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Celebrating an Unbelievable Decade of Skepticality

Posted on May. 07, 2015 by | Comments Off on Celebrating an Unbelievable Decade of Skepticality

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the first full episode of the very first skeptical podcast, Skepticality—The Official Podcast of Skeptic Magazine (by a nose! The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe also released their first episode 10 years ago this week—essentially simultaneously). Listen to this one-minute Skepticality teaser, released on April Fools Day. These were the first sounds ever heard in the world of skeptical podcasting. A month later, Derek Colanduno and Robynn “Swoopy” McCarthy released their first full episode, which opened with these simple words: “This is Swoopy, and you’re listening to Skepticality—brought to you on Saturday, May 7th, 2005.”

“Seriously though: Derek, Swoopy…. I owe you guys everything.”

— George Hrab

So small, this birth of skeptical podcasting! And yet, so many things changed at that moment, as Skepticality and the Skeptics’ Guide stepped forward to show what a truly digital, grassroots skepticism could sound like, and what it could become.

Ten years, guys. It’s a helluva thing.

When I discovered skepticism, there were no podcasts, no blogs—not even yet magazines on newsstands. It was pure chance that I stumbled across this ongoing project (PDF) to discuss seriously the paranormal topics and scientific mysteries so close to my heart—pure glorious good fortune that I happened upon a stack of subscription-only skeptical magazines in my college library. Even later, as Skeptic and the Skeptical Inquirer began to appear in bookstores and supermarkets, the useful insights of the skeptical movement remained hidden from far too many.

But Derek and Swoopy—and Steve, Perry, Jay, Bob, and Evan, and everyone who followed their lead—changed all that. They helped to bring together and energize a younger global subculture around the ideas that activist skeptics and skeptical researchers had been pursuing for decades. They made skepticism accessible to everyone with an internet connection, for free, and made it a hoot. They brought joy and laughter and critical thinking into our homes every week. They made so many things possible for so many people. Here’s what musician and podcaster George Hrab had to say in 2009:

Did you know that the very first podcast I listened to, the very first podcast I downloaded, the very first podcast to mention me, the very first podcast to play a song of mine, and the very first podcast to interview me was Skepticality. That’s right, Skepticality. Without Swoopy and Derek’s hard work producing the show, and their initial interest and trust in this total stranger from Pennsylvania, I would never have gotten to meet all the incredible people I have, never would have started my own show, probably never would have performed at [The Amazing Meeting conference] or in the Galapagos, and I definitely would not have spent nine months in a 6 x 6 foot cell with Derek in Honduras. (Ask him about that story sometime. “Brain aneurism.” Right….) Seriously though: Derek, Swoopy, congratulations…. I owe you guys everything.

I feel just the same. Skepticality was my introduction to skeptical podcasting, and to podcasting altogether. I did the first nerve-wracking audio interview of my career on Skepticality in 2006 (awkwardly calling guest interviewer Fraser Cain of Universe Today “Derek” in a blooper just two words into that interview). I’ve released my most heartfelt and optimistic work on their show, with their support and encouragement.

The format of the program has changed several times—notably in September of 2005, when lead host Derek suffered a very serious brain injury. Swoopy chose to continue the project for him, becoming a one woman podcasting machine. Long-time listeners will recall the shock of hearing of this unfortunate event in her own words on the program and a series of heart-wrenching blog posts. Many of us also remember following his difficult road to recovery to resume his role as first co-host and then lead host. Today, Skepticality is an ensemble program with multiple regular segments featuring a variety of skeptics (INSIGHT’s own Tim Farley and Barbara Drescher among them).

Time moves so fast. It seems like only yesterday that we celebrated Derek and Swoopy’s milestone 100th episode, but 2009 was already a vertiginously long time ago. For that matter, it seems like I just looked away for a moment from the 2006 eSkeptic announcement that Skepticality would relaunch after a hiatus as “The Official Podcast of Skeptic Magazine.” The Skeptics Society has had the happy privilege to assist Derek and Swoopy over the years since, but it has always remained their very own labour of love. They are genuine, kind-hearted people who are inspired by ideas, and moved to share their excitement with others.

I’m very proud to know Derek and swoopy—proud to call them my friends. I’ve argued that “skepticism is beautiful.” It’s people like Derek and Swoopy who make it so.

Please join me in giving them a big round of applause for an amazing first 10 years—and raise a toast with me to many more years to come!

Discover more about Skepticality on Itunes, at their own independent website, on Facebook or Twitter, or, of course, right here at Skeptic.com. All episodes are available here for free, as are episodes of Skepticality‘s sister podcast, MonsterTalk.

Fans of Skepticality may also wish to become Patreon supporters of the show.

Fans located in the southern United States may also wish to attend the official 10th Anniversary recording in front of a live audience on Saturday, May 9th, 2015 at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, GA. There is no cost, or cover charge—just come and join the audience, and be part of one of the rare times that Skepticality is recorded for a live audience. Since it is the 10th anniversary, Swoopy will be there, along with some of the regular contributors to the show. If you can make it out, this will be an event that only comes around once a decade!

(Get more information about this event.)

Daniel Loxton

Daniel Loxton is the Editor of INSIGHT at Skeptic.com and of Junior Skeptic, the 10-page kids’ science section bound within Skeptic magazine. Daniel has been an avid follower of the paranormal literature since childhood, and of the skeptical literature since his youth. He is also an award-winning author. Read Daniel’s full bio or his other posts on this blog.

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