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Introducing SkepticBlog

by Steven Novella, Oct 24 2008

The internet, and now Web 2.0, has transformed the skeptical community. For one, it has made it into much more of an actual community (albeit largely a virtual one). Blogs, podcasts, email newsletters, Youtube videos, and websites have brought a new generation of skeptics into skepticism.

It has also fostered a collaboration among existing skeptics that simply did not exist before. Prior to Web 2.0 my skeptical activism was largely confined to a small local group, a print newsletter, and the very occasional national meeting. There were three national groups all doing their own thing, and about 60 local groups toiling away in relative isolation.

Now skepticism is a vibrant and growing international virtual community.

I am proud to announce the latest project to emerge out of this broader community — SkepticBlog. I am very excited to be a part of this new group blog, which is not the work of any individual but of a diverse group of dedicated activist skeptics.

The blog emerges out of another product of this born again (pardon the pun) skeptical community — a pilot reality TV show called The Skeptologists. The show is the brainchild of Brian Dunning and Ryan Johnson, who continue to work tirelessly to make this show a reality. If they succeed — putting a no-nonsense, full-monty skeptical show on mainstream TV — it will be a major coup for skepticism, perhaps a game-changer.

Ryan Johnson, who will also be contributing to this blog, is the producer and director of The Skeptologists, and the originator of the idea. Co-producer, Brian Dunning, is already famous in skeptical circles for his excellent podcast, Skeptoid. He is also the host of The Skeptologists.

Brian and Ryan pulled together for the pilot a team of skeptics with diverse backgrounds, but all with a passion and ability to communicate skepticism to the public. I was honored to be asked to join that team, and am glad that I was able to squeeze the shooting of the pilot into my busy schedule (I almost didn’t, and that would have been an eternal regret). I continue to enjoy success with my podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and my existing blogs (NeuroLogica and Science-Based Medicine, as well as contributing to The Rogues Gallery) — but a tv show would be a jump in audience of at least 2 orders of magnitude.

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, is already an established science blogger. He has built one of the most recognized brands in skepticism and blogging with his Bad Astronomy site (now hosted by Discover magazine). He is the author of two books, and recently was made president of the James Randi Educational Foundation. (He also has a tremendous singing voice.) As busy as he is (like the rest of us), he had to think carefully before agreeing to put anything new on his plate (or Plait, as the case may be), but eventually saw the potential in working on such a project as this blog and so enthusiastically jumped in.

Michael Shermer has already built the greatest name recognition as Mr. Skeptic. He is the founder of the Skeptic Society, publisher of Skeptic magazine, the author of numerous books, including the seminal Why People Believe Weird Things, a columnist for Scientific American, and has been the face of skepticism on hundreds of documentaries. Yet — he has never had a blog. His participation here will be his entry into the world of blogging. Anyone familiar with his crisp and accessible writing style will see that it will be a natural fit for him, and I think he will enjoy the open and intimate format that blogs offer.

Kirsten (Kiki) Sanford entered the world of skepticism with Web 2.0. She already hosts a popular science podcast, This Week in Science, and maintains an excellent personal blog, The Bird’s Brain. She has decided to dedicate her career to improving the public understanding of science — something for which she had already demonstrated considerable talent.

Mark Edward could be the template for the lead character in the new CBS show, the Mentalist. He used to work for the “other side” as a stage psychic, but came over to the side of light and now uses his mentalism skills to expose fakery and deception. He provides a unique insider’s perspective into the world of fraud that the rest of us lack.

As popular as some of us may be within the subculture of skepticism, our combined fame pales in comparison to the international celebrity of Yau-Man Chan. He came to fame as one of the most popular contestants on Survivor, and became a geek-icon by literally using brain consistently to beat brawn. It turns out Yau-Man is also a dedicated skeptic. He sought out Brian to join The Skeptologists team, and now joins us on this blog.

The SkepticBlog, however, is more than just a way to promote The Skeptologists. It is a serious group skeptically-themed science blog, and represents a collaboration across many of the biggest institutions of organized skepticism. From the outset we will post daily blog entries, and hope to build this site into an important hub of skeptical activity online.

We also plan to invite guest submissions, and may even regular contributions, from others in the skeptical community.

This blog does not belong to any one person or group — it is a blog of the skeptical community.

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58 Responses to “Introducing SkepticBlog”

  1. That’s quite an impressive roster. Getting together for a blog project was a fantastic idea. Let’s hope the TV show becomes a reality!

  2. Ido says:

    Cool site! Great idea. I think that this collaboration has a future even beyond the skeptical community. Good luck!

  3. Dustyn says:

    I feel like I’m getting to watch a Justice League for skeptics begin. And I could not be happier.

  4. bondurant says:

    This is great news! Firstly, this is an excellent list of writers that will be sure to make this one of my favourite reads online. Secondly (and perhaps more importantly) it is another way to tie together and build a larger community from the smaller parts that are there currently.

    I would guess there is a lot of overlap between listeners to the SGU, readers of Bad Astronomy, fan of Skeptic Magazine and so on, but this line-up will no doubt help to continue the growth of skepticism as a movement.

    Thanks to you all for the great work!

  5. Yoo says:

    I look forward to this promising skeptics’ blog. And best of luck for the Skeptologists!

  6. David Roberts AKA Buffalodavid says:

    Always glad to see another tool to add to the side of rationality! Here’s to a successful run.

  7. Steven says:

    A formidable group.

  8. Skepdude says:

    This is excellent news. You can bet that I’ll be subscribing to this blog’s RSS. It will become one of my daily stops along with all the other blogs you referred to here.Given who’s involved, it is bound to be great!

  9. There’s already so much content. WOW!

  10. Matt says:

    Glad to see a nice collection of writers. Steve, I’m concerned you’re stretching yourself a little thin.

  11. EatBolt says:

    Oh man. Christmas comes early this year. I have so much confidence in the democratization of these web-based published tools, I can’t help but think it will transform everything.

  12. Skepacabra says:

    Steve, how do you seriously find time to contribute to 4 blogs and 2 podcasts? You must be the Buddha Boy or something because I barely find time to maintain one blog, a skeptical Myspace page, and a new skeptical site I contribute to, stopjenny.com.

    Keep up the skeptical work everyone!

  13. Andrew says:

    This blog is a great idea guys (and girl :P), I’m looking forward to watching it develop over the coming months. I love neurologica, the rouges gallery, bad-astronomy, and all the podcasts. Every new thing in the skeptic community is absolutely awesome. You’re doing a great service to everyone.

  14. Jon says:

    A seriously awesome idea, i’m looking forward to some excellent content from the cream of the skeptical community.

  15. Eguy says:

    Great Idea, it sounds like it could really go places. What will you guys be posting about any ways? Just the regular skeptic’s stuff?

  16. hernan says:

    I look forward to the posts on this blog. Just one suggestion: is there any way you can switch your Atom feed to include the full text of each post? I’m sure lots of us are rss/atom readers and it’s much more convenient to get the full post in a single click.
    thanks!
    hs, san francisco

  17. Damien says:

    Well done! I am sure this will rapidly become an amazing resource.

  18. EdSG says:

    Pure awesomeness having y’all together in one blog! Keep up the good work!

  19. BJ says:

    “An oasis of reason in the wilderness of woo” Fantastic idea, good luck from downunder!

  20. Naon Tiotami says:

    I’m really looking forward to the content this blog will produce: so many great skeptics in one place can only be a good thing!

    Not much else to say, is there? Now get writing!

  21. FrankZA says:

    I’m very happy to see that a blog such as this one has been created! The work sceptics do is becoming vitally important as the mainstream media often spew forth a bunch of sensationalist nonsense and the web has been used by frauds to further their agenda.

    Good luck guys, I am looking forward to reading all of your contributions and hope I can use what I learn to make a small difference in the community in which I live.

  22. Kristin says:

    Wow this is great! Can’t get enough of the skeptiblogs. I have one critical comment though: The top banner doesn’t show in the Opera webbrowser, which is supposed to be the best browser when it comes to following webstandards. ;)

  23. Martin says:

    I second hernan’s suggestion. Full text rss feeds are cool!

    Oh, and the new blog is made of awesome. Thanks

  24. I just found you all after reading Dr Plait’s blog. Sorry I’m a little late (I blame it on being curled up with “Death from the Skies” all weekend!). I added you to my favorites of course, and I am really pulling for you all to get picked up on one channel or another soon! Especially when I try to pick through even the History Channel, The Learning Channel, etc and see all the bunk being pawned off as actual scientific programming…

  25. Donald says:

    Glad of the RSS feeds and can only admire the stamina you folks put into these things. I hope that this group exceeds the sum of its parts and look forward to the TV show (if we can smuggle it into the UK).

  26. Devil's Advocate says:

    Dr. Novella – Please see if you or someone on staff can get a ‘guest’ entry or three from Martin Gardner before we lose this wonderful founding father of modern skepticism. He’d make an interesting bridge between those lonely (for the skeptic) days of his early career and the present day of comparative modernity, what with podcasts, blogs, etc.

    PS: I will personally cast an evil spell on anyone who asks, “who’s Martin Gardner?”

  27. Dave Seiver says:

    Thanks Dr. Novella, you have been an inspiration to me for several years with the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast. This is great, and I appreciate the hard work you put into this passion of yours. It makes a difference!

  28. Dave Seiver says:

    PS – You totally missed Rebecca’s zing of “the Sun” to your ” I follow…” on the latest SGU podcast. It was funny to me anyway…

  29. Jacob says:

    Steven and Skeptics,

    Thank you so much! I listened to the new Skeptics Guide today, and heard about this new blog. All day I felt like I had a birthday or christmas present waiting on me when I got off work. I think this is exactly the blog that is needed, and am extremely excited about being a part of this growing movement.

    Again, thank you all for your hard work.

    Sincerely,
    Jacob

  30. Susan B. says:

    I second Devil’s Advocate: Martin Garder would be awesome!

    This blog looks like it will be excellent. You guys have such diverse backgrounds and interests that it will be interesting to see all your perspectives on skeptical issues. I hope the show takes off too!

  31. Ed Uthman says:

    I have been listening to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast for over a year and am long familiar with the work of Drs. Shermer and Plait. I look forward to reading further from the great collection of writers you have assembled here. Thanks so much for putting this site together. I do hope to see “The Skeptologists” on the air soon!

  32. Coert Visser says:

    Great idea! I expect a lot from this site.

  33. Skeptchick says:

    Tell us the channel! Tell us the time! I can’t wait! There are so many misguided people who need some honesty.

  34. Norman Torchin says:

    Great idea. I hope you are not just preaching to the choir but will be seen by the “believers.”

  35. Bill Perron says:

    Sorry, but your comments about Mark Edward “coming over into the light” are wrong, he still does readings, I occasionally work doing readings with him. Mark has always been his own man and I have the utmost respect for him, if he wants to bounce back and forth that is pretty damn cool as far as I am concerned. He has always been a man of his word, unlike those lying hypocrites who call themselves skeptics and say one thing and do another, cowardly defend each others lies, they even lied to get out of the Bill Perron Honesty Challenge….. How you liars can look yourselves in a mirror is beyond me.

  36. Moody834 says:

    Greetings and salutations!

    What a wonderful thing this blog is. I am looking forward to all the posts you bunch can manage (which appears to be a lot so far). And you have Yau-Man! How cool is that! (Seriously, your blog’s roster is impressive enough for anyone.)

    I don’t know if y’all are familiar with Tim Farley or not, but–apropos the Web 2.0 stuff–he wrote a must-read piece called “Building Internet Tools for Skeptics“. This blog looks like the right place to point people to it as a very useful resource.

    Anyway, thanks for being here. This place will, I’m sure, be one of solace, entertainment and education for me and many others.

  37. Roger in France says:

    as a born skeptic with evolutionary tendencies i studied journalism at uni. during first lecture we were told number one purpose of journalism – uncovering corruption. this blog i hope will look at corruption in the form of pseudo-science fooling our species

  38. kenn pappas says:

    This is great !!! Among skeptics, there are those skeptical of other skeptics’ perceptions, and now there’s a blog that serves as a battleground !!! This is what blogging is all about !!!

  39. Bill Perron says:

    Steven Novella, now I remember you, you’re the guy who lied and weaseled out when I confronted you about the liar Randi, that’s right you are his cowardly suck butt who made a deal with me then were not man enough to keep your end of the deal. ATTENTION ALL SO CALLED SKEPTICKS, THIS GUY STEVEN NOVELLA IS A LYING WEASEL COWARD !!!! Please contact Bill Perron to be informed of the cowardly lying actions of this worm !!! You can call me direct at 626-579-3697 I will be glad to give yoiu all the details, unlike this scum bucket, I keep my word. … Bill Perron

  40. LogDog says:

    sounds like someone had their woo feelings hurt.

  41. Bill Perron says:

    LapDog that is a good name for a jerk who writes unmanly responses to the word of truth of a scumbag. LapDog is a really good name for a pseudo skeptic who can only write stupid comments rather than call 626 579-3697 and hear the truth. LapDog is what Randi and Shermer love about their followers, never question, just obey like good little LapDogs……… By the way, if you look the word “woo” up in the dictionary it means romance, you got a problem with romance LapDog?

  42. LogDog says:

    It’s LogDog, Mr. Perron, unless it was your intent to misrepresent my username in the course of making your ad hominem attack (a logical fallacy) against myself, Dr. Novella and Mr. Randi.

    In your original post, you publicly categorize Dr. Novella and Mr. Randi as liars and proceed to encourage readers to call you directly so that you can explain your accusations on an individual basis. A person with a legitimate complaint would use this forum, here and now, to explain their position. Please take this opportunity to do so, unless of course, you have concerns regarding the veracity of your claim.

    By the way, if you look up “logical fallacies” on The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe website, you may be able to avoid making the same mistake twice.

    LogDog

  43. Julian says:

    Ignore him, LogDog. Perron is obviously just a troll. Ignore him and eventually he’ll go stroke his cock elsewhere.

  44. Bill Perron is worse than a troll – he is a skeptical stalker. He started by stalking James Randi because Perron was too deluded or deceitful to state what his actual ability was in a form suitable to the challenge. He then began e-mailing other skeptics trying to get them to agree that Randi was a liar.

    Perron – I strongly suggest you stop posting libelous claims. We never had any deal – you are delusional or lying. I simply asked if you would accept the perfectly reasonable terms of Randi’s challenge to you, and you refused to answer. That ended our discussion. I have all the e-mails to document our exchange.

    Seriously – get some professional help.

  45. Looking forward to interesting reading

  46. Steve says:

    Nice to see this site. I encourage anyone to get the news letter from Michael. I’ve done so for years. Just bought that book offered in the mailer before the one that came today. What was it, “Misquoting Jesus” I believe is the name of it. Must say I’ve enjoyed it immensely so far. It is interesting ‘believers’ still find ways to rationalize their belief system, even though they are confronted with facts put together in such a well researched method. Nonetheless it does make a very nice addition to my already existing library of similar topic books. Keep up the good work.

    Steve

  47. [...] fame), Dr. Kirsten Sanford (This Week in Science radio/podcast host), Mark Edward (some say template to the new CBS TV show The Mentalist), and Ryan Johnson (videographer, filmmaker, TV director [...]

  48. Audita Sum says:

    I heard about this from This Week in Science. Sounds interesting!

  49. [...] the Skeptical battlegrounds that must be fought now and in the future. The series is hosted at the SkepticBlog, a group blog dedicated to the hosts of a skepticism-themed TV series called the [...]

  50. I wonder what exactly is meant by the word skepticism. I think it would be helpful to define these concepts for the reader.

    Speaking as a scientist, I guess I could consider myself a skeptic in the sense that I pay little attention to claims about the world that are not backed by scientific evidence (involving the scientific method and all it entails). However, I have reservations about the word ‘skeptic’ for two reasons

    (i) there is a connotation of ‘I know more than the common herd’ – the wrong note to sound for those in the business of bringing science to a wider public

    (ii) the word ‘skeptic’ is commonly used to describe one who disputes the consensus view on any given topic – at least in Europe. For example, many journalists adopt a ‘skeptical’ viewpoint on well-established facts simply in order to attract attention. Another example is the infamous book ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’, where the author questions the scientific consensus on global warming (and misrepresents a great deal of scientific evidence along the way).

    In short, I guess most scientists are also skeptics – but only in the neutral sense of the word…

  51. Julian says:

    @Cormac

    Steven did a post on exactly what you’re talking about. Don’t know if you had a chance to read it.

    Skeptic – The Name Thing Again

  52. Greg Cameron says:

    Have recently taken an interest in the Skeptic world. If I look up the word Skeptic it seems to have many meanings. My first challenge was to ignore the issues that surround the word Skeptic. I now have my belief on its meaning. My second challenge is now defending my right to call myself a Skeptic and my right to challenge a statement or an event.This then turns into a debate on why I call myself a Skeptic. One answer to a question was “what is the point talking to you your a Skeptic” My modus operendi now is not to reveal my position, the other person or group will certainly disclose their background.
    Finding it all very interesting, many excellent articles and helpful members. Thanks.

  53. Michael says:

    This looks an excellent site with lots of differing perspectives.So I thought I would throw my penny’s worth into the box, so to speak.Some might like to have a look at Intelligent Design Message from the Designers,of which a famous person said, if this is science fiction, it ranks alongside the most breath-taking of it’s kind, but if it is true it is earth shaking. So there you have a choice. I would add that if it is science fiction, then within the context of the theory contained in that book, so are the dangers of nuclear war and over-population and environmental degradation

  54. Bobby Elgee says:

    As a skeptic and amateur paranormal investigator, though I’ve been able to debunk nearly everything I’ve encountered, I have encountered a several startling and unexplainable things. Still, with all the popularity of ghost hunting recently, I continually encounter groups and individuals who don’t even make a half-hearted attempt to seriously debunk anything–and its very, very annoying. I’ve even encountered instances of people fabricating evidence for recognition. Thank you so much for a truly valuable Web site that honestly discusses these and other issues.

  55. John Willow says:

    I’m looking at this site for the first time, and there are some very erudite writers on here. You, Tim, are not one of them. In answer to your generally broadcast question, yes, you are a demagogue. You also know nothing about the scientific method, and do not understand the concept of consensus. You are generally lowering the level of debate, which is a disservice to the many posters here who actually know what they’re talking about, but who are wasting their time responding to your juvenile rants. Wouldn’t you be happier on a site with other malcontents who are injecting their personal problems into issues of importance to all of us?