In honor of the Circle, I thought I would also point out this article about one of the most famous skeptics of all, The Amazing Randi, and skepticism in general. It makes the rather interesting point that the the targets most in need of a good skeptical debunking today are harder to take care of than they were in the past, because they require science, rather than demonstrating sleight of hand or hidden tricks, to debunk, and it's hard to explain good science to the general population. Consider this excerpt:
To us, Uri Geller seemed small-time: The enemies we had in mind were fundamentalist ideologues, like the ones on the Kansas school board who have tried to demote evolution in the science curriculum.Indeed.
That's the conundrum of the modern skeptics movement: Intelligent Design theorists and deniers of global warming may very well be phonies and scoundrels, but no one is going to debunk them in the classic sense. You can't reveal their hidden microphones or mimic their tricks with sleight of hand. Intelligent Design, after all, is an attempt to recast (even to "rebunk") Creationism in scientific terms. The best weapon against it isn't dramatic exposé, but scientific argument. So a change in tactics makes sense for the movement.
Still, the fervent response to Randi's tirade suggests a deep-seated nostalgia for old-fashioned debunking. In the end, it's just more fun to see a fake like Geller squirm than it is to hear a science lecture. Supernatural scammers may not be the most dangerous opponents of reason, but why not knock a few off every now and again to rally the troops?
And that's what the Skeptics' Circle is good at, although it's also great for exposing the false science that is "intelligent design" creationism and phonies promoting bogus "alternative" medicine "cures." So head on over and enjoy the debunking. Oh, and don't forget to enjoy this clip of Randi and Johnny Carson conspiring to reveal Uri Geller for the fraud he is on the Tonight Show by having arranged for the props and then not allowed Uri or any of his people to have any access to them before the taping of the show. It's an oldie but goodie.