Being An Active Skeptic

It’s been three and a half weeks since we launched Skeptic On The .Net. In a way launching the site was my coming out moment. When word got around to some extended family members and old friends I got a few calls and emails congratulating me and then asking “What is this skeptic thing?”. I quickly realized that, up until launching the site, I had been a very passive skeptic. Sure, I read skeptic blogs and I listened to skeptic podcasts and if a bit of pseudoscience came up in conversation I would talk about what I have read or learned but I never brought up skepticism or reached out to other skeptics.

That changed two weeks ago when I was meeting with our awesome writer, Alicia at a local coffee shop and discussing skeptical things. It was so nice to have someone else to talk about our favorite SGU episodes, our love of James Randi or how angry we get at homeopathy (as you can tell some of those conversations quickly turned into posts!). Before departing we looked up local skeptical groups and found the Austin chapter of the Center For Inquiry holds several events every month and we made plans to check them out.

The following Monday Alicia, her husband, and I attended the biweekly Drinking Rationally event. Held at a bar/restaurant on Austin’s famous 6th Street, Drinking Rationally is simply a social event. It’s a place to gather and chat and meet new people. Conversations ranged from atheism to vaccinations to dinosaurs. It was a good time chatting over good beer and pub food.

The next week I went to the Austin CFI’s monthly Food For Thought lecture series. I was intrigued by the facts that it was held at a Methodist church and the subject matter, “Just Say No… To Medical Woo”. As I walked into the meeting room I was greeted by a couple of people from the Drinking Rationally meetup as well as several new (to me) faces. Playing on the wall via a projector was a YouTube video that was mesmerizing in it’s visuals as well as it’s narration. I won’t try to explain it, instead I will embed it below. Once the video ended and short introductions were taken care of our lecture of the evening started. Dr. Andrew Alpar covered many of the ways that alt-med pushers make you think that what they are selling is beneficial including logical fallacies and distortions of the scientific method. Dr. Alpar was impressive, not just in his knowledge but in the way he was able to explain these things clearly to a room full of people from varied backgrounds. He should also be commended for how he handled the challenges presented to him a couple of pro-alt-med people. I am sure everyone walked away with some new information.

My point in writing about this is that if you have been a closet or passive skeptic I urge you to seek out a local organization. The skeptical community is a welcoming one, the comradery is addictive, and you will meet some really smart and fun people.

We here at Skeptics On The .Net are working on a way to make finding a local organization easier for our readers and we hope to have an announcement in the next week or two. Stay tuned!