Skepticism Reloaded

Amardeo Sarma

42 years have passed since the birth of CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and its magazine Skeptical Inquirer. Soon after, there was a global wave in the spread of skepticism. A great visionary was at the centre of the explosion: Paul Kurtz, who saw skepticism as a global worldwide endeavour. The Australian Skeptics took off in 1980 with Mark Plummer as president. A decade later, in the mid-80s, CSICOP encouraged skeptics all over the world to form their groups. Mark Plummer, then Executive Director of CSICOP, and Wendy Grossman, founder of the magazine The Skeptic in the United Kingdom, toured Europe in this mission resulting in many new groups.

Paul Kurtz also defined skepticism as he saw fit for the movement in his book the New Skepticism. This variant is what we would now call scientific skepticism. It is distinct from the ancient Greek variety of skepticism that denied that we could acquire knowledge and wanted us not to take a stand, to suspend judgment.

Skeptics today do take a stand. They insist on skeptical inquiry, which is at the core of scientific research, as a fundamental and indisposable tool. At the same time, they also acknowledge that the body of science represents reliable knowledge of a real world. More importantly, they stand up and advocate what we know about science and pseudoscience, even when others including friends and colleagues frown on us. Skeptics today are committed to scientific realism.

Initially, the movement focused mainly on fringe science claims ignored by the scientific establishment. A decade ago, Kendrick Frazier, editor of the journal Skeptical Inquirer extended the scope. In the book “Science under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience”, he put the defence of science itself on the map. Publications and events organised by skeptics had been increasingly taking up anthropogenic global warming, GMOs and the anti-vaccination movement. Conspiracy theories are a recent addition.

With the 21st century of “alternative facts” well underway, new questions have come up.

But the time is ripe for a revitalising vision for the future. In this connection, Marco Kovic has posed questions in a recent blog. Which are issues we need to address?

We do need to begin by framing our cause and our identity as skeptics worldwide. Let us start from the very core.

Continue reading “Skepticism Reloaded”

Author: Amardeo Sarma
Date: 6th March 2018

Science Friction

Peter Boghossian in Australia during his "How do you know?" tour
Many scientists, science communicators, or skeptic activists know, how uncomfortable and disinforming it is to have your message misquoted, edited, or twisted to fit the narrative. How serious are the consequences?

A new documentary Science Friction plans to explore the consequences of misinterpretation, but they need your help. The creators and producers Skeptoid Media, Inc. are raising funds for their endeavor.

If you are still looking for a holiday gift for yourself or others, donate in your name or in the name of your loved ones! All donors will be thanked in the end credits.

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The universe in one minute

This series of short, informative videos go into a wide range of topics such as “What’s the Milky Way like?”, “How did the continents form?” or “What use is cloning?” among many others. Each video is complimented by free teaching material and distributed under a creative commons licence making them available to all.

CICAP-FEST2017 events and registration

The agenda of the first edition of CICAP-FEST is finally online, and registrations are now open.
The event will take place in Cesena from September 29 to October 01, 2017.

CICAP-FEST is a new national and international event for the promotion of the understanding of science. The event, along with some of the most prominent players in research, public understanding of science, and entertainment, focuses on current issues such as fake-news, pseudosciences, hoaxes and scientific disinformation, while at the same it puts on stage some authentic wonders, research, science and art, to generate genuine amazement.

Three days of events dedicated to adults, students and children will make Cesena the “capital” city of critical thinking and curiosity for a full weekend.

75 speakers will be on stage, including Piero Angela, Silvio Garattini, Antonella Viola, Enrico Mentana, Giacomo Rizzolatti, Marco Malvaldi and many others, as well as artists such as Silvan, Banda Osiris and Raul Cremona. Over 100 events that will include meetings, debates, performances, shows, reading, workshops, exhibitions, surprises and wonders of all kinds.

The CICAP-FEST, which for this first edition has the title “The Value of Facts in the Age of Post-Truth”, is a show dedicated to all curious people and all those who love science and are fascinated by the unusual and wondrous. A new way to stimulate curiosity through science, art, music and performances.

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Science facing up to religious beliefs

On the 4th of May at the University of Granada, the biochemist Juan Antonio Mochón, will be giving the talk “Science facing up to religious beliefs” as part of the monthly series of talks Knowledge, rationality and secularism that is running till June of this year.

The talk will be followed by a discussion among the attendees.