The Bulls**t Police…

Fascinating article by Michael Moynihan for Newsweek Magazine concerning the “Skeptic” movement:

Don’t know how long ago it was I first saw/heard/became aware of James Randi, the movement’s founder…perhaps it was on one of his Johnny Carson/Tonight Show appearances…but I’ve always felt a kinship, of sorts, with him.  I suppose what drove him into this area (he was a well known magician/illusionist before) was a distaste for people claiming to have some kind of extra-sensory power and using this flim-flam to get money.

In some cases, lots and lots of money.

Where the article gets really interesting, in my opinion, is when it deals with some of the groups trying to appropriate the term “skeptic” to essentially promote anti-scientific ideas and, the big one, the whole issue of religion in the skeptical community.  The author notes that skeptics can sometimes come off as arrogant and this passage, found close to the end of the article, sums up that danger:

Many believe that the movement’s insularity and self-confidence is damaging its ability to broaden its impact. In his 2010 speech at TAM, Slate’s Phil Plait offered his allies a harsh bit of advice: if you want to gain converts, he said, “don’t be a dick.” “The tone of what we are doing is decaying,” he admonished, and “vitriol and venom are on the rise.”

As I said, a fascinating article.