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Skepticism 2.0: What’s Next?

October 29, 2009

MEDIA ADVISORY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Benjamin Radford
Phone: (505) 891-3661
E-mail: BRadford [at] centerforinquiry [dot] net 

Skeptical Inquirer Science Magazine Looks to the Future

Amherst, N.Y. (October 29, 2009)—Skeptics have been keeping guard over both frauds and honest mistakes since ancient times—even earning mention in the Bible, (as when Daniel catches priests hoaxing a miracle).

David Hume, Benjamin Franklin, Harry Houdini and others did brilliant skeptical investigations in earlier centuries. And the modern skeptical movement was led relatively recently by pioneers such as Carl Sagan, James Randi, Martin Gardner, Paul Kurtz, Ray Hyman, Ken Frazier, Joe Nickell, and others—many of whom still proudly appear in the pages of Skeptical Inquirer. But what of the future generations of skeptics? Who will step up, join the cause, and carry on the mission?

Skeptical Inquirer is glad to report that the new generation of skeptics is here, and more are on the way. These are the YouTube crowd, the Twitterers and texters of today. These are kids who are intelligent, think critically and engaged in the world around them. Our challenge is to provide them with not only support, but a context for their skepticism, for as Shakespeare noted, “What’s past is prologue.” Faith healers, soothsayers, frauds, and others have always been with us, and always will be, though skepticism has found new ways of spreading in this electronic age, and new champions to take up the cause. Recognizing that much of the paranormal and pseudoscience is merely old wine in new bottles arms future generations of skeptics, and examples of careful skeptical research and investigation are available as weapons in this magazine and elsewhere.

In the November/December issue we see much for the emerging skeptical generation. Justin Trottier discusses how to effectively communicate skepticism and science to younger audiences. We have contributions by our own Barry Karr, who bring us up to date on CSI’s efforts to reach out to kids, and CFI librarian Timothy Binga, who reviews some of the best skeptical books for children and young adults. Heidi Anderson also gives a mother’s perspective on raising skeptical and critically thinking children.

This theme carries on in articles by popular Point of Inquiry science podcast host D.J. Grothe (on podcasts); Karen Stollznow (on blogging); Blake “Dr. Atlantis” Smith (on skeptical Web sites); and Tim Farley (on video skepticism). Reed Esau tells us about a new program called Skepticamp, and Daniel Loxton provides a follow-up to his insightful “What Do We Do Now” essay about the future of skepticism, asking “Where Do We Go From Here?”

Today’s teens have never known a time when Google and Wikipedia weren’t available to answer any question (accurately or otherwise) with a few clicks. They didn’t grow up watching Cosmos or In Search Of (or even That’s Incredible! or Unsolved Mysteries); instead their television is largely dominated by cable TV and its prolific mystery-mongering programming.

Many adults today grew up reading about real skeptical investigations by people like James Randi, and fictional ones such as Encyclopedia Brown and Scooby Doo (in the original series). To modern teens, these are ancient history. To many of them, “skeptical investigation” is sadly symbolized by two mystery-mongering plumbers who moonlight as ghost hunters on Syfy. But the truth is that young people remain fascinated by the paranormal and “unexplained,” and would likely be interested in the skeptical point of view if they were exposed to it.

The forms and forums are changing, but science, skepticism, and critical thinking will always be with us. The next generation of skeptics—the activists and leaders of Skepticism 2.0—will forge paths ahead.

To read selected articles from Skeptical Inquirer online, visit www.csicop.org/si

To interview authors and editors, e-mail managing editor Ben Radford at bradford [at] centerforinquiry [dot] net, or call him at (505) 891-3661.

Skeptical Inquirer is the official journal of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a nonprofit scientific and educational organization founded in 1976 by Paul Kurtz, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan and other prominent academics, scientists and writers. CSI encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view. Learn more about CSI and S.I. at http://www.csicop.org.

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