has released 19 reports and the center’s work has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, Quillette, and the Manhattan Institute.[20][21][22]

Podcasts[edit]

The Skeptics Society distributes two free podcasts.

  • Skepticality was adopted as the group's official podcast. It is a top-rated audio talk show[23] 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.[24]
Symposium Panel, 2011

Lecture Series[edit]

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.[25][26] The Skeptics Society also sell recordings of the lectures.[27] 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.[28][29]

On 24–26 June 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).[30]

On 29–31 May 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, Carol Tavris, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Michael Shermer, and Donald Prothero.[31][30]

Reading Room[edit]

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.[32]

School curriculum resources[edit]

The Curriculum Resource Center is a free repository of resources for teaching students how to think skeptically.[33]

Editorial board[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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 8 November 2016.
  2. ^ "Non-profit". Propublica. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Non-profit". Guidestar. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  4. ^ "A Brief Introduction". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Shermer, Michael (22 June 2021). "All Our Yesterdays: A Remembrance of Pat Linse". Skeptic (Altadena, CA). 26 (3): 64–71.
  6. ^ Ibold, Hans (13 November 2000). "L.A.'s Own Ghostbuster". Los Angeles Business Journal. 22 (46). Pat Linse, co-founder of the Skeptic Society in Pasadena.
  7. ^ Loxton, Daniel (November 2009). "The Paradoxical Future of Skepticism". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. 33 (6).
  8. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (2008). The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena. Detroit: Visible Ink Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-1-57859-230-2.
  9. ^ a b Wolfe, Alexandra (1 September 2017). "Michael Shermer's Skeptical Eye". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  10. ^ Smith, Scott S. (April 2000). "Schism in the Church of the Left Brain" (PDF). Fate. pp. 36–37. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  11. ^ a b Shermer, Michael (June 2000). "Letter in response to Schism in the Church of the Left Brain" (PDF). Fate. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  12. ^ Morrison, Patt (6 November 1996). "Fighting the peril of silly science". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  13. ^ Shermer, Michael. "A Skeptic Manifesto". Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  14. ^ a b "About Us". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Medieval UFOs?". Skeptic. skeptic.com. 11 (1). 2004.
  16. ^ Skeptic Vol. 12 No. 2 – "Artificial Intelligence". skeptic.com
  17. ^ Skeptic Vol. 1 No. 1 – (Premiere Issue) "Tribute to Isaac Asimov", skeptic.com
  18. ^ Skeptic Vol. 11 No. 4 Ernst Mayr. skeptic.com
  19. ^ "Skeptic Research Center Archives". Skeptic. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  20. ^ Baker, Gerard (3 May 2021). "Opinion | Media Mistrust Won't Inoculate You Against Misinformation". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  21. ^ Reilly, Wilfred. "The Accomplishments of Black Conservative Thought". Quillette.
  22. ^ Kaufmann, Eric (April 2021). "THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACISM IN THE UNITED STATES" (PDF). Manhattan Institute.
  23. ^ "Customer Ratings". iTunes. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  24. ^ "Best Fact Behind Fiction". Parsec Awards. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  25. ^ "Caltech Lecture". The Skeptics Society. 2008. Archived from the original on 24 May 2009. Retrieved 17 May 2008.
  26. ^ "Caltech Lectures". Caltech. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  27. ^ "Order Caltech Lectures". The Skeptics Society. 2008. Retrieved 17 May 2008., skeptic.com
  28. ^ "Origins Conference October 3–4, 2008". Skeptics Society. 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  29. ^ "The truth is out there - and science can prove it". The Age. 21 August 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2008., theage.com.au
  30. ^ a b "Conferences Past". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  31. ^ "Future". New Yorker. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  32. ^ "Reading Room". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  33. ^ "Resource Center". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  34. ^ "Editorial Board". Skeptic Society. Retrieved 31 May 2016.

External links[edit]