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What Do I Do Next?

105 Ways To Promote Skeptical Activism:
Quick Reference Guide

The following list of 105 suggestions for skeptical activism is a point-form distillation of a much longer document. The full version (PDF) of “What Do I Do Next?” comprises over 30,000 words of in-depth panel discussion, in which 13 leading skeptics offer their commentary and advice on the 105 topics below. Both versions are completely free. READ the full version (PDF) >

Abbreviated here for easy reference, the 105 topics are arranged under general headings:

I hope you’re as inspired by this topic as I am. To continue the discussion, comment at the Skeptic Forum >

— Daniel Loxton


“What Do I Do Next?”
Quick Reference Guide
(March 2009)

Note: this “What Do I Do Next?” Quick Reference Guide is a point-form distillation of a much longer panel-format discussion. READ the full document (PDF) >

Support Major Skeptical Organizations
What Do I Do Next? cover

cover art for the full panel discussion version

1. Donate money to skeptical organizations.
  • Skeptical organizations have their eyes on many worthy projects they can’t afford.
  • Many skeptics groups are registered nonprofits and able to accept tax-deductible donations. Donate now to the Skeptics Society, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI, formerly called the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal, or CSICOP).
2. Buy stuff from skeptical organizations.
  • Most skeptics groups are supported by the sale of conferences, magazine subscriptions, books, lectures on DVD, and so on.
  • Buying skeptical products (whether from skeptical organizations or from mainstream retail outlets) helps sustain a market for these materials.
3. Write to encourage your favorite skeptics and skeptical organizations.
  • A little encouragement goes a long way.
  • Also support skeptics with feedback on blogs, and supportive calls to radio talk shows.
  • Why not share your thoughts about this project at the Skeptic Forum right now?
4. Offer to donate computer equipment, software, or other useful stuff to skeptical organizations.
  • “In kind” donations of this sort are often tax deductible.
  • Only donate used equipment if it is usable. Many organizations are burdened with obsolete equipment.
5. Offer general volunteer services to skeptical organizations.
  • Have a realistic idea of the un-sexy tasks that might be useful (such as moving boxes or stuffing envelopes).
  • Be focused. Have a clear idea of the commitment you can make. Keep it short at first and don’t ever offer anything you can’t stick to.
6. Offer expert knowledge or services to skeptical organizations.
  • Volunteers with special skills (lawyers, artists, web designers, technicians, photographers and other professionals) are especially welcome.
  • Don’t exaggerate your abilities, take on a pro bono burden you can’t really deliver, or lock yourself into something you’ll wind up regretting.
7. Offer unique services — such as your personal mega-stardom.
  • If you’re a movie actor, prominent artist, major novelist, or rock star, nonprofit skeptical organizations would love to have your help.
8. Help write grant proposals for skeptics’ organizations.
  • Most science outreach efforts are supported by grants, but skeptics groups tend to be funded by private donation, direct sales, and out-of-pocket support from those doing the work.
  • Grant writing is a highly specific expert skill-set. If you have that expertise, please do offer your expert services.
Learn & Communicate
9. Know your stuff! Follow the skeptical literature, and the paranormal literature.
  • Skeptics should know what believers believe.
  • Do your homework!
10. Sample broadly from the wider skeptics literature.
  • Some people who identify as skeptics have never dipped deeply into the wider skeptical literature.
  • Expose yourself to a wide variety of books, magazines, podcasts, forums, and blogs.
  • Major skeptics magazines have placed many older articles online.
11. Learn what makes professional marketing and communication effective.
12. Develop skeptical lectures for specific audiences: women’s groups, colleagues from your own industry, seniors associations, and so on.
  • Tailor your presentation to your audience.
  • You may have special knowledge of the needs of a particular group, perhaps because of your profession. Shine light on specialized paranormal mischief in that area.
  • Take a Toastmasters course or attend a media training class. Learn the fine art of public speaking.
  • Poorly prepared or delivered talks can turn people off of skepticism.
13. Learn from other activist organizations.
  • If you have experience with other forms of activism, draw on what you’ve learned in those other areas. Learn from the most responsible and effective campaigns you see around you.
  • Skeptics have to overcome a stigma for being cranky naysayers. We must keep to the high ground.
  • If you form a skeptics group, do pick a memorable, short, simple name. Don’t pick a clever acronym, or a name that must be explained to be appreciated.
14. Learn from other outreach efforts.
  • Skeptics can learn from the hard-won experience of political and religious promoters throughout history.
  • Stressing our enthusiasm for science and critical thinking is a far more positive message than bashing pseudoscience.
  • Don’t think that effective activism and outreach requires only common sense. Grassroots activists should not ignore the tried and true methods honed by professionals.
15. Communicate through your current channels.
  • All professions feature pseudoscientific ideas particular to that field. Speak out within your own area of expertise.
16. Write for skeptical magazines (such as Skeptic, Skeptical Inquirer, and The Skeptic) print newsletters (such as CSI’s Skeptical Briefs) and electronic newsletters (such as the Skeptics Society’s eSkeptic).
  • Start with short pieces close to your area of expertise: small news items, book reviews, even letters to the editor. Stay focused.
  • Study the submission guidelines!
  • Skeptic’s submission guidelines
  • Skeptical Inquirer’s submission guidelines
17. Explore new frontiers for skepticism.
  • Avoid preaching to the choir. Publish skeptical articles where believers will encounter them.
  • Consider publishing in “women’s” magazines and pro-paranormal magazines.
  • The science fiction community and geek culture are fertile ground for skeptical outreach. The SkepTrack program at Dragon*Con is now one of the largest skeptics conferences in the world.
18. Learn what skeptics are doing overseas.
19. Remember that “skepticism” is different from “atheism.” Lots of active skeptics are religious.
  • Skepticism is an approach to testable, physical claims. Atheism is a conclusion regarding an untestable metaphysical claim.
  • Many skeptics are religious. The modern skeptical movement was built partly by people of faith (including giants like Harry Houdini and Martin Gardner).
  • You don’t have to be against god to be against fraud.
20. Make allies. Be cooperative.
  • Skeptics, atheists, and humanists are infamous for splintering over doctrinal differences and interpersonal politics.
  • We need help. Build bridges.
  • Work with religious groups. (Our best allies for defending evolution are members of the mainstream clergy groups.)
Investigate
21. Remember, the goal of skeptical investigation isn’t to cast rhetorical doubt on paranormal claims, but to discover what’s true.
  • Don’t assume that your skepticism alone qualifies you to be a paranormal investigator, any more than it qualifies you to be a crime scene investigator.
  • Learn investigative methods, rules of evidence, and interview techniques.
  • Don’t get ahead of the evidence. Definitely don’t plug in a standard general explanation as the answer for a specific case.
  • Poorly done research by debunkers gives skepticism a bad name.
22. When you receive a chain email, Google it. Then tell the sender what you discovered and gently encourage them to Google the next one for themselves.
  • These emails are usually well-known hoaxes (often old hoaxes) that can be solved in seconds with a Google search.
  • Snopes.com is an especially good resource regarding Internet hoaxes.
23. Dig into a local paranormal mystery.
  • Regional stories often escape critical investigation. With some effort and academic skills, you can personally contribute to the skeptical literature while also learning more about your own community.
  • Never barge into a mystery with an insulting attitude, poor investigative skills, or an inadequate understanding of the facts.
24. Test something. Construct a well-controlled experiment.
Local Organizing (& Fun)
25. Employ sound organizational practices.
  • Structure your group for success. What is the group for? How will decisions be made? Who will do the work? How are conflicts to be resolved?
26. Start a skeptics club at your high school or on your college campus (or join if one already exists).
  • Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have made organizing much easier.
  • Clubs should have a clear mandate for either skepticism or atheism but not both. This helps avoid conflict and frustration.
27. If your city or region has no local skeptics group, start one. This could be a serious activist organization, something as loose and fun as a local “Skeptics in the Pub” — or anything in between.
  • It doesn’t take much to get started, just three or four people who really care about the subject matter. Even CSI and the Skeptics Society started like this.
  • Skeptical groups provide community for like-minded doubters. Skeptics enjoy parties and social functions as much as anyone else!
  • Variety of opinion is healthy for a skeptics group. Be welcoming and inclusive.
28. If a local skeptics group already exists in your area, support it.
  • Support your local grassroots group even if you’re also involved in larger regional or national skeptical activism.
  • You can help by donating knowledge, attending functions, offering to present talks, and by subscribing to and contributing to their magazines or newsletters.
29. Participate in (or organize) a “Skepticamp” conference.
30. Start a skeptical book club at your local bookstore, community center, or college.
  • Most large brick and mortar book chains like Borders, Barnes & Noble, or Chapters host local book clubs, and will advertise the group in their monthly newsletter. The store might even feature or display your book club selection.
  • Be inclusive of people of all positions and opinions!
31. Celebrate the birthday of your favorite scientist — or some other scientific landmark — in a fun way, and invite lots of people.
  • A party is a great way to communicate that science is uplifting and important — and worth celebrating!
32. Buy a telescope and host a star party for students and adults to get them interested in science. Or, build a social outing around a science theme, such as a nature walk.
  • Share the experience of awe. It’s one thing to see high-res photos of other worlds, and viscerally a whole different experience to see them with your own eyes!
Your Community
33. Help organize community events that support science (perhaps centered around the popular topics of astronomy, zoology or health).
  • Science centers and science museums often have programming that could be made more skeptical through the involvement of local skeptical activists.
34. Get a booth at community fairs and events and fill it with information about being a skeptic.
  • This can be a great organization builder — and fun for members.
  • Look at the booths and materials other groups use, and learn from those.
  • Remember to make it fun! Keep text to a minimum. Have stuff like Bigfoot tracks to handle and get the conversation started. Have flyers for local skeptical groups.
35. Help distribute flyers, put up posters, or notify the press when skeptical or science speakers are giving local talks.
  • Get the word out any way you can: email, flyers, posters, small ads. Don’t be shy!
36. Arrange field trips for grown ups to science museums.
  • Most people are willing to pay a little something for the trip and lectures so these are also good fundraisers.
  • You could also create audio tours of these places.
37. Volunteer at your local science museum.
  • It’s easy and rewarding — and you may get a discount at the gift shop!
  • Skeptics are in the science communication business — and science museums are ground zero for science outreach. Learn how they do it!
38. Offer to teach a class on skepticism and science at an adult education center.
  • “Open learning” or “annex” groups sometimes teach some very dubious or dangerous alternative practices. Having a class that tackles these could be useful.
39. Put together a handout on local “haunted history” legends and their likely explanations for your town’s historical society, or develop a skeptical “ghost” tour.
  • Historical groups are interested in folklore, but they deal in fact and are sensitive to our aims and objectives. Work with them.
40. Donate recent back issues of skeptical magazines to waiting rooms at doctors’ and dentists’ offices or local hospitals.
  • Challenge alternative medicine: make reflection start in the waiting room!
  • For more thoughts about magazine back issues and skeptical books, see the section on LIBRARIES >
41. Invite health care professionals (and other experts) to speak to senior centers about medical quackery (and other rip-offs).
  • Seniors are often the targets for scams: healing schemes, real estate rip-offs, psychic cons — even just predatory antiques dealers. A suitable expert on any relevant topic might make a valuable speaker.
42. Prepare accurate, thoroughly cited fact sheets on health fraud and quackery. If you know a doctor, solicit their editorial assistance. Give the sheets to seniors’ centers, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, hospitals and church groups to distribute.
  • Be sure to include additional book and Internet resources as well as (referenced) facts.
  • Don’t be afraid to contact consumer rights groups and watchdog sites like Quackwatch.org for additional resources.
Interact with Media
43. If a newspaper, radio show, or TV program makes a serious error or badly distorts the public understanding of science, write a concise, formal letter to the editor or producer.
  • Reporters and editors work hard to ensure accuracy.
  • If you write a letter to the editor, assume the reporter and editors acted in good faith — and then courteously tell them how their conclusions were mistaken.
44. If news media make a moderate error of fact or interpretation, write a short friendly letter directly to the actual reporter.
  • Help the reporter get it right next time. Be on their side!
  • Building a friendly relationship with the journalist may also help when it comes time to break a story or promote an event.
45. If you see media get it right, send a letter of appreciation to the reporter — and tell their boss how much you loved it, too.
  • One letter of support for good reporting is worth ten complaints.
46. Organize a skeptical letter-writer’s club at your favorite online forum, aimed at polishing draft letters to the editor on pseudoscientific topics.
  • Highlight current media stories each week and create “form letter” templates people can build on.
47. Put together fax numbers and email addresses of local news reporters and radio personalities. Send them relevant, topical information they can use (such as a well-referenced fact sheet when a movie relating to science or the paranormal is about to be released).
  • Do not spam reporters. Do share essential background information topics in play in the current (or upcoming) news cycle.
  • At minimum, this will tell reporters that there is “another side of the story.”
48. Write to section editors and individual reporters to make story suggestions.
  • Share fresh suggestions with topical or local hooks, and in which you have no commercial stake
  • Cultivate friendships with reporters.
49. Submit book reviews to local papers and newsletters on important skeptical books.
  • See if you can apply the content to something local for maximum impact.
  • This is particularly useful if the author’s book tour is heading your way.
50. With the cooperation of your local university science departments, create a science telephone line for reporters and media researchers to call with questions.
  • Reporters need easy access to reliable, quotable experts on both the findings of real science and the truth behind pseudoscientific claims.
51. Start an “Ask a Skeptic” column in your local paper or newsletter.
  • This is an easy and fun opportunity to reach a lot of people in your community.
  • Be prepared to be flexible. Expect edits!
  • Consider contributing to school newspapers, campus magazines, and street press publications.
Schools
52. Go to school board meetings. Learn what issues impact your local schools, and respectfully speak on behalf of science if the opportunity presents itself.
  • This is crucial front-line skepticism that every school district needs.
53. Speak to the members of your Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) about science and critical thinking.
  • Expect pushback on controversial ideas, but, don’t shy away from it. What matters is the kids’ best interest.
54. Volunteer as a guest speaker for classes and school assemblies.
  • PTA boards are often in charge of finding presenters for school assemblies.
  • Make contact at the beginning of the year while there’s still budget and time to get on the schedule.
  • Recommend speakers and relevant shows for your local schools.
55. Provide tutoring to students (of all ages) in the sciences, basic literacy, or English as a Second Language (ESL).
  • Literacy and education are fundamental to skepticism.
  • Poor language comprehension is a serious obstacle to learning about science.
56. If you’re a university or college professor, teach critical thinking classes — or work skepticism into your existing classes.
  • Skepticism is relevant to scholarship of all kinds.
  • If critical thinking classes already exist at your local college, contact the professors and ask them how you can help.
57. If you’re qualified, write textbooks or develop curricula that include skepticism, critical thinking, and sound science (particularly evolution).
  • Textbooks and curricula are written and reviewed by people — and you may be able to influence that process for the better.
58. Get some friends to contribute and create a skeptical scholarship award for local high school students.
  • Set up a new local award yourself — or contact a regional or national skeptics group and fund a scholarship through them.
59. Sponsor a science writing contest for your local schools.
  • Involve local media (to promote and possibly fund the contest).
  • It takes a lot to conceive, organize, advertise, and judge a contest.
  • Contests should have an enticing prize (some fame plus some cash) to ensure a reasonable response rate.
  • The Australian The Skeptic magazine carried a detailed postmortem of an Australian skeptics’ writing contest. READ the relevant 2006 issue (1.9 MB PDF) >
60. Contribute prizes to local school science fairs. Or, if you are a scientist, volunteer your services as a judge.
  • This presents skeptics as positive contributors to educational ventures.
61. Encourage more scientists to show up at career day.
  • “Science” can be food science, mining, astronomy, forestry, local museums, genetics, forensic science….
62. Remember: skepticism isn’t only for scientists!
  • Skepticism is relevant to education. Period. Encourage your children, students and colleagues to think critically about every topic, from economics to history.
Libraries
63. Donate materials to the research libraries of skeptical organizations — especially hard-to-find historical material.
  • The Junior Skeptic studio, the Skeptics Society, the JREF, and CSI all have research libraries (as do some regional groups and podcasts).
  • Most accept donations of science and paranormal books, videos, periodicals, and ephemera.
  • Contact the organizations or speak to their librarians about their needs.
64. Donate skeptical books, DVDs, and magazine subscriptions to local and school libraries — especially material suitable for kids!
  • Some libraries dislike adding books one at a time. Check with your local librarian for the best way to contribute.
  • Consider funding a five- or ten-year run of a skeptical magazine.
  • WorldCat can give you a precise list of libraries in your area that have specific skeptical books.
  • DVDs are more likely to be accepted than books.
65. Speak at libraries.
  • This is a great way to spread skepticism, raise the profile of skeptics, and help the community all at once.
66. Volunteer to put together a display at your local library on great books of skepticism and science.
  • Science Week, recent high-profile book releases, and notable anniversaries and holidays (Darwin Day, Einstein’s birthday) would be useful occasions to target.
Political Action
67. Make friends with politicians.
  • If you are not visible, you cannot influence events. Make yourself, your organization, and your concerns known to politicians and other community leaders.
68. When legislation comes up that deals with paranormal or pseudoscientific topics (like the regulation of alternative medicine practitioners), write to your elected officials to tell them about the scientifically responsible position you support.
  • Silence is assent — and scam artists lobby loudly and effectively.
  • Remind elected officials that there are multiple positions to be juggled within their constituencies.
  • A letter carries more weight than an email.
69. When legislation comes up that deals with genuine science topics (like climate policy, or funding for basic research), write letters to your elected officials to tell them about the scientifically responsible position you support.
  • Will you have a voice of your own — or will you let pseudoscience be the only game in town?
70. When elected officials say something scientifically wrongheaded or supernatural, write to tell them how much you disapprove.
  • Whenever you write to a politician, cc it to their opposing member.
71. When elected officials say something scientifically literate or responsible, write to tell them how much you appreciate it.
  • Politicians want to know when people approve of their actions. If your representative gets something right, tell them that!
  • Remember that U.S. nonprofit groups are barred from political activity.
72. Support candidates for office that advocate science as part of their platform.
  • This advice is for individual private citizens only. It is unlawful in the U.S. (and many countries) to promote any candidate while you speaking as a representative of a nonprofit skeptical organization.
  • When speaking on your own behalf, do as your conscience advises.
73. Strive to keep the skeptical movement free from political bias or affiliation.
  • While sound science may inform our personal politics, political opinions are subjective.
  • Skeptics occupy all parts of the political spectrum.
  • These political fault lines have the potential to fracture and marginalize the skeptical movement.
  • Any shadow of political ideology renders our science suspect.
Consumer Activism
74. Write to retail stores who make unscientific claims or offer pseudoscientific products. Let them know what you found irresponsible, and how they could improve.
  • Be polite. Offer clear, concrete, cheap solutions (such as moving pseudoscience books from the science section to the New Age section).
  • Network with consumer groups, government watchdogs, and like-minded nonprofit organizations.
75. When manufacturers make unscientific claims or offer pseudoscientific products, write to them too. Let them know what you found irresponsible, and how they could improve.
  • Many companies and publishing groups have Ethics and Mission statements you can refer to in making your case.
76. Write to media companies who promote pseudoscientific programs or carry advertising for pseudoscientific products. Let them know what you found irresponsible, how they could improve — and what impact this will have on your viewing or reading habits.
  • Advertisements for pseudoscientific or fraudulent products are worth a letter to the editor — particularly in cases where the advertisement runs counter to the publication’s mission.
  • Be aware that TV ads may be inserted by the national network, the satellite company, or the local cable network.
77. Share critical information about companies who make unscientific claims or offer pseudoscientific products on your blog, on Facebook, and in conversation.
  • Many websites provide means for users to submit product reviews.
  • Do not make false, questionable, or speculative accusations.
78. Work with — and learn from! — consumer watchdog and consumer advocate groups.
  • Consumer protection in fringe science areas is a foundational role for organized skepticism.
  • Skeptics should consider other consumer protection efforts as projects closely parallel to our own work.
Film & Video
79. Start your own public access or YouTube-based TV series. Invite local scientists, educators and writers to discuss good skepticism.
  • Public access is a great resource for production. You’ll walk out with a semi-professionally produced video that you can publish online.
  • YouTube and new video technology allow virtually everyone to shoot, edit and post their own short videos.
80. Film a skeptical movie. (Remember, YouTube provides a venue for short, low budget efforts.)
  • Be aware that it’s a lot of work to make even a short movie look good.
  • Some skeptics are creating great content for YouTube.
  • Full motion graphics is an area in which skepticism remains primitive.
81. Arrange small social screenings of skeptical movies. Consider skeptical documentaries (such as those from the Skeptics Society’s Distinguished Lecture Series at Caltech).
  • The basic “movie night” is an easy start for a small skeptical group.
82. Organize a larger film screening with panel discussion. Host it at your local campus, public library, community center, or at a local movie theatre.
  • Follow a screening with expert panel discussion and questions.
  • Do not screen a movie without a license. Purchase single-use licenses through various companies, or show films distributed under a Creative Commons License.
83. Organize a video contest.
  • Video contests harness the creative talents of the broad audience.
  • Video is especially suitable for young people.
  • Talk to your community film society about developing a contest together.
84. Organize a film festival.
  • There are thousands of film festivals in the U.S. — many addressing very specific topics.
  • Organize your own festival. Either have people submit films, or seek out a selection of existing films you want to screen.
Online Activism
85. Start a skeptical podcast — or help an existing show!
  • Skeptical podcasting gets the word out in new ways, and also creates new audiences.
  • The leading podcasts require a lot of time and technical proficiency — as well as skeptical expertise.
86. Start a skeptical blog focused on your special area of interest or expertise. Or, contribute to an existing blog.
  • It’s valuable to tackle specialized topics.
  • Consider becoming a contributor to an existing blog, which comes with more audience and less commitment.
88. Review your favorite skeptical podcasts on iTunes.
  • The more reviewed a show is on iTunes, the more likely it is that new listeners will hear it.
  • Be positive and constructive.
  • Support the skeptical movement, not one show over another.
  • Why not do it right now? Click on the show name to leave a review at the iTunes store (U.S.) for Skepticality, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Point of Inquiry, Skeptoid, or The Skeptic Zone. (Residents of other countries may leave reviews at the iTunes store for their own region.)
89. Link to the websites of skeptical organizations.
90. Contribute to skeptical online forums (such as the JREF Forum or the Skeptic Forum).
  • Online forums have drawbacks, but are a great way to meet like-minded people and develop ideas.
  • Make suggestions to improve the content and policies of online forums.
  • Share your thoughts about skeptical activism at the Skeptic Forum right now. Let others know that they may discuss these ideas at www.skepticforum.com/activism
91. Contribute (very politely!) to online paranormal forums.
  • Skeptics shouldn’t just preach to the choir.
  • To have any positive impact at a pro-paranormal site, we must have tremendous patience, courtesy, sensitivity — and the humility to listen carefully.
  • You might not convince everyone, but you might plant a seed.
92. Share skeptical news stories with your friends, and let them know when skeptically minded shows are going to air.
  • Social networking sites like Facebook make it easy to share skeptical news items and resources.
  • Why not post a link to this skeptical activism Quick Reference Guide on your Facebook profile right now?Share on Facebook
93. Join skeptical groups on Facebook, and “Become Fans” of skeptical Facebook Pages. Support skeptical presences at other social networking sites.
  • Activity at skeptical Facebook Pages and Groups is a low-pressure way to increase the visibility of skepticism.
  • “Become Fans” of the Pages for Skeptic magazine, Junior Skeptic magazine, Skepticality and other skeptical groups and programs.
94. Find and share resources through YouTube (and similar video hosting services).
  • Be a YouTube aggregator. Find the good stuff, and create a page or blog and point it out to the rest of us.
  • Old hard-to-find skeptical documents are now a click away on YouTube and Google Video.
95. Contribute responsible book reviews on Amazon, for both skeptical and paranormal books.
  • Write reasoned, researched, and polite critiques.
96. Contribute responsible edits to Wikipedia.
  • For many in the general public, Wikipedia will be the only source they consult on a given topic.
  • For almost any paranormal topic, the Wikipedia entry is the number one Google hit. Amazingly, skeptical links and citations can be placed on that top page any time, by any skeptic — for free!
  • Help students and the public by making responsible, careful edits to Wikipedia entries about science, skepticism, and the paranormal.
  • Wikipedia has strict policies that you must follow. Before getting started, study Wikipedia’s formatting rules and Manual of Style.
  • The article “Why Skeptics Should Pay Close Attention to Wikipedia” (by Tim Farley) is a great practical introduction to this rich opportunity.
97. On your blog or in Amazon “Listmania,” create suggested reading lists of books about skepticism.
  • These might include books for beginners or kids, popular science material, and specialty topics.
98. If you are a student, use your technological networking talents for skeptical activism — but get credit for it!
  • Some students find ways to reap academic rewards for their online efforts.
  • This requires dialogue with teachers and parents.
Personal Relationships
99. Wear your skepticism.
  • Skeptical clothing attracts questions and conversation.
  • Don’t be afraid to create your own apparel. Websites like Cafe Press and Zazzle make it easy to create unique one-off items with your own text and graphics.
100. Give your friends skeptical magazines, books and videos for their birthday or other occasions.
  • Don’t be pushy. Give gifts that genuinely address the interests of your friends and relations.
101. Don’t call people names.
  • Ad hominems are just as ugly and counterproductive coming from skeptics as from anyone else.
102. Practice lifestyle evangelism.
  • Be nice to people. Be helpful. Never be rude about your skepticism.
  • Make sure your lifestyle allows you to be around people who disagree with you about the fundamental questions.
103. Have genuine conversations.
  • Genuinely talk to people — and that means genuinely listening. Seek common ground. Give up any sense of superiority.
  • The goal is to increase the number of people who think critically and understand science. Do not be tempted to satisfy your ego with a “good fight.”
104. Offer advice and assistance to people around you.
  • Sometimes people are genuinely relieved to hear a plausible explanation for eerie experiences in their own lives.
105. Remember, skepticism starts with you.
  • Apply the tools of skepticism first and foremost (and most often) to your own thinking.
  • You may be the only skeptic that many people come in contact with. Your general attitude and disposition are under the microscope of public scrutiny.
  • It never hurts to be a little more general, more inclusive, and more polite.
contributors

The full version of “What Do I Do Next?” is a panel-format discussion between Daniel Loxton, Benjamin Radford, Dr. Eugenie Scott, Jeff Wagg, D.J. Grothe, Brian Dunning, Dr. Karen Stollznow, Robynn “Swoopy” McCarthy, Kylie Sturgess, Tim Farley, Dr. Randy Olson, Pat Linse, and Jay Novella. Thanks to all these valued contributors, and to Skeptic publisher Michael Shermer.

Thanks as well to proofers and editorial reviewers including Martin Rundkvist, Veronica Good, Michael McRae, Reed Esau, Claire Litton, Jillian Baker, and Jason Loxton.

READ the full version of “What Do I Do Next?” (PDF) >

cite this page (below is in Chicago style)
Loxton, Daniel. “What Do I Do Next? Quick Reference Guide.” Skeptic.com. www.skeptic.com/reading_room/what-do-i-do-next (insert access date)
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7 Comments

  1. Dennis Black says:

    With all of the reports of UFO’s, ghosts and other paranormal activity out there it is absolutely necessary to have a healthy dose of skeptisism. Skeptics will either confirm or debunk an issue provided they have all of the pertinent facts, as such, to perform an honest evaluation. The ultimate goal should always be truth. Who doesn’t want that?

  2. Sushil says:

    “Unconscious – The Real Life” from lostphd.weebly.com
    Tried hard to correlate the information.

  3. donald ciccarelli says:

    Obviously healthy skepticism is important. I am unclear when it crosses over into fundamentalism and closed mindedness. Looking at the AP article today(2/27/11) on the atrocities that scientific investigation has been guilty of, it is also unclear why the skeptics are not looking into their own back yard for “bad science.” Bad science does not just exist in the world of the paranormal but also in the world of mainstream science just as good science exists in each.

  4. Nirmal Rajah says:

    I have always thought about starting a small skeptic society in my town (Tamil Nadu,India) and i was so unsure about what to do and how. the above post have cleared some of my doubts and had given a clear picture. I’d be more happy if the Skeptic society gives small societies like ours some information and materials for our proceedings.

  5. Jim Cox says:

    You guys are just too much. A little skepticism is certainly good as one doesn’t want to get pulled into every “new” idea out there but your complete devotion to Darwinian Evolution, with all it’s weaknesses, discredits about 95% of who you say you are. You deliberately confuse the term science knowing that the “masses” think you mean scientific method when what you mean is an unprooven, unobserved hypothesis of how we got here that you call unargueable fact. You don’t have a clue about how the first single cell came to be but you present yourselves as if you have all the answers. Grow Up!!!!!!!

  6. Scott Carpenter says:

    Jim,

    the one thing scientists generally do not do (and this includes palaeontologists, evolutionary theorists etc..) is say that the have THE answer. What the scientific community often says is the far more messier “this is a pretty good answer; good enough for the time being as it fits all the observable facts and allows us to make testable predictions” – but hey thats a bit of a mouthful.

    We leave absolute certainty to the believers in woo.

    Scott

  7. grammar is your friend says:

    this needs correcting – “…let them know what you found irresponsible…”. It occurs in more than one place.

    I believe it should read – “…let them know that what you found is irresponsible…”

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