Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 | ISSN 1556-5696

eSkeptic: the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

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Celebrating 20 Years of the Skeptics Society and Skeptic Magazine

Celebrating 20 Years
of the Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

THANK YOU for over two decades of your continued support. We couldn’t have done it without you! We’re geared up and energized for the next 20 years and we hope you will support us in our mission of promoting science and skepticism.

We started Skeptic magazine in the garage of Michael Shermer’s home with volume 1, number 1, a tribute to Isaac Asimov. By volume 1, number 3, we were in a few isolated bookstores. By volume 2, we were being carried by hundreds of bookstores, and by volume 4, it was available in thousands of retail outlets.

We’ve reached over 100 million people,
and there’s more work to be done

We estimate that your support has helped our Executive Director, Dr. Michael Shermer, reach approximately 100 million people in 20 years of skeptical outreach through the 50,000 readers of Skeptic magazine each quarter, the nearly one million readers of his Scientific American column each month, the several million readers of his dozen books, the tens of thousands of people who follow our social media sources and YouTube channel, the tens of millions of viewers of his countless appearances on talk shows and television series such as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Charlie Rose, Larry King Live, Oprah, Tom Snyder, Donahue, Lezza, Unsolved Mysteries, and other shows as a skeptic of weird and extraordinary claims, as well as interviews in countless documentaries aired on PBS, A&E, Discovery, The History Channel, The Science Channel, The Learning Channel, and on the 13-hour Family Channel television series, Exploring the Unknown, for which Dr. Shermer co-hosted. In addition there have been hundreds of opinion editorials in major newspapers, science reviews in national publications, university and college lectures and countless radio interviews, and millions of visitors and page views on skeptic.com.

Make a tax-deductible donation
to your Skeptics Society


Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer, in grad school in 1977, recalled Carl Sagan’s words of wisdom about the importance of science education. Those words were the candle in the dark that guided him for 15 years until he formed the Skeptics Society in 1992.

A Note from Michael Shermer
Executive Director of Your Skeptics Society

I cannot believe that it’s been 20 years since we founded the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine in 1992. It seems like only yesterday I was teaching at Occidental College and gearing up for a comfortable life in academia. Then I remembered something Carl Sagan said at a lecture I attended: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

It was a clarion call to me to forego a life of comfortable security as a college professor and venture into the business of being a public intellectual and expand the size of my classroom to the world. If you want to change the world you have to reach a lot of people—not a few hundred students, but a few hundred million people. I recalled that years before, when I was a graduate student in psychology when Uri Geller was all the rage, thinking maybe there was something to psychic power and ESP. But then I saw James “The Amazing” Randi on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, duplicating all of Geller’s feats with simple sleight of hand. I suddenly realized that it’s not enough to be trained in science; you have to understand skepticism as it is practiced by professionals like Randi, who serve as a consumer advocate for rational thinking.

The best way to reach the wider public is through the popular media—magazine publishing (Skeptic magazine and my monthly column in Scientific American), books (from Why People Believe Weird Things to The Believing Brain—I’ve written 12 now), newspapers (I write regular opinion editorials and book reviews for the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Science, Nature, and many others), radio and television interviews and talk shows, YouTube videos, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

If you have appreciated 20 years of the Skeptics Society and would like to see us continue for another 20 years, please make a tax-deductible donation to your Skeptics Society now. We have some special donation premiums that you can enjoy along with the knowledge that you have helped make the world a more rational place to live.

Michael Shermer
Executive Director

Make a tax-deductible donation
to your Skeptics Society


Our science lectures have gone global

The Skeptics Society’s Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech features top science writers lecturing on controversial and cutting edge science. We have now gone global by live streaming our lectures to anyone, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. Now, instead of hundreds of people attending events, potentially millions can watch our lectures broadcast live from Caltech, thereby expanding the international reach of skepticism.

Make a tax-deductible donation
to your Skeptics Society


Michael Shermer being interviewed for television

If you’ve ever seen our Executive Director Michael Shermer being interviewed on television, chances are you’ve seen the Skeptics Society’s office and library.

The media now asks for the
skeptical viewpoint by name

At the time we founded the Skeptics Society there was a great deal of debate about the wisdom of using the term “skeptic.” Was it too negative? Did it sound to much like “cynic”? There are basically three options when choosing a name: you can find something that means exactly and only what you want it to (not likely); you can invent a word and spend millions on advertising to define it, like corporations do (too expensive); or you can doggedly redefine an existing term to make it mean what you want it to mean.

We have had a great deal of success redefining “skeptic” with the later strategy. One of the great frustrations when being interviewed by the media is trying to convince producers that the reality behind the myths and the reasons for critical thinking errors are just as interesting as the fantastic claims. They admit they know the psychic, bigfoot, or ancient alien stuff is bunk, but argue that it is what the public wants.

But we’ve noticed a change after 20 years. Now calls from the media usually start with the explanation, “We want to get the skeptical viewpoint.” If you’ve ever donated to the Skeptics Society you can take a bow for lighting this little candle in the dark. The idea that evidence, common sense and rational analysis should be sought out when presenting an extraordinary claim to the public is slowly taking root.

Skepticism is hitting the mainstream

There are other indications that “Skeptics” have become a part of the larger culture. We first noticed cartoons popping up in the national media featuring gags about a “Skeptics Club,” a “National Society of Skeptics,” or a “Skeptics Headquarters.” We began to get requests to use Skeptic magazine as set dressing on TV and movie sets. This fall an ABC TV conspiracy series will star an “expert on debunking the supernatural who writes a regular column in Scientific American, and who has spent “20 years as the editor of a skeptic magazine.” (Coincidence? You decide!) You know you’ve really made a dent in the public consciousness when a skeptic journalist/investigator (again, who writes a regular column in Scientific American) is featured as the hero in a romance novel—written by best selling author Nicholas Sparks, no less! Rumor has it that the screen play adaption has been sold. We breathlessly await the casting call.

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to your Skeptics Society


The Cottingley Fairies: The true story told in the pates of Junior Skeptic
We continue to educate Junior Skeptics—
our hope for the future!

Junior Skeptic magazine, bound within every issue of Skeptic magazine, is the skeptical movement’s most sustained and substantial educational outreach project for children— and it needs your support. With its clarity, focus, and commitment to in-depth research on classic paranormal mysteries, its content speaks to the heart of scientific skepticism. Help share that rare and beautiful tradition with a new generation of skeptics.

Junior Skeptic does more than teach the knowledge of the past. It regularly breaks new ground with original research—expanding and refining the skeptical literature, teaching the methods of skeptical investigation, and breaking cold cases wide open.

We’re proud to be recognized for the
quality and depth of our work

Hailed as a “tour-de-force of science writing,” the quality and depth of Junior Skeptic material was recognized in 2010 and 2011 with multiple award nominations for Daniel Loxton’s children’s book Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be, based upon Junior Skeptic material. We thank Skeptics Society donors whose support helped to bring that vitally important educational content into the world.

Make a tax-deductible donation
to your Skeptics Society


We keep science at your fingertips
with our magazine and podcast apps

Get our official podcasts apps for Skepticality and MonsterTalk and enjoy your science fix and engaging interviews on the go!

Our newest addition launched last week—The Skeptic Magazine App—brings digital subscriptions and back issues to your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android smartphone or tablet, PC, Mac, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, and BlackBerry PlayBook. Download the free app and explore your favourite magazine like never before, wherever you happen to be! It comes with a free 44-page Preview Issue!

Download our free apps


Announcing Skepticism 101: The Skeptical Studies Curriculum Resource Center
We promote thinking like scientists

Skepticism 101: The Skeptical Studies Curriculum Resource Center is one of the most important projects we’ve ever launched. Students are the decision makers of tomorrow. Evaluating extraordinary claims, and understanding the scientific method should be part of every classroom experience. Last year’s highly successful fundraising campaign enabled us to develop webpages which now offer course syllabi, reading lists, articles, essays, lectures, PowerPoint/Keynote presentations, YouTube videos, book recommendations, as well as educational and entertaining demonstrations that illustrate key points of skeptical thinking for students, teachers, and anyone interested in science to use and share. The enthusiastic response by thousands of educators to our initial offerings indicate that this a valuable resource that deserves your support. The Skeptical Studies Curriculum Resource Center is just the latest in our 20 year campaign to make the world a better place through science, reason, and skepticism. If you teach a skepticism class and have curriculum materials you would like to share, please contact us to contribute.

Contribute to Skepticism 101


Our famous geology tours are fundraisers that provide an opportunity for members to enjoy top notch geology lectures and spectacular scenery in the company of other science enthusiasts.

Whales dive next to an excursion zodiac on our Alaskan Glacier Cruise. No telephoto lens was used to take this spectacular photo!

Geology tour fundraisers

While much of our mission deals with pseudoscience, our supporters are passionate about science itself. Our famous geology tours are fundraisers that provide an opportunity for members to enjoy top notch geology lectures and spectacular scenery in the company of other science enthusiasts. Sign up for priority notice of future geology tours and we’ll let you know by email in advance.

Learn more.
Next tour Jan. 19–21


We’re in this together.
We need your support.

Make the world a more rational place and defend the role of science in society. Please make a tax deductible donation now…

Make a tax-deductible donation
to your Skeptics Society

2 Comments »

2 Comments

  1. Thomas Edward says:

    Yessir, I like it. I was recommended this site by a friend, and it makes me happy to know this place exists. I look forward to reading/experiencing more.

  2. Jolanta Bell says:

    Happy 20th birthday Skeptics Society & Skeptic Magazine! Long may you debunk falsehoods and teach truths instead! Thank you for promoting Reason in the world!

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