Skeptical movement

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The skeptical movement (British spelling: sceptical movement) is a modern social movement based on the idea of scientific skepticism (also called rational skepticism). Scientific skepticism involves the application of skeptical philosophy, critical-thinking skills, and knowledge of science and its methods to empirical claims, while remaining agnostic or neutral to non-empirical claims[ definition needed ] (except those that directly impact the practice of science). [1] The movement has the goal of investigating claims made on fringe topics and determining whether they are supported by empirical research and are reproducible, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge". [2] The process followed is sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry. [3]

Social movement type of group action

A social movement is a type of group action. There is no single consensus definition of a social movement. They are large, sometimes informal, groupings of individuals or organizations which focus on specific political or social issues. In other words, they carry out, resist, or undo a social change. They provide a way of social change from the bottom within nations.

Skepticism or scepticism is generally a questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief or dogma. It is often directed at domains, such as the supernatural, morality, theism, or knowledge. Formally, skepticism as a topic occurs in the context of philosophy, particularly epistemology, although it can be applied to any topic such as politics, religion, and pseudoscience.

Philosophy Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?


Roots of the movement date at least from the 19th century, when people started publicly raising questions regarding the unquestioned acceptance of claims about spiritism, of various widely-held superstitions, and of pseudoscience. [4] [5] Publications such as those of the Dutch Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (1881) also targeted medical quackery.

Spiritism Religious movement started in the 19th century by Allan Kardec

Spiritism is a spiritualistic philosophy and religious movement started in the 19th century by the French educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, who, under the pen name Allan Kardec, wrote books on "the nature, origin, and destiny of spirits, and their relation with the corporeal world". Spiritists refer to Kardec as the religion's codifier.

Superstition belief or practice that is considered irrational or supernatural

Superstition is any belief or practice that is considered irrational or supernatural: for example, if it arises from ignorance, a misunderstanding of science or causality, a positive belief in fate or magic, or fear of that which is unknown. It is commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy, and certain spiritual beings, particularly the belief that future events can be foretold by specific (apparently) unrelated prior events. The word superstition is often used to refer to a religion not practiced by the majority of a given society regardless of whether the prevailing religion contains alleged superstitions.

Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that are claimed to be both scientific and factual, but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or unfalsifiable claims; reliance on confirmation bias rather than rigorous attempts at refutation; lack of openness to evaluation by other experts; and absence of systematic practices when developing theories, and continued adherence long after they have been experimentally discredited. The term pseudoscience is considered pejorative because it suggests something is being presented as science inaccurately or even deceptively. Those described as practicing or advocating pseudoscience often dispute the characterization.

Using as a template the Belgian organization founded in 1949, Comité Para, Americans Paul Kurtz and Marcello Truzzi founded the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), in Amherst, New York in 1976. Now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), this organization has inspired others to form similar groups worldwide. [6]

Comité Para organization

The Comité Para, in full Comité belge pour l'Analyse Critique des parasciences, is a Francophone Belgian skeptical non-profit organisation. Founded in 1949, the Comité Para regards itself as the originator of the modern skeptical movement. The group's motto is Ne rien nier a priori, ne rien affirmer sans preuve.

Paul Kurtz American professor of philosophy

Paul Kurtz was a prominent American scientific skeptic and secular humanist. He has been called "the father of secular humanism". He was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having previously also taught at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for Social Research.

Marcello Truzzi

Marcello Truzzi was a professor of sociology at New College of Florida and later at Eastern Michigan University, founding co-chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), a founder of the Society for Scientific Exploration, and director for the Center for Scientific Anomalies Research.

Scientific skepticism

Scientific skepticism or rational skepticism (also spelled scepticism), sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry, is an epistemological position in which one questions the veracity of claims lacking empirical evidence. In practice, the term is most commonly applied to the examination of claims and theories that appear to be beyond mainstream science, rather than to the routine discussions and challenges among scientists. Scientific skepticism is different from philosophical skepticism, which questions humans' ability to claim any knowledge about the nature of the world and how they perceive it. Methodological skepticism, a systematic process of being skeptical about (or doubting) the truth of one's beliefs, is similar but distinct. [7]

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Empirical evidence Knowledge acquired by means of the senses

Empirical evidence is the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation. The term comes from the Greek word for experience, ἐμπειρία (empeiría).

Philosophical skepticism is a philosophical school of thought that questions the possibility of certainty in knowledge. Skeptic philosophers from different historical periods adopted different principles and arguments, but their ideology can be generalized as either (1) the denial of possibility of all knowledge or (2) the suspension of judgement due to the inadequacy of evidence.

The New Skepticism described by Paul Kurtz is scientific skepticism. [8] For example, Robert K. Merton asserts that all ideas must be tested and are subject to rigorous, structured community scrutiny (as described in Mertonian norms). [7]

Robert K. Merton American sociologist

Robert King Merton was an American sociologist. He spent most of his career teaching at Columbia University, where he attained the rank of University Professor. In 1994 he was awarded the National Medal of Science for his contributions to the field and for having founded the sociology of science. He is considered a founding father of modern sociology while also gaining a status for the work he contributed to criminology.

In 1942, Robert K. Merton introduced "four sets of institutional imperatives taken to comprise the ethos of modern science... communism, universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism." The subsequent portion of his book, The Sociology of Science, elaborated on these principles at "the heart of the Mertonian paradigm—the powerful juxtaposition of the normative structure of science with its institutionally distinctive reward system".

An important difference to classical skepticism, according to religious history professor Olav Hammer, is that it is not directly aligned with classical pyrrhonian scepticism, which would question all sort of orthodox wisdom, as well as the one established by modern science. According to Hammer, "the intellectual forebears of the modern skeptical movement are rather to be found among the many writers throughout history who have argued against beliefs they did not share." [6]

Olav Hammer is a Swedish professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense working in the field of history of religion.

The following are quotations related to scientific skepticism:

Briefly stated, a skeptic is one who is willing to question any claim to truth, asking for clarity in definition, consistency in logic, and adequacy of evidence. The use of skepticism is thus an essential part of objective scientific inquiry and the search for reliable knowledge.

Paul Kurtz in The New Skepticism , 1992, p. 9

What skeptical thinking boils down to is the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and, especially important, to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument. The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premises or starting point and whether that premise is true.

Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World , 1995, p. 197

Science is [...] a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.

Carl Sagan [9]

Scientific skepticism (is) the practice or project of studying paranormal and pseudoscientific claims through the lens of science and critical scholarship, and then sharing the results with the public.

A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.

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.

The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It's the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.

With regard to the skeptical social movement, Loxton refers to other movements already promoting "humanism, atheism, rationalism, science education and even critical thinking" before. [14] He saw the demand for the new movement—a movement of people called "skeptics" — being based on a lack of interest by the scientific community to address paranormal and fringe science claims. In line with Kendrick Frazier, he describes the movement as a surrogate in that area for institutional science. The movement set up a distinct field of study, and provided an organizational structure, while long-standing genre of individual skeptical activities lacked such a community and background. [14] Skeptical organizations typically tend to have science education and promotion among their goals. [15] [16]


Scientific skeptics maintain that empirical investigation of reality leads to the most reliable empirical knowledge, and that the scientific method is best suited to this purpose. [17] Scientific skeptics attempt to evaluate claims based on verifiability and falsifiability and discourage accepting claims on faith or anecdotal evidence. Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand on a priori grounds—rather they argue that claims of paranormal or anomalous phenomena should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity. [17] From a scientific point of view, theories are judged on many criteria, such as falsifiability, [17] Occam's Razor, [18] Morgan's Canon [19] and explanatory power, as well as the degree to which their predictions match experimental results. [17] Skepticism in general may be deemed part of the scientific method; for instance an experimental result is not regarded as established until it can be shown to be repeatable independently. [20]

The skeptic spectrum has been characterized as divided into "wet" and "dry" sceptics, primarily based on the level of engagement with those promoting claims that appear to be pseudoscience; the dry skeptics preferring to debunk and ridicule, in order to avoid giving attention and thus credence to the promoters, and the "wet" skeptics, preferring slower and more considered engagement, in order to avoid appearing sloppy and ill-considered and thus similar to the groups all skeptics opposed. [6] :389

Ron Lindsay has argued that while some of the claims appear to be harmless or "soft targets," it is important to continue to address them and the underlying habits of thought that lead to them so that we do not "have a lot more people believing that 9/11 was an inside job, that climate change is a hoax, that our government is controlled by aliens, and so forth -- and those beliefs are far from harmless." [21]

The movement has had issues with allegations of sexism. The disparity between women and men in the movement was raised in a 1985 skeptic newsletter by Mary Coulman. [22] :112 The skeptic movement has generally been made up of men; at a 1987 conference the members there discussed the fact that the attendees were predominantly older white men and a 1991 listing of 50 CSICOP fellows included four women. [22] :109 Following a 2011 conference, Rebecca Watson, a prominent skeptic, [23] :57 raised issues of the way female skeptics are targeted with online harassment including threats of sexual violence by opponents of the movement, and also raised issues of sexism within the movement itself. While she received some support in response to her discussion of sexism within the movement, she later became a target of virulent online harassment, even from fellow skeptics, after posting an online video that equated a man showing interest in her with misogyny. This became known as "Elevatorgate", based on Watson's discussion about being propositioned in a hotel elevator in the early morning after a skeptic event. [24] [25] [26]

Debunking and rational inquiry

The term "debunk" is used to describe efforts by skeptics to expose or discredit claims believed to be false, exaggerated, or pretentious. It is closely associated with skeptical investigation or rational inquiry of controversial topics (compare list of topics characterized as pseudoscience) such as U.F.O.s, claimed paranormal phenomena, cryptids, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, religion, or exploratory or fringe areas of scientific or pseudoscientific research. [27]

Further topics that scientifically skeptical literature questions include health claims surrounding certain foods, procedures, and alternative medicines; the plausibility and existence of supernatural abilities (e.g. tarot reading) or entities (e.g. poltergeists, angels, gods—including Zeus); the monsters of cryptozoology (e.g. the Loch Ness monster); as well as creationism/intelligent design, dowsing, conspiracy theories, and other claims the skeptic sees as unlikely to be true on scientific grounds. [28] [29]

Skeptics such as James Randi have become famous for debunking claims related to some of these. Paranormal investigator Joe Nickell cautions, however, that "debunkers" must be careful to engage paranormal claims seriously and without bias. He explains that open minded investigation is more likely to teach and change minds than debunking. [30] [31]

A striking characteristic of the skeptical movement is the fact that while most of the phenomena covered, such as astrology and homeopathy, have been debunked again and again, they stay popular. [6] Frazier reemphasized in 2018 that "[w]e need independent, evidence-based, science-based critical investigation and inquiry now more than perhaps at any other time in our history." [32]

The scientific skepticism community has traditionally been focused on what people believe rather than why they believe—there might be psychological, cognitive or instinctive reasons for belief when there is little evidence for such beliefs. [33] According to Hammer, the bulk of the skeptical movement's literature works on an implicit model, that belief in the irrational is being based on scientific illiteracy or cognitive illusions. He points to the skeptical discussion about astrology: The skeptical notion of astrology as a "failed hypothesis" fails to address basic anthropological assumptions about astrology as a form of ritualized divination. While the anthropological approach attempts to explain the activities of astrologers and their clients, the skeptical movement's interest in the cultural aspects of such beliefs is muted. [6]

According to sociologist David J. Hess, the skeptical discourse tends to set science and the skeptical project apart from the social and the economic. From this perspective, he argues that skepticism takes on some aspects of a sacred discourse, as in Emile Durkheim's Elementary Forms of the Religious Life —Science, seen as pure and sacred (motivated by values of the mind and reason), is set apart from popular dealings with the paranormal, seen as profane (permeated by the economic and the social); obscuring the confrontation between science and religion. [34] Hess states as well a strong tendency in othering: both skeptics and their opponents see the other as being driven by materialistic philosophy and material gain and assume themselves to have purer motives. [34]

Perceived dangers of pseudoscience

While not all pseudoscientific beliefs are necessarily dangerous, some can potentially be harmful. [6] Plato believed that to release others from ignorance despite their initial resistance is a great and noble thing. [35] Modern skeptical writers address this question in a variety of ways. Bertrand Russell argued that some individual actions based on beliefs for which there is no evidence of efficacy, can result in destructive actions. [36] James Randi often writes on the issue of fraud by psychics and faith healers. [37] Unqualified medical practice and alternative medicine can result in serious injury and death. [38] [39] Skeptical activist Tim Farley, who aims to create catalogue of harmful pseudoscientific practices and cases of damage caused by them, estimates documented number of killed or injured to be more than 600.000. [40] Richard Dawkins points to religion as a source of violence (notably in The God Delusion ), and considers creationism a threat to biology. [41] [42] Some skeptics, such as the members of The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast, oppose certain new religious movements because of their cult-like behaviors. [43]

Leo Igwe, Junior Fellow at the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies [44] and past Research Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), [45] [46] wrote A Manifesto for a Skeptical Africa, [47] which received endorsements from multiple public activists in Africa, as well as skeptical endorsers around the world. [47] He is a Nigerian human rights advocate and campaigner against the impacts of child witchcraft accusations. Igwe came into conflict with high-profile witchcraft believers, leading to attacks on himself and his family. [48] [49]

In 2018, Amardeo Sarma provided some perspective on the state of the skeptical movement by addressing "the essence of contemporary skepticism and [highlighting] the vital nonpartisan and science-based role of skeptics in preventing deception and harm." He emphasized the dangers of pseudoscience as a reason for prioritizing skeptical work. [50]


Richard Cameron Wilson, in an article in New Statesman , wrote that "the bogus sceptic is, in reality, a disguised dogmatist, made all the more dangerous for his success in appropriating the mantle of the unbiased and open-minded inquirer". Some advocates of discredited intellectual positions (such as AIDS denial, Holocaust denial and climate change denial) engage in pseudoskeptical behavior when they characterize themselves as "skeptics". This is despite their cherry picking of evidence that conforms to a pre-existing belief. [51] According to Wilson, who highlights the phenomenon in his 2008 book Don't Get Fooled Again, the characteristic feature of false skepticism is that it "centres not on an impartial search for the truth, but on the defence of a preconceived ideological position". [52]

Scientific skepticism is itself sometimes criticized on this ground. The term pseudoskepticism has found occasional use in controversial fields where opposition from scientific skeptics is strong. For example, in 1994, Susan Blackmore, a parapsychologist who became more skeptical and eventually became a Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) fellow in 1991, described what she termed the "worst kind of pseudoskepticism":

There are some members of the skeptics' groups who clearly believe they know the right answer prior to inquiry. They appear not to be interested in weighing alternatives, investigating strange claims, or trying out psychic experiences or altered states for themselves (heaven forbid!), but only in promoting their own particular belief structure and cohesion ... [53]

Commenting on the labels "dogmatic" and "pathological" that the "Association for Skeptical Investigation" [54] puts on critics of paranormal investigations, Bob Carroll of the Skeptic's Dictionary [55] argues that that association "is a group of pseudo-skeptical paranormal investigators and supporters who do not appreciate criticism of paranormal studies by truly genuine skeptics and critical thinkers. The only skepticism this group promotes is skepticism of critics and [their] criticisms of paranormal studies." [56]


Historical roots

According to skeptic author Daniel Loxton, "skepticism is a story without a beginning or an end." His article Why Is There a Skeptical Movement claims a history of two millennia of paranormal skepticism. [57] He is of the opinion that the practice, problems, and central concepts extend all the way to antiquity and refers to a debunking tale as told in some versions of the Old Testament, where the Prophet Daniel exposes a tale of a "living" statue as a scam. [58] According to Loxton, throughout history, there are further examples of individuals practicing critical inquiry and writing books or performing publicly against particular frauds and popular superstitions, including people like Lucian of Samosata (2nd century), Michel de Montaigne (16th century), Thomas Ady and Thomas Browne (17th century), Antoine Lavoisier and Benjamin Franklin (18th century), many different philosophers, scientists and magicians throughout the 19th and early 20th century up until and after Harry Houdini. However, skeptics banding together in societies that research the paranormal and fringe science is a modern phenomenon. [57]

Daniel Loxton mentions the Belgian Comité Para (1949) as the oldest "broad mandate" skeptical organization. [57] Although it was preceded by the Dutch Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (VtdK) (1881), which is therefore considered the oldest skeptical organization by others, [59] [60] the VtdK only focuses on fighting quackery, and thus has a 'narrow mandate'. The Comité Para was partly formed as a response to a predatory industry of bogus psychics who were exploiting the grieving relatives of people who had gone missing during the Second World War. [57] In contrast, Michael Shermer traces the origins of the modern scientific skeptical movement to Martin Gardner's 1952 book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science . [61]

In 1968, the French Association for Scientific Information (AFIS) was founded. AFIS strives to promote science against those who deny its cultural value, abuse it for criminal purposes or as a cover for quackery. According to AFIS, science itself cannot solve humanity's problems, nor can one solve them without using the scientific method. It maintains that people should be informed about scientific and technical advancements and the problems it helps to solve. Its magazine, Science et pseudo-sciences, attempts to distribute scientific information in a language that everyone can understand. [62]

CSICOP and contemporary skepticism

Influential North American skeptics: Ray Hyman, Paul Kurtz, James Randi and Kendrick Frazier Ken-RayPaulRandiKen photo at TAM8.jpg
Influential North American skeptics: Ray Hyman, Paul Kurtz, James Randi and Kendrick Frazier

In 1976, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) since November 2006, was founded in the United States. Some see this as the "birth of modern skepticism", [63] however, founder Paul Kurtz actually modeled it after the Comité Para, including its name. [57] Kurtz' motive was being "dismayed ... by the rising tide of belief in the paranormal and the lack of adequate scientific examinations of these claims." [64]

Kurtz was an atheist and had also founded the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. While he saw both aspects as being covered in the skeptical movement, he had recommended CSICOP to focus on paranormal and pseudoscientific claims and to leave religious aspects to others. [65] Despite not being the oldest, CSICOP was "the first successful, broad-mandate North American skeptical organization of the contemporary period", [66] popularized the usage of the terms "skeptic", "skeptical" and "skepticism" by its magazine, Skeptical Inquirer , [67] and directly inspired the foundation of many other skeptical organizations throughout the world, especially in Europe. [68]

These included Australian Skeptics (1980), Vetenskap och Folkbildning (Sweden, 1982), New Zealand Skeptics (1986), GWUP (Austria, Germany and Switzerland, 1987), Skepsis r.y. (Finland, 1987), Stichting Skepsis (Netherlands, 1987), CICAP (Italy, 1989) and SKEPP (Dutch-speaking Belgium, 1990).

Besides scientists such as astronomers, stage magicians like James Randi were important in investigating charlatans and exposing their trickery. In 1996 Randi formed the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and created the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, where anyone who could demonstrate paranormal abilities, under mutually agreed-upon controlled circumstances, could claim the prize. After Randi's retirement in 2015, the Paranormal Challenge was officially terminated by the JREF with the prize unclaimed:

Effective 9/1/2015 the JREF has made major changes including converting to a grant making foundation and no longer accepting applications for the Million Dollar Prize from the general public. [69]

Other influential second-generation American organizations were The Skeptics Society (founded in 1992 by Michael Shermer), the New England Skeptical Society (originating in 1996) and the Independent Investigations Group (formed in 2000 by James Underdown).

After 1989

After the Revolutions of 1989, Eastern Europe saw a surge in quackery and paranormal beliefs that were no longer restrained by the generally secular Communist regimes or the Iron curtain and its information barriers. The foundation of many new skeptical organizations was as well intending to protect consumers. [70] These included the Czech Skeptics' Club Sisyfos (1995), [71] the Hungarian Skeptic Society (2006), the Polish Sceptics Club (2010) [72] and the Russian-speaking Skeptic Society (2013). [73] The Austrian Skeptical Society in Vienna (founded in 2002) deals with issues such as Johann Grander's "vitalized water" and the use of dowsing at the Austrian Parliament. [74]

The European Skeptics Congress (ESC) has been held throughout Europe since 1989, from 1994 onwards co-ordinated by the European Council of Skeptical Organizations. [75] In the United States, The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) hosted by the JREF in Las Vegas had been the most important skeptical conference since 2003, with two spin-off conferences in London, UK (2009 and 2010) and one in Sydney, Australia (2010). Since 2010, the Merseyside Skeptics Society and Greater Manchester Skeptics jointly organized Question, Explore, Discover (QED) in Manchester, UK. World Skeptics Congresses have been held so far, namely in Buffalo, New York (1996), Heidelberg, Germany (1998), Sydney, Australia (2000), Burbank, California (2002), Abano Terme, Italy (2004) and Berlin, Germany (2012). [75] [76]

In 1991, the Center for Inquiry, a US think-tank, brought the CSICOP [77] and the Council for Secular Humanism [78] (CSH) under one umbrella. In January 2016, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science announced its merger with the Center for Inquiry. [79]

Notable skeptical projects

Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia

Susan Gerbic of GSoW and four other CSI fellows in 2018: (left to right: Kendrick Frazier, Ben Radford, Mark Boslough, and Dave Thomas) Five Fellows CSI 2018.jpg
Susan Gerbic of GSoW and four other CSI fellows in 2018: (left to right: Kendrick Frazier, Ben Radford, Mark Boslough, and Dave Thomas)

In 2010, as a form of skeptical outreach to the general population, Susan Gerbic launched the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) project to improve skeptical content on Wikipedia. [80] In 2017, Gerbic (who was made a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in 2018) [81] and her GSoW team received an award from the James Randi Educational Foundation which "is given to the person or organization that best represents the spirit of the foundation by encouraging critical questions and seeking unbiased, fact-based answers. We are pleased to recognize Susan's efforts to enlist and train a team of editors who continually improve Wikipedia as a public resource for rationality and scientific thought." [82]

In July 2018, Wired reported that the GSoW team had grown to more than 120 volunteer editors from around the world, and they were collectively responsible for creating or improving some of Wikipedia's most heavily trafficked articles on skeptical topics. As of July 2018, GSoW had created or completely rewritten more than 630 Wikipedia articles in many languages, which together have accumulated over 28 million page visits. [83]

Notable skeptical media



Television programs


See also

Related Research Articles

James Randi Canadian-American stage magician and scientific skeptic

James Randi is a Canadian-American retired stage magician and a scientific skeptic who has extensively challenged paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Randi is the co-founder of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), originally known as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). He is also the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). He began his career as a magician under the stage name The Amazing Randi and later chose to devote most of his time to investigating paranormal, occult, and supernatural claims, which he collectively calls "woo-woo". Randi retired from practicing magic at age 60, and from the JREF at 87.

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is an American grant-making foundation. It was started as an American non-profit organization founded in 1996 by magician and skeptic James Randi. The JREF's mission includes educating the public and the media on the dangers of accepting unproven claims, and to support research into paranormal claims in controlled scientific experimental conditions. In September 2015, the organization said it would change to a grant-making foundation.

Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), formerly known as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), is a program within the transnational American non-profit educational organization Center for Inquiry (CFI), which seeks to "promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims." Paul Kurtz proposed the establishment of CSICOP in 1976 as an independent non-profit organization, to counter what he regarded as an uncritical acceptance of, and support for, paranormal claims by both the media and society in general. Its philosophical position is one of scientific skepticism. CSI's fellows have included notable scientists, Nobel laureates, philosophers, psychologists, educators and authors. It is headquartered in Amherst, New York.

Skeptical Inquirer is a bimonthly American general-audience magazine published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) with the subtitle: The Magazine for Science and Reason. In 2016 it celebrated its fortieth anniversary. For most of its existence, the Skeptical Inquirer (SI) was published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, widely known by its acronym CSICOP. In 2006 the CSICOP Executive Council shortened CSICOP's name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and broadened its mission statement.

A debunker is a person or organization to expose or discredit claims believed to be false, exaggerated, or pretentious. The term is often associated with skeptical investigation of controversial topics such as UFOs, claimed paranormal phenomena, cryptids, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, religion, or exploratory or fringe areas of scientific or pseudoscientific research.

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."

<i>Skeptic</i> (U.S. magazine) a quarterly science education and science advocacy magazine

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Kendrick Frazier Science writer

Kendrick Crosby Frazier is a science writer and longtime editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. He is also a former editor of Science News, author or editor of ten books, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is a fellow and a member of the executive council of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), an international organization which promotes scientific inquiry.

The Amazing Meeting

The Amazing Meeting (TAM), stylized as The Amaz!ng Meeting, was an annual conference that focused on science, skepticism, and critical thinking. The conference started in 2003 and was sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). Perennial speakers included Penn & Teller, Phil Plait, Michael Shermer and James "The Amazing" Randi. Speakers at the four-day conference were selected from a variety of disciplines including scientific educators, magicians, and community activists. Outside the plenary sessions the conference included workshops, additional panel discussions, music and magic performances and live taping of podcasts including The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. The final Amazing Meeting was held in July 2015.

<i>Flim-Flam!</i> book by James Randi

Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions is a 1980 book by magician and skeptic James Randi about paranormal, occult, and pseudoscience claims. The foreword is by science fiction author Isaac Asimov. Randi explores topics which he says that scientists and the media are too willing to promote without skepticism and proper expertise.

Barry Beyerstein Canadian psychologist and scientific skeptic

Barry L Beyerstein was a scientific skeptic and professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. Beyerstein's research explored brain mechanisms of perception and consciousness, the effects of drugs on the brain and mind, sense of smell and its lesser-known contributions to human cognition and emotion. He was founder and chair of the BC Skeptics Society. A Fellow and member of the Executive Council of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Associate editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine Journal as well as a contributor to Skeptical Inquirer. Beyerstein was one of the original faculty of CSICOP's Skeptic's Toolbox. Beyerstein was a co-founder of the Canadians for Rational Health Policy and a member of the Advisory Board of the Drug Policy Foundation of Washington D.C. He was a founding board member of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy and contributed to the International Journal of Drug Policy. According to long-time friend James Alcock, Beyerstein once addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health during discussions leading up to the passage of the Controlled Substances Act". Along with his brother Dale, Barry was active "in the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association".

D. J. Grothe American writer

Douglas James "D. J." Grothe is an American writer and public speaker who talks about issues at the nexus of science, critical thinking, secularism, religion and the paranormal. As an active skeptic, he has served in leadership roles for both the Center for Inquiry (CFI) and the James Randi Educational Foundation. While he was at CFI, he hosted their Point of Inquiry podcast. After leaving Point of Inquiry he hosted the radio show and podcast For Good Reason. He is particularly interested in the psychology of belief and the steps involved in deception and self-deception. His writing has been published by both Skeptical Inquirer magazine and The Huffington Post. He also co-edited On the Beauty of Science, about the worldview and life's work of Nobel Laureate Herbert Hauptman.

Kylie Sturgess Educator, sceptic, Podcaster

Kylie Sturgess is a past President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, an award-winning blogger, author and independent podcast host of The Token Skeptic Podcast. A Philosophy and Religious Education teacher with over ten years experience in education, Sturgess has lectured on teaching critical thinking, feminism, new media and anomalistic beliefs worldwide. She is a Member of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) Education Advisory Panel and regularly writes editorial for numerous publications, and has spoken at The Amazing Meeting Las Vegas, Dragon*Con (US), QED Con (UK). She was a presenter and Master of Ceremonies for the 2010 Global Atheist Convention and returned to the role in 2012. Her most recent book The Scope of Skepticism was released in 2012. She is a presenter at Perth's community radio station RTRFM, and a winner at the 2018 CBAA Community Radio Awards in the category of Talks, with the show Talk the Talk

Leo Igwe Nigerian human rights activist

Leo Igwe is a Nigerian human rights advocate and humanist. Igwe is a former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and has specialized in campaigning against and documenting the impacts of child witchcraft accusations. He holds a Ph.D from the Bayreuth International School of African Studies at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, having earned a graduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Calabar in Nigeria. Igwe's human rights advocacy has brought him into conflict with high-profile witchcraft believers, such as Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, because of his criticism of what he describes as their role in the violence and child abandonment that sometimes result from accusations of witchcraft. His human rights fieldwork has led to his arrest on several occasions in Nigeria. Igwe has held leadership roles in the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Atheist Alliance International, and the Center For Inquiry—Nigeria. In 2012, Igwe was appointed as a research fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation, where he continues working toward the goal of responding to what he sees as the deleterious effects of superstition, advancing skepticism throughout Africa and around the world. In 2014, Igwe was chosen as a laureate of the International Academy of Humanism and in 2017 received the Distinguished Services to Humanism Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Sharon A. Hill American scientist

Sharon A. Hill is a science writer and speaker known for her research into the interaction between science and the public, with a focus on education and media topics. Hill's research has dealt particularly with topics of the paranormal, pseudoscience, and anomalous natural phenomena, and began at the University at Buffalo, where she performed her graduate work in this area. Hill attended Pennsylvania State University, earning her B.S. degree in Geosciences, and works as a geologist in Pennsylvania.

Susan Gerbic American skeptical activist

Susan Marie Gerbic is an American skeptical activist living in Salinas, California. Gerbic is the co-founder of Monterey County Skeptics, founder and leader of the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) project, a regular contributor to Skeptical Inquirer, and a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Gerbic has focused much of her skeptical activism on people claiming to be clairvoyant mediums, such as Sylvia Browne, Tyler Henry, and Thomas John, whom she calls "grief vampires".


CSICon or CSIConference is an annual skeptical conference typically held in the United States. CSICon is hosted by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), which is a program of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). CSI publishes Skeptical Inquirer, subtitled The Magazine for Science and Reason.


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Further reading